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EN2L2/EN3J8 The Question of the Animal

This module is an option for all Pathways. 15 CATS
Module runs in Term 2 in 2020-21.

Module convenor - Dr Jonathan Skinner - J.E.Skinner@warwick.ac.uk
Seminars: Wednesday 10-12pm, (Group 1, location TBD), Thursday 1-3pm (Group 2, location TBD). *Please note: this is a two-hour seminar.*
Office Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2-3pm (location TBD).

Overview

In an age of mass extinction, the meanings of human being and the uses of technology seem drawn into a circle bounded by the question of the animal. Through philosophical, artistic, literary, cultural, religious, and scientific studies, this module focuses on the trouble animals bring to human self-understanding. The investigation proceeds both as an inquiry from within the Western tradition, which locates humanity in an expulsion of the animal, and as an examination of traditions in which the differences between humans and animals are more varied and integrated. Themes include the wild and the tame, meat, religion, animal rights, sex and gender, race, languages, colonialism, companion animals, and animal representations and performances. Discussions focus around cultural cases drawn from literature, the arts, and contemporary media. The seminar aims both to cover some of the history of cultural relations to the animal and to help participants theorize the "animal" in their own engagement with humanist tradition. The seminar thus also includes a basic introduction to "posthumanist" theory, from Heidegger through poststructuralism to systems theory, feminist, postcolonial and science studies.

Assessment

100% assessed. Assessment is by the following:

Intermediate years: (100% assessed) 1 x 1,000-word essay (due in Week 7 of T2, 30% of mark) + 1 x 2,500-word essay (due in Week 1 of T3, 60% of mark) + 1 x portfolio of 150 word weekly responses to Moodle discussion forum: a portfolio of 8 of these contributions is to be submitted at the end of T2 for assessment (due in Week 10 of T2, 10% of final mark).

Finalists: (100% assessed) 1 x 4,000 word essay (due in Week 1 of T3, 90% of final mark) + 1 x portfolio of 250 word weekly responses to Moodle discussion forum: a portfolio of 8 of these contributions is to be submitted at the end of T2 for assessment (due in Week 10 of T2, 10% of final mark).

Reading List 

Required:

J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (London: Vintage, 1999)
.--. The Lives of Animals (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1999)
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (London: Gollancz, 2007)
Vicki Hearne, Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007)
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (New York: Washington Square Press, 2018)

Suggested:

Clayton Eshleman, Juniper Fuse (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2003)
Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness
(Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003)
Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald, eds. The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings (Oxford: Berg, 2007)
Jacob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Men (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2010)
Cary Wolfe, Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003)

(PDF excerpts will be provided for other readings listed in the syllabus.)

Syllabus (by week)

1) TALKING ANIMALS; CHILDHOOD, SEXUALITY, MONSTERS; WILD ANIMALS

Primary: Claude Levi-Strauss, “The Totemic Illusion” (PDF); Andrew Peynetsa, trans. Dennis Tedlock, “The Boy and the Deer” (PDF); Werner Herzog/ Timothy Treadwell, Grizzly Man (film, DVD reserve or online); Ang Lee, The Life of Pi (film clip, in seminar)

Secondary: Brothers Grimm, “Little Red Riding Hood” (versions, Doc); Philippe Descola on animism, naturalism, totemism (schematic diagram from Beyond Nature and Culture)

2) MEAT OR EATING SOULS; RELIGION, ETHICS; ANIMAL LETTERS

Primary: Michael Pollan, “The Ethics of Eating Animals,” The Omnivore's Dilemma (PDF); Carol J. Adams, “The Sexual Politics of Meat” (PDF); Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meat (excerpts, PDF); Eric Rohmer, Summer (film clip, in seminar)

Secondary: Plutarch, “The Eating of Flesh” (PDF); Claude Levi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked (excerpt, PDF); David Abram, “Animism and the Alphabet,” The Spell of the Sensuous (excerpts, PDF); Charles Burnett, Killer of Sheep (film, DVD reserve)

3) PREHISTORY, AESTHETICS, ANIMAL ART

Primary: Clayton Eshleman, Juniper Fuse (selections, PDF); animal poetry: Ted Hughes, “The Thought Fox”; Galway Kinnell, “The Bear”; W.S. Merwin, “Leviathan,” “For a Coming Extinction,” “After the Alphabets,” “The Mole,” “Water Pouring from Clouds” (PDF); Steve Baker, “Sloughing the Human,” Zoontologies (PDF); Werner Herzog, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams (film clip, in seminar)

Secondary: Paul Shepard, “Introduction,” The Others: How Animals Made Us Human (PDF); Aaron Moe, “‘learning my steps’: Zoopoetics and Mass Extinction in W.S. Merwin’s Poetry,” in Zoopoetics: Animals and the Making of Poetry (PDF); selected visual art (online)

4) BECOMING ANIMAL

Primary: Deleuze and Guattari, “Becoming-Animal” (PDF); Franz Kafka, “Josephine the Mouse Singer” (PDF); Julio Cortazar, “Axolotl” (online); Superbowl commercials (clips, YouTube); Marcus Coates, “Dawn Chorus” (YouTube); Rupert Wyatt, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (film clip, in seminar)

Secondary: Alphonso Lingis, “Animal Body, Inhuman Face,” Zoontologies (excerpt, PDF); Jacob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Men (excerpt, PDF); Ron Broglio, “A Minor Art: Becoming-Animal of Marcus Coates,” Surface Encounters: Thinking with Animals and Art (PDF); Phil Stebbing, Animal Tragic (clips, YouTube)

5) ANIMAL SUBJECTS, ANIMAL RIGHTS

Primary: J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (entire book: story plus accompanying essays)

Secondary: Jeremy Bentham, “Principles of Morals and Legislation” (PDF); Peter Singer, “Animal Liberation or Animal Rights?” (PDF); Tom Regan, “The Rights of Humans and Other Animals” (PDF); Shaun Monson, Earthlings, Louie Psihoyos, The Cove, and/or Judy Irving, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (documentary films, DVD reserve or online).

7) PERFORMING ANIMALS, ANIMAL SPECTACLES, TRAINING RELATIONSHIPS

Primary: Vicki Hearne, Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name (selections*); visit from trainer with Leamington Guide Dog Training School

*Chapters 1 through 4, 7-8, and 10: “By Way of Explanation”; “A Walk with Washoe: How Far Can We Go?”; “How to say ‘Fetch!'”; “Tracking Dogs, Sensitive Horses and the Traces of Speech”; “Calling Animals by Name”; “The Sound of Kindness”; and “What Is It About Cats” (in my edition of Adam’s Task, pp. 3-116, 166-191 and 224-244).

Secondary: John Berger, “Why Look at Animals?” (PDF); Helen MacDonald, H is for Hawk (excerpt, PDF); Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Blackfish (documentary film, DVD reserve or online)

8) THE ENLIGHTENMENT HUMANIMAL

Primary: J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace; Cary Wolfe, “In the Shadow of Wittgenstein’s Lion: Language, Ethics, and the Question of the Animal,” Zoontologies (excerpts, PDF)

Secondary: Jacques Derrida, “And Say the Animal Responded?” (PDF), “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)” (PDF); Michel de Montaigne, “An Apology for Raymond Sebond” (excerpts, PDF)

9) SCIENTIFIC ANIMALS, COMPANION ANIMALS, LABORING ANIMALS

Primary: Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; Donna Haraway, “Introduction,” When Species Meet (PDF)

Secondary: Lynda Birke, “Into the Laboratory” (PDF); Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness; “America's 'Emotional Support Animal' Epidemic” (Guardian documentary, online); Robert Bresson, Au Hasard Balthazar (film, DVD reserve or online)

10) EXTINCTION

Primary: Alexis Wright, The Swan Book

Secondary: Thom van Dooren, Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (excerpts, PDF)