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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Animals have always appealed to the human imagination. This course provides a basic rubric for analyzing a variety of animal poems in order (1) to make you a better reader of poetry and (2) to examine some of the most pressing philosophical questions that have been raised in the growing field of animal studies. The animals that will concern us here are not allegorical--the serpent as evil, the fox as cunning, the dove as a figure for love. Rather, they are creatures that, in their stubborn animality, provoke the imagination of the poet.
We'll look at song birds (nightingales, skylarks) and birds of prey (eagle, hawk, cormorant, kingfisher); fish and other sea life (starfish, crocodile, shark); ground creatures that burrow (mice, moles, badgers) and scavenge (skunk, armadillo); cats that climb and stretch; and animals that hunt and are hunted (fox, hare, deer, moose). On the theoretical side of things, we will examine the concept of the autobiographical animal (a creature that provides the poet with an opportunity for self-reflection), the ontology of nonhuman animals (which remain opaque to the questioning, curious human), and animal aesthetics (the sublime, beautiful, grotesque, ugly). We'll consider the nature of pathos and sympathy in the relation between human and non-human animals and the ethics of animality. We'll aim to deepen our consciousness of animals and bestial forms of subjectivity.