Conjuring Bambi: Cuteness, incantation and reclamation in Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Love Spells & Rituals for Another World is an independently published book of international and interdisciplinary essays published to mark the May 2020 symposium of the same name. This limited edition and hand-number collection (200 copies) is edited by Lilly Markaki and Caroline Harris and designed by Toni Brell (Sandberg Institute, Netherlands). Proceeds after print and distribution costs are being donated to UK charities safeguarding LGBTQI+ lives.  

Abstract for essay:The aesthetic judgement of “cuteness” shapes many human interactions and involvements with animal others. Disneyfication or Bambification – and by extension “cuteness” – are recognised in disciplines including media theory, veterinary medicine, geography and animal studies. In Pascale Petit’s 2017 poetry collection Mama Amazonica, deer, and in particular fawns, recur in the narrative. Humans and deer in the poems are bound in intimate metaphorical relationships, where the literal and figurative worlds are co-dependent, entangled and frequently reversed. Deer are referenced in eight poems, showing themselves in the forest, in the kitchen, in the maternity ward, caught in the mesmerising gaze of an anaconda, in the simile “like a fawn who must be sacrificed” (71: 4.2). “Bandaged Bambi”, the first mention of a fawn, sets up this repeating motif. Sianne Ngai theorises the cute as a minor but important aesthetic category; cuteness is about powerlessness, consumption and commodity relationships. Ngai writes how the cute are both “lovingly molest[ed]” and themselves hold the possibility of aggression. While the animal others and animal selves in Mama Amazonica do not conform to the big-eyed, softly contoured strokeability associated with the form of “cuteness” in Disney films, they do, as this paper argues with reference to Ngai, relate to and unsettle these images. Where other critical approaches to Petit’s work have focused on biographical themes or her employment of indigenous South American mythologies, this articles examines the power and gender relationships in the other-than-human imagery of her poems. In so doing it identifies a schematic of exhortation, incantation and reclamation that runs through the collection. It also introduces the poetic bookwork, Cut-out Bambi, which is a response to “Bandaged Bambi” and themes in my PhD research. 
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLove Spells & Rituals for Another World
EditorsLilly Markaki, Caroline Harris
Place of PublicationUK
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameLove Spells & Rituals for Another World

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