Animals and the Politics of Representation
As the title suggests, this course interrogates how various cultural forms and representational modes shape human-animal relations, and vice versa. Guiding questions of this course include the following: how do various literary forms shape human understandings (including scientific understandings) of non-human animal lives? How is the figure of the animal deployed in the representation of human (racial, gender, sexual, class) difference and in the justification of human violence within literary and other cultural texts? And what forms of imaginative representation might facilitate a more just configuration of human-animal relations as well as human social formations?
The central learning objectives of the course are as follows: 1) to develop students’ capacity to interpret the cultural work of multiple textual forms and to think critically about the politics of representation; 2) to develop students’ capacity to think intersectionally about the operations of power across species lines and along multiple axes of human (racial, gender, sexual, class) difference; 3) to develop students’ capacity to think critically about non-human animal life, human-animal relationships, and interspecies ethics; 4) to develop writing, conversational, and presentation skills through individual and group work, in addition to developing critical thinking skills.
Course texts will encompass a range of literary forms, and may include short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, Franz Kafka, and others; poems by Marianne Moore, Claude McKay, and others; Frank Norris’s Vandover and the Brute; Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty; Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes; Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood; J.R. Ackerley’sMy Dog Tulip; Art Spiegelman’s Maus; Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; and J.M. Coetzee’s Elisabeth Costello.In addition to memoirs, novels, animal auto/biographies, and graphic novels, the class may feature films such as Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man and Lars von Trier’s Dogville. Readings will finally include essays and chapters by scholars such as Susan McHugh, Cary Wolfe, Donna Haraway, John Berger, Stephen Baker, Michael Lundblad, Timothy Pachirat, Maria Elena Garcia, Neel Ahuja, and others. All texts that are not available for purchase at the UW bookstore will be made available electronically through the course canvas site.