English 447, Animals in Literature Fall 2014

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English 447, Animals in Literature

Fall 2014
Karen Raber

Professor, Department of English

Contact info: Office, Bondurant W209B

Phone (home) 662-893-4754 Email (preferred), kraber@olemiss.edu

Office Hours: T/Th 10:45-12, or by appointment
Course Description: This is a course that covers the representation of animals in literary works, primarily novels. While we will deal extensively with debates about animals in other fields and in our own culture generally, our focus will be on how those debates influence, and are influenced by literary texts. Students will develop a nuanced and informed sense of how the depiction of animals intersects with problems raised by the many cultural functions and pressures to which animals are subjected; students will emerge with a clearer understanding of how the category “human” exists in relation to the category “animal,” and will be aware of the cultural controversies that derive from that interdependence. In addition, through their written work for the class, students will develop their skills in research and the writing of critical essays on literature by choosing a topic of interest to them and creating a long research essay on it.
Required Readings:
Jack London, Call of the Wild

J. M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals

Yann Martel, The Life of Pi

Georgi Vladmov, Faithful Ruslan

Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

Richard Adams, Plague Dogs

Gordon Aalborg, Cat Tracks


Additional readings will be assigned per the schedule below; most of these are short essays or excerpts. All additional readings can be found on Blackboard.
There will be a quiz on each main text listed above on the first day the reading is due. These exams will cumulatively substitute for a final exam on the readings, and so are very important.
You will also be required to submit two short essays of at least 4-5 pages each, and a long essay (10 pages) at semester’s end. You will also be asked to do a variety of writing exercises either in class or on Blackboard during the semester, some to improve your skills and address deficiencies in your training in English, some to enhance discussion.
My attendance policy does not allow any maximum number of absences. You must be in class, every class, without fail. I do not take excuses for absences. My policy is this: you are an adult, you must make the decisions an adult makes. If you must miss class for whatever reason, you incur the penalties that might be associated with missing it, especially if there is a quiz that day. There are no makeups for quizzes for any reason, so take that into account. Just showing up also does not count; if you arrive without the book or other readings and assignments, then consider yourself absent (I will). Having said that, I realize, as does every adult with common sense, that at times you may have perfectly good reasons for not being present. Again, you must make the decision for yourself whether your reason is sufficient. At the end of the semester I will calculate your grade for attendance and participation based on your overall ability to come to class, prepared, and ready to contribute to discussion. All else is nonsense.

This course will assign +/- grades, as follows: 94-100, A, 90-93 A-, 87-89 B+, 84-86 B, 80-83 B-, and so on. Balance of grading will be 45% essays, 35% Quizzes, 20% attendance and participation and other assignments.

Schedule of Readings:

The main readings below are the books listed as required reading. The additional items will either be distributed on the day of class, or the week before. If we need to adjust the syllabus as we go along, we will do so. You are responsible for obtaining any and all materials due on a specific day if you are absent or late. In some cases the films I would like to sample are not yet in my hands, so we may have to shift film clips around.

Readings other than the main text can be found on Blackboard. At least once or twice during the semester, I’ll break into the schedule with a class on something unplanned. You’ll have to be there to experience it.
Week 1:

August 26, 28: Introduction—discussion of excerpts in handouts on the philosophy, history, cultural place of animals

Weeks 2-3:

Sept. 2 [No Class Sept 4], 9-11: J. M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals

Selections from Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat

Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka

Weeks 4-5

Sept 16-18, 23-25: Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty

Excerpts and info on animal rights movement, 19th c Britain to 20th c America; Mark Bekoff on animal ethics.

Film clips: The Bear

Weeks 6-7:

Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Oct. 6-8 : Jack London’s Call of the Wild

Darwin, selections; Film clips, Never Cry Wolf
Weeks 8-9:

Oct. 13-15, Oct 20-22: Richard Adams, Plague Dogs

Vivisection excerpts, Lansbury “The Brown Dog Riots”; Birke, “Into the Laboratory”

Week 10:

Oct. 27-29: Graham Aalborg’s Cat Tracks

Wild vs. Invasive species; colonialism and animals—images in class powerpoint

Film clips: Passion in the Desert

Week 11-12:

Nov. 3-5, 20-22: Vladimov’s Faithful Ruslan;

Thomas Mann’s short story “Tobias Mindernickel,” excerpts from Arluke, Just a Dog
Week 13:

Nov. 17-19: Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi

Film clips: Grizzly Man

Material on zoos—Desmond Morris, “The Naked Cage,” Youtube video “Creature Comforts”

Week 14: Thanksgiving Week
Week 15, Dec. 2-4: wrap up and spillover if needed (or complete one of the films from previous week)
Schedule of quizzes:
Sept. 2, Coetzee Lives of Animals

Sept. 16, Black Beauty

Sept. 29, Call of the Wild

Oct. 13, Plague Dogs

Oct. 27, Cat Tracks

Nov. 3, Faithful Ruslan

Nov. 17, Life of Pi
Schedule of essay assignments:
First short essay, due Oct. 8
Second Short Essay, due Nov. 5
Final Essay, due Dec. 4
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