Beast Culture: Animals, Identity, and Western Culture
In this course, we will explore the European fascination with animals in early modern print culture. How do understandings of animal difference inform what it means to be human previous to the 21st century? How did practices like pet-keeping, horse racing, hunting, and zoos become such a central part of our modern day culture?
Readings will include: philosophy of Descartes and Rousseau; classic novels like Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels; 18th century scientific texts on species and race classification; radical vegetarian manifestos; cases of “wild children” raised by wolves; and publicized cultural hoaxes such as Mary Toft, an English woman who claimed to give birth to rabbits. Assignments will include several short essays and one final research paper on an animal of your choosing.