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190 × 135 mm
192 pages
124 illustrations, 74 in colour
07 Oct 2008

Duck Victoria de Rijke

The squat, noisy duck occupies a prominent role in the human cultural imagination, as evidenced by everything from the rubber duck of childhood baths to the flying ducks on living room walls. With Duck, Victoria de Rijke explores the universality of this quacking bird through the course of human culture and history.

From the Eider duck to the Brazilian teal to the familiar mallard, duck species are richly diverse, and de Rijke offers a comprehensive overview of their evolutionary history. She explores the numerous roles that the duck plays in literature, art, and religion – including the Hebrew belief that ducks represent immortality, and the Finnish myth that the universe was hatched from a duck’s egg. This book also highlights the significant role humour has always played in human imaginings of duck life, such as the Topographia Hibernia, a twelfth-century tome contending that ducks originated as growths on tree trunks washed up on a beach. But we also learn about the bird’s role in everyday life as well, from food dishes to jokes to beloved animated characters such as Daffy Duck and Donald Duck. Duck is an entertaining account of a bird whose distinctive silhouette is known the world over.

‘de Rijke does an exemplary job of exploring aspects of “this cheery, watery little creature” from its violent sex life (one female may be pursued by 40 males) to the canard pressé sold at Tour d'Argent in Paris.’ – The Independent

‘we find, thanks to Victoria de Rijke's superlative addition to Reaktion's Animal series, that ducks occupy huge reservoirs of our psyche and our planet . . . Duck serenades and expands its subject, giving this charming, iconic bird a larger and infinitely more complex life than the one we commonly accord it . . . both the birds and this book deserve our regard.’ – TLS

‘It's not just about what we do with the meat and eggs, but how ducks have infiltrated language and culture, in such matters as the origins of the word "quackery", Donald Duck's connections with propaganda and surrealism and, yes, even Toilet Duck. It's a very readable introduction to a world which is both more interesting than you might have imagined, and very charming too.’ – The Herald, Glasgow

‘the splendidly illustrated (a hallmark of the series) gallimaufry of the weird and wonderful’ – IBIS

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Victoria de Rijke is Principal Lecturer in Performing Arts and Education at Middlesex University. She is editor of Nose Book: Representations of the Nose in the Arts and Literature (2000).