||The rat has been described as the shadow of the human. From ancient times it spread via the routes of commerce and conquest to eventually inhabit almost every part of the world. Its impact on history has been enormous in terms of the damage done through plague and disease, the destruction of agricultural produce, and the infestations of cities. At the same time the rat has provided science with a huge resource for experimentation. This highly adaptable, fertile and intelligent creature is almost universally loathed, but there are cultures in which it is revered, even deified.||This book traces the history of the human relationship with rats from the first archaeological finds to the genetically engineered rats of the present day, describing its role in the arts and sciences, religion and myth, psychoanalysis and medicine. The author includes wide-ranging examples of the rat's appearance: in literature--The Pied Piper; Beatrix Potter stories, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS; in culture--Victorian rat-and-dog baiting pits, its popularity as a pet, even the subject of a '70s pop song; folklore--it was a good luck symbol in ancient Rome, symbol of cunning in Chinese mythology; and psychoanalysis--Freud's Rat Man, for example.||The book also seeks to answer two problems raised by the complexity of human attitudes to the rat. The first concerns how it was that the rat came to be seen not just as verminous, but also as being particularly despised for being so--more so, in fact, than other parasitic animals. The second concerns the manner in which human attitudes to the rat can be so contradictory, when admiration for its abilities are set against this idea of hatred. The rat can be found at the heart of human preoccupations with hygiene, sexuality and appetite, and exists as a perverse totem for the worst excesses of human behaviour. In RAT, Jonathan Burt provides a fascinating account of this animal in history, myth and culture.
|Editors Note 1
||The rat has been described as the shadow of the human: from ancient times through today, it has followed man via routes of commerce and conquest to eventually inhabit nearly every part of the world. Rats have a bad reputation--they spread disease, destroy agricultural produce, and thrive in the darkest corners of human habitation--but they have recently found credibility as a major resource for scientific experimentation. Jonathan Burt here traces the fortunes of the rat in history, myth, and culture. Central to Rat is the history of the relationship between humans and rats and, in particular, the complex human attitudes toward these shrewd creatures. Burt examines why the rat is viewed as more loathsome and verminous than other parasitic animals and considers why humans have had diametrically opposed attitudes about the rat: some cultures greatly admire the rat for its skills, while others consider the rat the scourge of the earth. Burt also draws on a wide range of examples to explore the rat's role in science, culture, and art, from its appearances in children's literature such as The Wind in the Willows to Victorian rat- and dog-baiting pits to its symbolic roles in folklore. Rat offers an intriguing and richly illustrated study of one of nature's most remarkable creatures and ultimately finds that the rat exists as a perverse totem for the worst excesses of human behavior.