English | Literature and Science
L769 | 24794 | Nash

5:45p – 8:45p M


One of the more intriguing areas where Environmental Studies
confronts contemporary theory is in addressing “the problem of the
animal.”  This seminar will pursue a double focus.  On the one hand
we will be exploring recent theoretical investigations in Animal
Studies pertaining to the notion of the animal subject, with special
reference to the various historical resonances of that conversation:
to what extent does contemporary animal rights discourse extend
enlightenment “rights” discourse?  To what extent does it part
company from that tradition?  To what extent did an Enlightenment
discourse of “animal rights” exist alongside its better-known
cousin, “Human Rights?”  To what extent does the logic of “othering”
govern the relationship of Animal and Human Rights?  Now and Then?
Perhaps most significantly, to what extent do contemporary projects
that seek to position “Animal Rights” outside the framework of
Enlightenment subjectivity that underwrites Human Rights” find
themselves engaging in a kind of “historicist Orientalism” that
posits an “other-ed” Enlightenment, in order to reject it?  How, in
short, does a robust consideration of problems and possibilities in
contemporary Animal Studies prompt us to revisit familiar terrain in
search of new smells?  We will consider a range of approaches to
these questions, including work by Jacques Derrida, Emanuel Levinas,
Cary Wolfe, Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, Vicky Hearne, Paul Patton,
Jonathan Lamb, Donna Landry and Michel Serres, among others.

At the same time, we will be particularly interested in considering
eighteenth-century (literary and non-literary) texts, in light of
the roles played by (non-human) animal life.  We will consider
philosophical considerations of the position of animal life, drawing
on the work recently collected by Aaron Garrett, including works by
Pope, Johnson, Jenyns and Thomas Young; but we will also consider
works of Natural History by Linnaeus, Buffon, White, and Goldsmith,
among others.  And we will investigate a number of familiar literary
texts, where we explicitly estrange ourselves from familiar
strategies to follow new trails and pursue different odors.  We will
read works by Dryden, Gay, Swift, Defoe, Pope, Sterne and perhaps a
collection of late-century poetry; we are also likely to construct
at least one unit around visual representations of animal life from
Hooke’s _Micrographia_ to the work of George Stubbes.  How do we
read the goats of Defoe? Swift’s horses? Pope’s Great Danes?  How do
the White Cattle of Britain compete with the engineered livestock of
Robert Bakewell’s agricultural revolution for contested valuation of
what counts as both national identity and culture?  How do the
questions raised by such historical attention challenge theoretical
models being offered today to address similar debates?

Student work will focus around a long seminar paper, and two oral
presentations; while students are not required to meet with me in
advance, I welcome the opportunity to meet with students before the
seminar begins to discuss possible areas of exploration, and to
consider subtle emendations and alterations to the reading list.