Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dogs, chimpanzees, and 18th-century novels.

Interesting stuff about canine learning and perception in this article, but one sentence struck me as almost out of a novel of manners:

"Our...cousins are simply too distracted by their aggression and competitiveness to fathom gestures easily."

It got me to thinking about the relationship between increased social status and increased surveillance. One of the characteristics of someone living within a higher social strata is a concomitant sensitivity to gesture, tone, and inflection. Those living within lower social strata are portrayed as coarse, uncomprehending, and oblivious.

Having said all that, I am obligated to note that the ellipsis in the above quote replaces the word ape. I would argue that in the 18th century novel of manners, the parallel is intentional. This quote, however, comes from December 2009. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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