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Unit information: Animal Planet: Humans and other animals in modernity in 2015/16

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Unit name Animal Planet: Humans and other animals in modernity
Unit code ENGLM0056
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Pite
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Animal Studies is an emergent field which embraces insights from across the Arts and Sciences. The study of human relationships with nonhuman animals offers an opportunity to investigate the human place in a more-than-human world. The period from 1800 to the present day has seen important transformations in the way in which humans have interacted with animal life. The rise of zoos and safari parks, alongside the increased inclination to welcome animals into families as pets has resulted in animals occupying parts of the human world which they had not inhabited before. Moreover, the treatment of animals and their habitats as resources, the development of scientific knowledge of animal bodies, the more recent positioning of animals in a seemingly threatened natural world, and ways of representing animals through film and television show that animals can be looked at, understood and treated in an astonishing diversity of ways.

Central Thematic concerns will include: How do the relationships between humans and other animals reflect the human relationship with the rest of the natural world? What do changing ideas about animals, and changing relationships with animals, reveal about larger historical transformations? What can we tell about the nature of power and domination from the study of human-animal relationships? How can animals impact upon the ‘human’ world? Why is it important to understand the contradictions inherent in our relationships with animals?

Intended Learning Outcomes

1. A broadened experience of the range and variety of perspectives on the relations between non-human and human animals

2. Improved independent critical thinking about how animals and human beings interact.

3. A maturing ability to apply critical, historical, geographical and cultural contexts to the field of animal studies.

4. Developing an appropriate style of critical writing for the discussion and analysis of how human and animals relate to each other.

5. Improving existing skills through independent reading, research and writing on specific texts and topics.

Teaching Information

10 x 2-hour seminar, 11 Consultation Hours, 2 x 2-hour fieldwork visits

(seminars week-by-week):

  1. Animal Introductions
  2. Animal spaces, beastly places
  3. The wild and the domestic
  4. Hybrid geographies and zoontologies
  5. Animals on film
  6. Animal death and animal rights
  7. Animal captives
  8. Imperial animals: extraction, depletion, extinction
  9. Animal Symbols
  10. Imagining Animals

Assessment Information

1 essay of 4,000 words which would assess the standards reached of the abilities and knowledge listed in learning objectives 1-4. Students will also be required to write a 1,000 word report on one of the fieldwork visits.

Reading and References

David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (New York, 2011)

Harriet Ritvo, Animal Estate: The English and other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, MA, 1989)

Jason Hribal, Fear of the Animal Planet: The Hidden History of Animal Resistance (Oakland, 2008)

Thomas Nagel, 'What is it like to be a bat?', The Philosophical Review, Vol. 83, No. 4 (Oct., 1974), pp. 435-450.

J M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (Princeton, 2003)

Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (London, 1979)

Les Murray, Translations from the Natural World (Manchester, 1993)

Julie Urbanik, Placing Animals (Lanham, 2012)

Chris Wilbert and Chris Philo, Animal Spaces, Beastly Places (London, 2003)