Oksana Maksymchuk

Writer in Residence
Period of Stay: 
October 2020 - March 2021
Independent scholar, poet, and translator, Ukraine
Project Title: 
The Bestiary
Project Abstract: 

What does it mean for a species to survive in the rapidly changing world? How does bearing witness to the extinction of other animal species affect humankind and its way of life? To what extent can humans retain their own species-defining practical, political, and emotional capacities of cooperation, civility, and fellow-feeling in adverse environmental conditions? Drawing on the rich tradition of medieval bestiaries, I develop a modern-day bestiary that reflects on the condition of humankind during the turbulent historical periods widely thought of as the end of times and of human life as we know it. This book will assume a hybrid form, oscillating between poetry, prose, and carefully curated and artfully adapted excepts from philosophical, scientific, and religious texts from different ages and traditions. Because the book constitutes a reflection on animal mortality and the fragility of the species, my chosen literary form will emphasize the change in animal forms through experimenting with grammar, syntax, and intonation, using literary and narrative devices that collapse, expose themselves, and undergo a process of mutation. In the manner of traditional bestiaries, each poem will offer moral, allegorical, and mystical interpretations, illuminating the human condition through its metamorphoses, past and future.