Counting Sheep: Dolly does Utopia (again) [1]

Julian Yates

Ideas do not die. Not that they survive simply as archaisms. At a given moment they may reach a scientific stage, and then lose that status or emigrate to other sciences. Their application and status, even their form and content, may change; yet they retain something essential throughout the process, across the displacement, in the distribution of a new domain. Ideas are always reusable.
—Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus [2]

[1] The model of knowledge imagined by Deleuze and Guattari in these lines represents a dispersed and distributed field. Ideas slide, shifting or mixing as they pass, but retain something of their essence in the passage. A displacement from chemistry to popular culture, for example, from physics to hypnosis, marks a fundamental change in state, reanimating an idea now as a hybrid of different times and places. Forms matter. Matter moves. But according to what algorithm does one reproduce this trajectory, this rhizome, the "retro-future" that describes every (re)appearance of an idea?

[2] My aim in this essay is to chart the passage of one "idea" that has traveled from the texts of Renaissance Humanist Thomas More into a series of contemporary sites in popular culture. The "idea" is more correctly a trope, the figure of a speaking sheep, individuated from the flock, summoned to the table talk of its human masters, and made to speak the truth about labor. Why sheep? Why sheep talking? This animal summoning may seem like rather an esoteric choice were it not for the fact that the long history of pastoral and pastoral care as allied discourses in figuring human labor in the West is predicated on a sheepy metaphorics that treats of the herd, casting humans in the role of both sheep and shepherd. This genre is haunted by missing sheep; sheep that graze off stage or in the white spaces of its pages; sheep that occasionally are summoned to return, voiding their cud, so that they may speak. My point of purchase on this figure is not derived from the canons of traditional critique, however, but constitutes something on the order of a pro-adaptive mimesis, an attempt to inhabit the semiotic chain, and rework its terms. The trope of the speaking animal is simply too powerful, too old a figure, simply to disavow. So, let me steal it and by this theft, change it. In adding my voice to the chain of ventriloquisms, I wish to change the stakes, and ask a different question, a question that inducts sheep differently into our language and our discussions of labor. What happens if we recast the prosopopeia that renders sheep talkative, preserving the non- or allo-human perspective it marshals, but ask instead, how they might read? What counts as ovine or sheepy reading? Perhaps it is only from within the multiplicity of the flock or herd that the rhizome may be approached as network rather than as a series of isolated nodes (the anthropomorphic view). This essay should be read as pastoral then, but pastoral written for and about sheep: sheep grazing, sheep ruminating, sheep chewing their cud.

[3] I take my cue in phrasing the project in this zoomorphic fashion from the last pages of Bruno Latour's still provocative essay We Have Never been Modern (1991) where he outlines some of the procedures necessary for the creation of what he calls a "Parliament of Things," extending citizenship and voting rights to the non-human entities in our midst that our usual modes of thinking make nonsense of by way of a kind of prosthetic subject-hood, electing human representatives understood now as hybrids of person and thing [3]. "We should be talking about morphism," he writes, as if it was this ability to change shape, and change the shape of things, to weave them and ourselves into different kinds of hybrids and collectives that defines the human [4]. The aim of a sheepy reading, then, might be to recover the movement, the chancy, contingent kinesis of the social process in which power is understood to derive from the ability to stay still while others move. What if we sat a sheep, say the tragically arthritic, and now sadly dead Dolly, at the table and watched the way we move, the human understood now as vectoring merely, as vehicular, as bearers of things, information, phrases — all of us, just like Dolly, no more than various posopopeias, or metaphorical agents engaged in acts of transport.

[4] It is this zoomorphic gambit, this "becoming sheep," that I should like you to hear in my attempt at ovine or "sheepy" reading, then, seeing, that is, what happens if we take the abjected herd animal as our point of departure, an animal which, even when individualized, as in the figure of Dolly-witness her death mask (figure 1) [5] extending what Deleuze and Guattari would call the regime of "faciality" over this miraculously singular sheep, abstracting one from the herd, but, more properly, finally reducing and mobilizing the multiplicity of the herd at the level of the genome to produce the figure of the herd-in-one, the plural in a singular body, the potential of a series of perfectly mimetic, if tragically short-lived, sheep — realizing the age old fantasy of the animal as stable self-identical category [6].

[5] Picture me sleeping then, or at least trying to, some post-humanist, if not even yet "human," shepherd, try to doze off, counting sheep — but sheep which keep talking, keep failing to produce the unambiguous monotony that will put me to sleep. And I begin to listen.

Sheep #1-Dolly is Dead (2003)

[6] On 18 February 2003 the casual reader or browser might have chanced upon the following announcement in the British journal, Nature: "Celebrity Clone dies of drug overdose" [7]. "For over six years, every bleat of the world's most famous sheep has been analysed for biological significance and hints of decrepitude," it begins, "No longer: Dolly was put down by lethal injection last Friday. She was six and a half years old, and suffering from lung cancer caused by a virus." "In 20 years time, Dolly won't be remembered for the practical applications that she led to," observes Dr. Harry Griffin, Assistant Director of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, "but for opening our eyes to the idea that the cells in our bodies are much more flexible than we had thought…preliminary post-mortem results show that, apart from the cancer and well publicized arthritis…there were no other signs of aging"- putting pay, apparently, to the speculation that Dolly's woes may have been caused by irregularities in her chromosome, indicating that, as another commentator put it, her "biological age might equal that of her and her mother combined" [8]. Dorset Finns can usually expect to live ten to twelve years. Dolly only made it to six. "Spookily," observed a different reviewer, "early death seems to be the fate of animal clones the world over" [9]. "Are clones," it continues, "like the replicants in Bladerunner, doomed to early extinction?" Dr. Harry Griffin has no truck with such sci-fi speculations, however. According to him, Dolly's "celebrity may partly have been to blame." "Early in life she had a weight problem"-"she was fed a lot of excess food to get her to perform for the cameras" [10].

[7] So, who or what was Dolly? Who will she have been? She appears here as contested pathology (clones do or do not age prematurely); as a shift in episteme rather than techne (our genes are malleable); as clash of genres — obituary meets parody, science fiction, ghost story, T.V. Guide; and as temporal riddle. Dolly's uncertain age (is she six or eighteen) is an uncertain signal. Does she represent the future success and routinziation of cloning or a prematurely decayed or atrophied future (the fate of all utopias?). This uncertainty multiplies to produce a hyper-attention to temporality in the bleatings of her human commentators. She is haunted, on the one hand, by Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott, whose dystopic futures tell us that clones age prematurely; and, on the other, by her matronym, Dolly Parton, to find herself written into the text of stardom, of tragic over-eating and addiction. It was the cameras, finally, which killed Dolly - a Star that burned too bright.

[8] "Dolly," we learn, "is thought to be survived by three or four of her six lambs." She, herself, is now on display at the Museum of Scotland. Taxidermy preserving her as an icon to be variously stuffed, animated by whichever human voice comes to speak for her - that is agreed to be her best witness. The jury is still out on Dolly - we are still speaking of her so that, one day, we will know what it is that she was saying. But what if the mute but voluble Dolly could read? To which other sheepy texts might she direct us for edification?

Sheep #2-Tuning In (2000)

[9] Turn on the T.V. And there they are. Sheep. Not exactly ordinary sheep, it must be admitted, but the metaphorical sheep of sleepless nights, let go from their usual mode of employment, and left to look for other work. Dolly refers me to the immensely popular series of advertisements, commissioned by Serta Mattresses, and made by the Bristol-based Aardman Animations, whose first Plasticine, animated sheep appeared in the Wallace and Gromit film, A Close Shave (1995). In the first of these ads, "Serta Counting Sheep" [11], "a sleeping man is awakened by a strange noise. Looking out of his bedroom window the man sees a flock of sheep outside. They look in the man's direction and a spokes[-]sheep for the group shouts 'Hey! It's ten o'clock…Ten thirty-eight. Want us to put you to sleep?'" "'It's the counting sheep,'" he says, but his wife seems unimpressed. "'Didn't you tell them we got a Serta?'" she asks. "'Did she say Serta,' asks the sheep, 'Yeah,'" the husband replies, "'It's so comfortable we don't need you anymore.'" The sheep look dejected, but perk up when a neighbor "opens the window and says 'Hey! Keep it down over there. I can't sleep a wink!'"

[10] Subsequent ads feature similar uncounted flocks frustrated in their attempt to relocate to a clinic for Insomniacs by the arrival of a load of Serta mattresses; winding up in jail for removing the "do-not-remove-under-penalty-of-law" label, where they pretend to have "[torn] a man to pieces"; crowding into a man's bedroom and eying him menacingly; pleading to keep their jobs; and homeless. In 2002, Serta was graced with a Gold Effie Award for their ads and the campaign has won a strong fan-base and a lucrative trade in Beanie Baby sheep which each wear a medal that reads "Serta. We Make The World's Best Mattresses" on one side, and "Out Of Work, Thanks To Serta" on the other.

[11] It is hard to disagree with the sheepily named John Wooley, Aardman's producer, when he comments that the aim of these ads was to "convey a strong, simple message to which everyone can relate." Whereas "Shaun the Sheep" of Wallace and Gromit fame was a diminutive and unlikely hero, "'counting sheep'," Wooley goes on, "required more adult characters…Working men's sheep with voices like union negotiators,' [he adds]" [12]. What a pleasurable and witty conceit! Serta's mattresses are so comfortable that anyone who owns one sleeps soundly. No more sleepless nights. No more tossing and turning. Enter the sheep. Idiomatic sheep. Displaced sheep - or, more correctly, sheep re-assigned, redistributed from the bedroom to the dole queue. Here, in the land of perfect sleep, the monotonous, self-identical sheep we sheepless shepherds are told to count, go uncounted and begin to speak. But when they do, they talk the familiar and frightening script of downsizing, of human 'resources,' of people become as monotonous and self identical a category as the "animal." It is not difficult either to understand the kinds of ideological work that these downsized sheep do. They plot all manner of suburbanized rebellions - pulling labels off of mattresses (attacking their object-foe) or keeping the neighbors up by talking too loudly outside (a consumer-side initiative). Subtext: stage your revolt here, deterritorialize here-displace-"become sheep" as you sleep - but get your rest, for tomorrow you will go to work. You have earned your rest and so count no sheep.

[12] But is this ad really so stable? Or does it reflect (on) the way the new script of "downsizing" discloses the sheepy metaphorics in our midst, the language that "processes" our lives as we travel the adumbrated worlds of work, healthcare, government, and so on? Do Serta's sheep, in other words, recover the very language of networks, associative grids, and assemblages that we find in the pages of the likes of Latour, Deleuze and Guattari, offering up this knowledge to an apparently sleeping human subject? How equivocal, or equivocating, are Serta's sheep?

[13] Much has been made recently of the way popular culture mimics and indeed out paces the reading practices of cultural studies and academic professionals - especially so with regard to animals, raising questions about the ontological priority of the "human." In Animal Rites, for example, Cary Wolfe "suggest[s] that much of what we call cultural studies situates itself squarely…[on] a fundamental repression that underlies most ethical and political discourse: repressing the question of nonhuman subjectivity. Taking it for granted that the subject is always already human" [13]. "This might seem like a harsh verdict," he continues, "except that the rest of United States culture has long since gotten the point about animals that is just beginning to dawn on our critical practice." He goes on to cite the appearance of articles questioning the coincidence of subjectivity and species in the likes of Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report.

[14] I have no argument with Wolfe's demand that cultural studies imagine the other in less anthropomorphic terms, and I agree wholeheartedly that the "animal" / "human" boundary that maintains the "humanist discourse of species," enables that discourse to be "use[d] by some humans against other humans" (6), but I am leery of the claim that cultural studies is signally behind the times. If we understand the work that cultural studies has accomplished thus far to constitute a systematic re-description of the archive, "a proactive mimesis," to borrow Tom Cohen's terms, that puts "into place, often despite itself, a new mnemonic and nominal labyrinth" [14], a new kind of terrain for a putative post-human subject to travel, then cultural studies is hardly the belated compeer to popular culture, rather it is the co-creator of a still uncertain future. Admittedly, this does not paint a very pretty picture. For, to accept this reading means that cultural studies ceases to be a critical enterprise (it has, on this score, lost its teeth), and becomes, instead, the form "popular culture" takes in the academy, a kind of tourism, which, while scandalous to its original practitioners, points to the way its institutionalization in English department curriculums subordinated it to the modus operandi of humanistic study, installing the humanist reading subject at the center of its web [15]. This does not mean that cultural studies' commitment to a political practice is lost, but that that commitment is understood as an attempt to change the form ideas take and the way the communities that think them are reconfigured. The project becomes "virtual," a matter of the archive, of the forms ideas take as they travel [16].

[15] There is still, then, everything to play for, but playing requires understanding our labor differently, not in terms of political discourse, but as guardians of the archive, an archive which we remake by our readings, by our foot-steps, all of us pedestrian-critics, as it were, whose management of the archive and the past may, just as in the case of popular culture, produce new forms, friendlier distributions of knowledge, new routes, new spaces [17]. There is a difference between popular culture and cultural studies, then, but that difference is one of expertise, not epistemological privilege. In this essay, for example, my foot-steps become the occasion for sheep to presence, for the remnants / traces of their putting to use, to manifest, dislocating conventional histories, to constitute a different kind of story, a story that no longer understands itself as a prosthetic replacement for the past, but as a kind of theft, stealing the material-semiotic chain that is "sheep" and changing thereby the trope of the speaking animal. I comb the archive in the habit of Beau Peep, picking them out, or find myself counting them now precisely to stay awake, "chewing their cud," letting the rhizomic network that they constitute take shape.

[16] If this all sounds a bit utopian, that is because it is, which brings me back to Serta's sheep and, in a way also, to their mattresses. For I had seen these sheep before, or, if not exactly these sheep, then the ovine zoographic they embody, not on T.V. this time, but in the pages of Thomas More's Utopia.

Sheep #3-Sheep bites Man (1516)

[17] Open the Utopia. Book 1. In the course of an argument over dinner at Cardinal Morton's with an objectionable English lawyer, who maintains that despite the real privations faced by the poor, "they might [still] maintain themselves" by "farming" or other "manual crafts, if they did not voluntarily prefer to be rascals" [18], Raphael Hythlodaeus, who speaks nonsense but who figures true representation, momentarily summons a flock of sheep to the table:

"Your sheep," I answered, "which are usually so tame and so cheaply fed, begin now, according to report, to be so greedy and wild that they devour human beings themselves and devastate and depopulate fields, houses, and towns. In all those parts of the realm where the finest and therefore costliest wool is produced, there are noblemen, gentlemen, and even some abbots, though otherwise holy men, who are not satisfied with the annual revenues and profits which their predecessors used to derive from their estates. They are not content, by leading an idle and sumptuous life, to do no good to their country; they must also do it positive harm. They leave no ground to be tilled; they enclose every bit of land for pasture; they pull down houses and destroy towns, leaving only the church to pen the sheep in. [19]

Raphael animates the sheep of England as a flock of homicidal, man-eating beasts that literally consume the rightful human inhabitants of the land out of house and home, feeding on people-grass in order to fill their owners' stomach-purses. In a perverse reversal of pastoral (and pastoral care) by which metaphorical shepherds have literalized their flocks and been transformed into wolves, these sheep enable Raphael to make his point with pleasant, devastating wit. As anthropologists of cloth and ecological historians remark, "because cloth production requires exceptional investments of labor and materials, it is always potentially competitive with the agricultural and military exigencies of the polity. ['Sheep eat men' was the expression for this in sixteenth-century England]" [20], coining the figure that we find today in the form of all manner of ovine impostures.

[18] This sheepy reversal has occasioned much significant commentary - especially from those readers scandalized by the way Utopia enacts a penetrating mode of ideological critique (Book 1) while, installing another ideological representation within the host-representation it dereifies (Book 2) [21]. But, where is the scandal exactly? Why feel surprise? What else should we expect? For More the moment of critique serves as a forerunner to an act of making. Utopia enacts this double gesture. His concern is not with the sheep precisely but with what the ovine figure makes visible. In order to make good on Raphael's ovine summoning, then, we need to understand the process by which Utopia generates itself in positive terms, namely as a lesson in world construction or poesis, revealing the way in which each successive act of making renders its precursor causal, blackboxing the prior constitutive process by which the text produces itself [22]. Raphael's metonymic tit for tat that produces a flock of wolfish sheep marks a mode of reading that pays attention precisely to this missing or retrospective causation, discovering the missing or occluded agent via the metonymic linkages from which the final result - so many poor people in England-appears detached. To put the problem a little differently, which is to say more sheepishly, this is all to say that, strictly speaking, Raphael's sheep are, of course, not sheep at all. Stunt sheep, maybe, rhetorical sheep, yes-sheep pressed to service in the zoographics of the text, sheep at their most mediated point, and in a way interchangeable with the other anti-mimetic effects the text generates: the ape who defaces a copy of Theophrastus and thereby the Utopian library, with a servant whose cough obscures the location of the island, or the quibble that More and John Clement have over the actual length of the "bridge which spans the river Anydrus" in utopia [23]. The sheep are part and parcel of the redundancy effects that More's text generates as it ostentatiously kicks over its own traces, stage managing accidents or contingencies in its textual transmission and asking us to wink, have a giggle, groan at the awful jokes, join in the fun, which is to say, eat the sheep.

[19] "You too can be a humanist" the text seems to say. In essence, then, my ovine reading demands seeing the Utopia as itself a machine for producing, I want to say cloning, first good humanists, and as Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton caution us, the humanities and the particular phrase regimes that govern academic gatherings [24]. At the same time, Raphael's sheep are, as in Latour's zoomorphisms, a real attempt on More's part to find a language adequate to representing an occluded set of agents, not sheep this time, but the human victims of enclosure, eaten not by sheep exactly, but by a sinister cannibal companion species - the landlord / sheep hybrid. Raphael's figure conscripts sheep, much as rivals today try to turn Dolly, part of an attempt to make the world, to script the future, that will change all the players, people, things (and sheep), in the process.

[20] We must simply concede that, as far as Raphael is concerned, a good world, "happiness," or more properly speaking, "wellness," the other sense of eu-topia, consists of a well used sheep - which is to say the kinds of relations imagined 80 or so years later by Leonard Mascall's 'A Praise of Sheepe' from his The First Booke of Cattell (1591), which inventories the exhaustive use values of a sheep:

These Cattel (sheepe) among the rest,
Is counted for man one of the best.
No harmfull beast nor hurt at all,
His fleece of wooll doth cloth vs all:
Which keepes vs from the extreame colde:
His flesh doth feed both yonge and olde.
His tallow makes the candles white,
To burne and serue vs day and night.
His skinne doth pleasure diuers wayes,
To write, to weare at all assayes.
His guts, therof we make wheele strings,
They vse his bones to other things.
His hornes some shepeheardes wil not loose,
Because therewith they patch their shooes.
His dung is chiefe I vnderstand,
To helpe and dung the plowmans land.
Therefore the sheep among the rest,
He is for man a worthy beast. [25]

It is only too easy to read for the sheep in Mascall's verse because he's already done it for us. But here it's important to understand that the missing, unrepresented, figure, the occasion for this encomium to the sheep, the speaking voice, the "human" author, is figured as the sum of the metonymic transfers that result in the figure of a warmly dressed, well shod, well fed, Englishman, provided with the means to purchase pen, paper and books for his closet as he is reading or perhaps writing a letter by candlelight, then going on to reflect gratefully on the kindly nature of English sheep. But what's missing is the extension of this analysis to the Englishman himself as hybrid sheep-person-thing, as something no longer, and not yet human, but, most assuredly humanist. How then to effect that sea change, to render the human visible in the terms that Mascall's sheep is here?

[21] To do so might entail surrendering precisely the rhetoric of denunciation / revelation that enables us (just like More) to produce nicely vendable readings - which is to say readings of texts and the past whose use-values in the present mean that they are marshaled to a post-human but retro-humanist reading subject tuned to the codes of class, gender, race, and sexuality but not quite so different, perhaps, from the happy Englishman of Mascall's verse. The "content" of the subject changes but the "form" does not. What the question of the animal raises, what ovine reading asks for, is a different kind of mechanism for producing, managing, and distributing knowledge, of understanding movement - a new kine or cattel - aesthetics. To show you what I mean, I need to follow the spooky spectralization of a prematurely aging Dolly into the future, or to one, now dated, version of it, and re-introduce you to Rick Deckard and his wife Iran, the central characters of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Sheep #4-"My Sheep's Electric" (1968 / 2021)

[22] Deckard you've probably met before in Ridley Scott's filmic adaptation, Bladerunner, but Iran you probably have not, unless you've read the novel - she's a casualty to the adaptation process, as the under-achieving, slightly seedy, adulterous bounty hunter of the novel becomes the dark, brooding, species boundary crossing Harrison Ford of the film. In the novel, Deckard's dreams are a bit more mundane. After finally agreeing to "retire" the four remaining "andys" on earth, Rick tells his superior, Inspector Bryant, that "If I get them, I'm going to buy a sheep." "You have a sheep. You've had one as long as I've known you," replies Bryant, referring to Graucho, the now defunct electric sheep of Dick's title. "It's electric," admits Deckard, hanging up on Bryant, "A real sheep this time," he continues to himself. "I have to get one. In compensation." [26]

[23] It's a little hard initially to understand the exact compensation Deckard imagines, or the exact nature of the exchange (the act of killing four more "andys" somehow obligates one sheep, one "real" sheep), and this difficulty serves as an index to the changed status of animals in the post-apocalyptic world that Deckard inhabits. In this world, so-called "natural" animals are at a premium. The social cachet of ownership that results from their scarcity value is most certainly at issue here, but more relevant still is the altered affective register in which animals appear, and so the sense in which the pastoral care (social welfare) of persons is now indexed to the care they take of animals. In the wake of the nuclear tragedy that serves as the novel's occluded genesis, the animal-human threshold has shifted. "You know how people are about not taking care of an animal," Deckard explains to his neighbor, "they consider it immoral and anti-empathic. I mean technically it's not a crime like it was right after W[orld]. W[ar]. T[hree]., but the feeling's still there" (13). What holds the remaining humans of the world together is a law of something on the order of the conservation of empathy (or Being) in a world in which everything else is turning into kipple, "living kipple." Empathy has become communal property, a collective duty to be performed publicly. Traumatized by the imminent sterility of the species, the fractured human dasein finds itself even more intricately bound up with its animal-others, miming care and goodwill in the collective responsibility of owning a pet. It's this subtle rewiring of affect that now stands as the guarantee of human status.

[24] The Voight-Kampff test bounty hunters administer to suspected androids before "retiring" them that reveals them to be both less and more than human tests the emotional response time to questions that depict animals fragmented into parts, transformed, I'm inclined to say blazoned, as they are put to use. Mascall's "In Praise of Sheepe" might almost provide the script for one of these lethal quizzes: "`You are given a calf-skin wallet on your birthday`" (48), proposes Deckard. "`I wouldn't accept it,' Rachael said. "`Also I'd report the person who gave it to me to the police'." Rachael is passing, performing her human-ness adequately. "'In a magazine you come across a full-page color picture of a nude girl…The gauges did not register….Your husband likes the picture'," Deckard continues, "Still the gauges failed to indicate a reaction. 'The girl,' he added 'is lying facedown on a large and beautiful bearskin rug.' The gauges remained inert, and he said to himself, An android response. Failing to detect the major element, the dead animal pelt" means you fail the test. Rachael is insufficiently empathic; or, rather, her mimetic faculty is only so good. The test depends upon an ontology that insists on a fundamental disconnect between solitary predators (spiders, cats, sociopath humans, androids) and herd animals-"empathy, [Deckard] once had decided, must be limited to herbivores or anyhow omnivores who could depart from a meat diet" (31).

[25] Deckard's conclusion that "andys" are merely "solitary predators" enables him to kill with little to no remorse and he rewards himself with a real, live goat. Problems arise when he realizes that he has begun to feel empathy towards female androids. He no longer wants to do his job. Rachael takes him to a hotel. They drink real coffee. They have sex. Afterward, Deckard looks sad. "`You're not going to be able to hunt for androids any longer," Rachael says calmly. 'So, don't look so sad. Please.'" - "No bounty hunter has ever gone on" (198). Sex with Deckard forms the basis of a reproductive strategy of sorts, a ruse the androids have developed to create ties of affinity with the very humans who are sent to kill them. The question of real or authentic connection is not voided but merely set to one side. Deckard determines to kill Rachael - "if I can kill you," he reasons, " I can kill them." In the event, he cannot kill Rachael, but he does kill the rest of them. It costs him dearly, though. He calls Iran to tell her it's all done, that he's done, and learns that his goat is dead. "I'm sorry," she says, "the goat is dead" (226). "I saw her very clearly," Iran continues, "A small young-looking girl with dark hair and large black eyes, very thin. Wearing a long fish-scale coat. She had a mail-pouch purse. And she made no effort to keep us from seeing her. As if she didn't care" (226-7). "It's so awful," she says, "so needless" (227). "Not needless," replies Deckard, "`She had what seemed to her a reason.' An android reason, he thought." Deckard heads North, into the wilderness where he finds, as he thinks, a real, live toad. He takes the toad home to Iran. And they start their lives over - only to find, of course, that their toad's electric (242-3).

[26] The novel ends, as Ursula K. Heise notes, with an acceptance that "electric animals" have some sort of life-extending rights of semi-citizenship to artificial animals as surrogates for the real thing, but systematically seeing off the androids [27]. Deckard and Iran reconstitute their relationship as caregivers to an electric toad. Iran orders up a "pound of artificial flies that really fly around and buzz." Deckard quits the bounty hunting business, and gets some rest. What's usually read as the novel's inferior (i.e. conservative) ending, as opposed to the species-crossing finale to the film Bladerunner misunderstands, I think, the logic that leads Deckard to accept "electric animals" into his immediate world but leave androids outside it. In the end, Deckard accepts "electric animals" because he's ceased to worry about fetishes or denunciations or being exposed as owner of a "fake" animal. The novel weans him off this dependence on the discourse of the real and leads him to accept simulacra. He understands that precisely because of the care he gives his toad, precisely because he treats the toad as he would a theoretically more "natural" animal, it becomes a full as opposed to a "dummy" subject. And for Deckard this is what it means to become "well." It means also that, for Deckard, if "andys" remain other to him that is merely to say that they are different from him, different in kind, but still kin. We are not all one big, happy family. On the contrary, collectives are now constituted based on affinity or choice rather than group identity, sameness or belonging. The mimetic basis of the human is realized instead to be an auto-poetic, adaptive, rhetorical process of making as opposed to mimicry. And so Deckard is well. He can sleep at night. He forgets about Graucho, the sheep.

[27] Making good on a sheepy reading, passing beyond merely counting or inventorying sheep, requires knowing what Deckard knows at the end of the novel - knowing that is that actions are constitutive not mimetic, that the complex connections or ligatures between persons and things that produce beings on the order of Dolly, Serta's uncounted sheep, Raphael's wolfish flock, Mascall's sheep-humanist hybrid, or an electric sheep named Graucho, and categories of being (an ontology, the discourse of species) do so only if the final instance, once the end-point in a chain of making is severed from the whole, and offered up as a description and rationale for the whole. Sheepy reading means regarding the whole network of associations, the relays across time and across different registers that constitute persons and things - all considered now as hybrids: rhetorical sheep, wolves in sheep's clothing, men become food for sheep, and sheepy, parasitic, murderous, loving, post-human, humanist, Englishmen, and, of course the flocks of sheep - become more human than the poor that enclosure promotes. The difference between these entities lies in their distribution throughout this complex web - at the center of which sits the most elaborately networked subject of all, here the Englishman speaking Mascall's poem, the arch-parasite, who is king because he sits still while the rest of the world is in movement.

[28] But, is it possible to reverse that settlement, to place sheep at the center of this web? How then does the world look? It requires a little imagination.

Sheep #5-Man bites Sheep (1518 / 1991)

[29] Imagine that, to everyone's surprise, Raphael's ovine summons produces an actual flock of sheep. The sheep of England, following perhaps the same script as their future Serta cousins, arrive en masse at Cardinal Morton's table to state their case for continued employment in the wool trade. What edification awaits them? They stand around chewing as Raphael continues to talk himself up, scoring points against Tudor England.

[30] Just as Raphael is about to describe Utopia proper, he says it will take some "time" or "leisure" ("sed res otium poscit"), referring to the technical Humanist term that means freedom from everyday tasks, eating, drinking, family, and work. "In that case," replies More, "let's first go to luncheon. Afterwards, we shall have all the time [tempus] we want" ("'Eamus ergo,' inquam, intro pransum: mox tempus nostro arbitratu sumemus'"). More, Raphael and Giles go into lunch and then return to exactly the same place ("Pransi in eundum reversi locum, in eodem sedili consedimus"), and Raphael starts up again. Book 2 is a lot to take in a single sitting also, so a light supper is provided ("manu apprehendens intro cenatum duco"). Utopia proper unfolds in the interval between lunch and dinner. Food appears, but is not described. Food is a given. Utopia, then, is post-prandial: it may only be spoken of or thought on a full stomach. Eating, literally takes no textual time (space). Even though the dialogue figures an exit and re-entrance, the text loses no time to food [28].

[31] What's crucial here is the structural opposition in Humanist thought maintained between eating and speaking, and how the utopian conversation proceeds once the demands of appetite have been satisfied. The humanist notion of conviviality revolves around the image of a group of men talking around an essentially empty table. Food must have been eaten but it must remain absent from the scene, as must be all that it stands for (women, class-marked labor, children, animals, food-stuffs). The true humanist subject appears to be one free from all attachments, free to think because of the regimen he has maintained by "living well" but also by "eating well." This is the fiction of the autonomous user, proof against what he wears and what he eats - but it is possible only as a result of the specific network, the connections that someone like More worked so hard to create.

[32] This sacrificial economy, this process that demands that time be taken in prescribed ways, describes exactly the economy that Jacques Derrida describes in his 1991 conversation with Jean-Luc Nancy, "Eating Well," where he recasts "living well" as a question of diet. The phrase refers to regimes of health, moderation, taste, to the fine-tuning of bodily needs / desires. For Derrida, the phrase becomes a way of troubling the boundaries between human and non-human. "The moral question," he asks, "is not, nor has it ever been: should one eat or not eat, eat this and not that, the living and the non-living, man or animal, but since one must eat in any case and because it is and tastes good to, for goodness sake, should one eat well" [29]. What Derrida signals is that since eating is a necessity, we are always at an ethical disadvantage. We are, essentially, always in the wrong (but not really guilty - because it's not our fault). Prior to exchange our bodies are themselves exchangers of matter that must be maintained-which is exactly what the humanist body does so very well. For Derrida, constituting any community places us in an obliged relation to the world. To be human is precisely to have no rightful place at the table, no chair that is properly your own. And when the Other comes calling, begging for room, it's time to bunch up, and make room at the table, buy a new table, reconfigure the room, the boundaries of a country, or the curriculum.

[33] More's ovine summoning to Cardinal Morton's table enacts one such zoomorphic attempt to reconfigure the Humanist table - generating a rhetorical figure that might make the plight of those citizens of the realm who do not yet count as "human" visible - but the table itself remains in place-the dominant and determining figure of the collective. For as long as the uses of the mouth remain strategically separated, no transformation of knowledge or world will be possible. When Hans Holbein came to illustrate this scene for one of the 1518 editions (figure 2) [30], however, he depicted John Clement, More's servant, re-entering the garden carrying a flask...of wine or ale. More, Giles, and Raphael remain where they are, in conversation, while Clement, who More "always wants to be present at conversations where there's profit to be gained" [31], catches what he can in between his tasks. By the translation of the text from the verbal sound-scape of a dialogue to the visual regimen of the engraving, Holbein recovers the movement of persons that permits the movement of voices - highlighting the division of labor that produces the luxury of Otium and also the figure of the Humanist as kind of technique or technology of reason. In a sense, More and company cease, momentarily to have bodies in this scene, and it is Clement who permits this disembodiedness; it is he who (like the slaves in Utopia itself) performs the work of translation, in effect, permitting the creation of More's theoretically "free" time.

[34] More places Clement in the garden. Holbein has him moving back and forth. For the unpredictable demands of the body to be answered in advance - i.e. voided - Clement must be in two places at once. The dialogue black boxes the chain of connections that produce the sound of the conversation-namely Clement nipping in and out and catching what he can between tasks. What Holbein recovers to Utopia, then, is the place of food, but also the labor involved in making the Humanists into the men able to think or make the Utopia. The translation from the verbal to the visual effects a change in state, recapturing the sense in which the voices we hear when reading More's text are themselves technically inhuman, not yet human, just a prosopopeia in the same sense as the sheep Raphael summons.

[35] And so, this is what my ovine or sheepy reading yields - no longer a fiction of speaking "for" or "of" sheep - confusing the various senses of "represent" and so installing in the space of the other a figure of myself - no "four legs good, two legs bad" exactly from me. On the contrary, "knowing from the point of view of a sheep" means precisely the reverse, seeing the human from without, from the position afforded by sheep in Mascall's poem, of food to the Utopia, and of wondering what androids dream about if or when they sleep. This mode of reading enables me to re-assemble the successive relays of making that lead to the fiction of ontologically stable, autonomous categories such as More's humanist, but, as Book 2 of More's text understands, it is more properly a prelude than an end in itself - a prelude to successive acts of making that will remake us all. If this sounds utopian, it's because it is. And to say this much is to admit neither to surprise nor a failure, but to own up to the fact that a reading, sheepy or not, marks only a beginning.

[36] Am I asleep? Have the sheep stopped talking? I began by counting sheep but now I find myself wanting to chew, speaking with my mouth full, chewing my food as I write. For there is one last sheep on the horizon, marked as both retro and future, but whose fate seems uncertain, hard to read, and so in need of what Donna Haraway would call "care and concern" rather than critique [32]. Some futures, however retro, are fragile; they promise much, but might be killed by a rush to judgment.

Sheep #6-Big Sheep Enterprizes (2004)

[37] I am happy to say that I have found Utopia. It's not the USA (sorry) but is in fact a tiny locus amoenus in North Devon. There is a map (figure three) [33] and I am happy to provide directions: Get on the M5 outside London and take that to the A361, aiming for Bideford. Then just keep your eyes peeled for the "BIG flag!" There you shall find "Ewe-Topia."

[38] There is an admission price. But it's much less than the cost of fitting a ship for a sailing expedition. Four pounds fifty per adult, and Three fifty for children. Under 3's are FREE. There is a family ticket, priced sixteen pounds all in. If you like it, and want to go back, it's only a pound each. Now what delights await you?

[39] There's play zones, free fall vertical drop slides, the ultimate indoor adventure playground, fast food, the chance to stroke sheep, a sheep show, duck trialling, sheep racing (including such obstacles as Shepherd's Brook and Ewe-turn), sheep milking, sheep dog trials and training, lamb feeding shows, and Nature Trail. There's also the Sheep shop, and the Shepherds restaurant. And, by the way, Utopia, it turns out, is, as it must be, "An All Weather Attraction," proof against the vagaries of time and place.

[40] Perhaps I should stop here - except to point out that Utopia today consists of adequate and affordable day care that enables parents to enter the paradise of a little conversation and a bit of time alone while the kids run around whatever sheep-themed maze is provided. Ewe-topia is but one instance of the historical development of Capital, the naturalization and extension of Otium become Tempus to all who work. If you have a car - but I'm sure there are buses - you can get there. And it is probably a good day out at a fair price. They have strict ethical standards on how they treat the sheep. Ewe-topia speaks directly then to the status of British farming in a landscape refigured by EEC legislation. It also participates in the increasing struggle between urban (London) England and the declining, disaffected rural constituency, recirculating the landscape itself as a fungible asset necessary to attract city-dwelling tourists. It is then a rather canny post-industrial conversion from production to leisure services. And in Ewe-topia, sheep are more valuable alive than dead. Oh, happy sheep!

[41] But this is to read Ewe-topia merely as a contemporary site. Its name, as the intra-lingual pun implies, places it securely within a longer tradition, which it parodies, or rather cites, reanimating the Utopia as itself a kind of capital, worth a giggle, worth a visit. In this sense, it performs the same kind of cultural work as More's own text, which for all the lauding of his playfulness is full of bad jokes, redundancy effects, that we saw were aimed at extending the Humanist table to include all the desks, chairs, and dinner tables of its readers. Ewe-topia completes the rhetorical project, but also materializes the sheep, bringing Raphael's rhetorical sheep into being as they take their place alongside John Clement on the service-side of Utopia. Sheep are momentarily promoted from the food chain to the service industry. They are still consumed, though now only in metaphorical terms. This shift in status is incidental, of course, but it is notable to the degree that it inducts sheep differently into our collectives. The difference this might make is unknown. It is yet to be decided.

[42] Have I finally drifted off - like most of the West's shepherds? Or am I now truly awake?


[1] Parts of this essay were presented to audiences at University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin, Madison, the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies at University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, University of Chicago, and Harvard University. I am particularly indebted to the following persons for their comments and hospitality: Margreta de Grazia, Jacques Lezra, Susanne Wofford, Henry Turner, and David Loewenstein, Sharon O'Dair, Rebecca Zorach, Richard Strier, Michael Murrin, and Carla Mazzio, Tom and Verena Conley, Mary Baine Campbell. I have also benefited from fruitful conversations with David Glimp, Scott Black, Katherine Rowe, Kristen Poole, Lauren Shohet, Jeffrey Shoulson, and all the sometimes members of the Philadelphia-area collective known as "WIP." Noah Yates's enthusiasm for Sandra Boynton's Moo, Bah, La, La, La (New York: Little Simon, 1982) provides on-going inspiration.

[2] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 235.

[3] Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 136-145.

[4] Ibid., 136.

[5] "Dolly the Sheep is Dead," «».

[6] On "faciality" see Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 168, 286. On the animal as singular category see Jacques Derrida's "The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)," trans. David Wills, Critical Inquiry 28 (Winter 2002): 369-418.

[7] "Celebrity Clone dies of Overdose," Nature (18 February 2003), «».

[8] "Well Goodbye Dolly," Acumen: Journal of Life Sciences vol. 1, no. 1, «».

[9] Ibid.

[10] "Celebrity Clone dies of Overdose," Nature (18 February 2003), «».

[11] This summary is adapted from TV Acres «». The most recent advertisements may be viewed at «».

[12] "Serta promotes sheepless nights," In Camera (July 2001).

[13] Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites: American Literature, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 1.

[14] Tom Cohen, Ideology and Inscription: "Cultural Studies" After Benjamin, De Man, and Bakhtin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 136.

[15] On cultural studies and travel / tourism see James Clifford, "Traveling Cultures," Cultural Studies, eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), 96-112; Frederic Jameson, "On Cultural Studies," Social Text, No. 34 (1993): 17-52; and Tom Cohen, Ideology and Inscription, 203-5.

[16] On the institutionalization of cultural studies see Stuart Hall's iconic essay "Cultural Studies and its theoretical legacies" in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, eds. David Morely and Kuan-Hsing Chen (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), 262-275. A politics of the archive might finally be understood to answer Stuart Hall's closing salvo to this essay: "there is all the difference in the world between understanding the politics of intellectual work and substituting intellectual works for politics" (275). On the desire to see "critique" as a rhetorical mode and to understand it, once more, as one moment in a process, rather than an end in itself, see Bruno Latour, "Why has Critique run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern" Critical Inquiry 30 (Winter 2004): 227-248.

[17] For a revalorization of pedestrian knowledge see Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984).

[18] Thomas More, The Complete Works of Thomas More, vol. 4, eds. Edward Surtz, S.J. and J. H. Hexter (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 1965), 61. The Latin text reads as follows: "Est inquit ille, satis hoc prouisum: sunt artes mechanicae, est agricolatio, ex his tueri uitam liceat, ni sponte mali esse mallent" (60).

[19] Ibid., 65-67.

[20] Jane Schneider, "The Anthropology of Cloth," American Review of Anthropology 16 (1987), 419.

[21] See Richard Halpern, The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1991), 136-175 and Louis Marin, Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces, trans. Robert A. Vollrath (Atlantic Highlands NJ: Humanities Press International Inc., 184), 143-150.

[22] The call to read Utopia "positively" comes from Marina Leslie, Renaissance Utopias and the Problem of History (Cornell University Press: Ithaca and London, 1998), 76.

[23] Thomas More, Utopia, 40-41.

[24] Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century England (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1986). See especially 210-217 where it becomes clear that the "perfect orator" of Humanist imagining is none other than a "becoming Cicero," understood precisely as a pedagogical program or routine that makes "Cicero" presence in humanist subjects via a pro-adaptive, metamorphic mimesis.

[25] Leonard Mascall, The First Booke of Cattell (1591), O1v.

[26] Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Del Rey Books: New York, 1968), 177. Subsequent references appear parenthetically in the text.

[27] Ursula K. Heise, "From Extinction to Electronics: Dead Frogs, Live Dinosaurs, and Electric Sheep" in Zoontologies, ed. Cary Wolfe (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 59-81.

[28] On the convention of meal as framing device for dialogues since Plato's Symposium, see Michel Jeanneret, A Feast of Words: Banquets and Table Talk in the Renaissance, trans. Jeremy Whitely and Emma Hughes (Cambridge: The Polity Press, 1991).

[29] "'Eating Well,' or the Calculation of the Subject: An Interview with Jacques Derrida" in Who Comes After the Subject, eds. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, Jean-Luc Nancy (New York and London: Routledge, 1991), 115.

[30] «» Seite 24-5.

[31] Thomas More, Utopia, 33-4.

[32] Latour asks whether we can "devise another descriptive tool that deals this time with matters of concern and whose import then will no longer be to debunk but to protect and care, as Donna Haraway would put it?" See Bruno Latour, "Why has Critique Run out of Steam," 232.

[33] «».