English | Topics in English and American Literature and Culture
L208 | 29387 | Ivan Kreilkamp


L208 29387 Topics in English and American Literature and Culture
Ivan Kreilkamp

1:00p-2:15p TR (15 students) 3 cr., A&H

TOPIC:  "The Literary Animal"

Have you ever looked at your pet dog or cat and wondered, “What is
she thinking?  If she could speak, what would she say?  What does
she think about me?”  Have you ever fantasized about what it would
be like to become an animal?  From the late nineteenth century
onwards, many literary authors have had these sorts of thoughts, and
have created a body of compelling and important work that examines
human relationships with animals and attempts imaginatively to enter
their consciousnesses.  We’ll begin with Anna Sewall’s 1877 best-
seller Black Beauty: the Autobiography of a Horse and H.G. Wells’
creepy.

1903 scientific fable The Island of Dr. Moreau.  From there, we’ll
go on to encounter many more dreams, nightmares, fables, and
speculations about animals, usually in relation to those humans who
control, dominate, and sometimes befriend them.  Much of the course
will focus on such early twentieth-century Modernist authors as
Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, D.H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, and
Rainer Maria Rilke, for whom animal narrators and subjects offered a
path to literary and philosophical innovation and experiment.  In
the last month or so of the semester, though, we’ll turn to more
contemporary fiction and film, including Peter Dickinson’s 1988
young- adult novel Eva (about a girl who wakes up as a chimpanzee),
Yann Martel’s 2002 Booker Prize-winning The Life of Pi, Nobel Prize
winner J.M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals (1999), and two amazing
films, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977) and Werner Herzog’s
Grizzly Man (2005).  The readings will focus on fiction but will
also include some poetry and critical essays.   We’ll focus on
skills of literary interpretation and analysis and effective
argumentation and writing.

Assignments will include regular short response papers, three 4-6
page formal papers (one of which can take a “creative” option –
fiction, poetry, or possibly visual art), regular on-time readings
of all assigned texts. dedicated class participation, and a take-
home final essay exam.