The Hardest Case

Obscured

Obscured

Are we ready, Cavell asks us, to “understand” the animal—“under know” her and thereby stand “under,” not above her—by surrendering the dream of mastery troped as vision? Can we handle the skeptical terror of “letting our knowledge come to an end”? In posing these questions, Cavell underscores that our stance toward the animal is an index for how we stand in a field of otherness and difference generally, and in some ways it is the most reliable index, the “hardest case” of our readiness to be vulnerable to other knowledges in our embodiment of our own, an embodiment that arrives at the site of the other before we do, as our scent reaches the dog’s nose before we round the corner, telling a story we can never wholly script to a present we have not yet reached.
—Cary Wolfe