Crosslisted with ENGL-GA 1957 and ANST-GA 2500.
Using J.M. Coetzee’s academic novella The Lives of Animals (1999) as a point of departure, this course will explore modern and contemporary theoretical and literary engagements with the question of “the animal” as framed by the interdisciplinary field of Animal Studies. After encountering key topics (anthropomorphism, interspecies understanding, agency, empathy, suffering, and cruelty) in Coetzee’s text and its several classical pre-texts (especially Kafka) we will step back to consider key intellectual discourses (Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud) that shaped thinking about human-animal relations at the threshold of modernity. Following that, we will study how animals have appeared in—and altered—a variety of literary and filmic genres in recent decades, and how they illuminate vital contemporary cultural and ecological imperatives, including social justice, species preservation, industrial agriculture, and climate change. The latter part of the course will consider literary and artistic engagements with the multi-species perspectives that are increasingly being centered by Anthropocene studies.
This course welcomes students from all disciplines who are interested in exploring how Animal Studies can inform their areas of study.
Works to be studied include Derrida’s The Animal that Therefore I Am, Deleuze and Guattari’s “Becoming Animal,” Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto, Edward Albee’s The Goat, Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, Marian Engel’s Bear, Karen Jay Fowler’s We Are Completely Besides Ourselves, Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Virginia Woolf’s Flush: A Biography.