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Modernist Animals: How to rethink the human-animal divide

ENGL 2073.401
crosslisted as: CIMS 2073/COML 2073
TR 5:15-6:44pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major


The last century has witnessed a radical transformation in the way we perceive animals as opposed to humans, a change that was announced and represented by novels, poems, films, and philosophical discussions. We will begin by surveying theoretical controversies about animals, one opposing Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, and Giorgio Agamben (The Animal that therefore I am, « The Name of a dog »,  and The Open) on the one hand, the other J. M. Coetzee and Thomas Nagel (« What is is like to be a bat ? » and  Elizabeth Costello).These philosophical discussions will serve as an introduction to the rich field of contemporary animal studies. We will limit our examples to works from the 20th and 21st centuries, a corpus that is nevertheless extremely varied, ranging from the Japanese classic I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki to animal poems by Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and Ted Hughes, and stories by Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, and George Langelaan. Films will be discussed, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, along with Mick Jackson’s biopic on Temple Grandin and the animated feature My Dog Tulip. We will conclude with imaginary animals sketched by Jorge Luis Borges in his book of fantastic zoology.     

Requirements: One oral presentation (20%); Four film journals (40%); One final paper (40%).