Interdisciplinary Writing Seminar
Topic: “Animals.” Why have cats taken over the internet? How does the US simultaneously support a multibillion-dollar pet industry and factory farming? From pets to internet memes to industrial byproducts, animals are ubiquitous, but we don’t always think through why we have such complicated and inconsistent attitudes toward animals. This course would offer students the opportunity to rethink human-animal relationships and animal representation by reading essays in a variety of genres. Works include philosopher Lori Gruen on the concept of wild dignity, primatologist Frans de Waal’s research on animal cognition, Joyce E. Salisbury’s study of medieval representations of animality, and journalism on meat processing plants. For the research paper, students would select a specific animal-centered cultural practice (such as keeping urban chicken coops or the medical use of animal-to-human organ transplants) or animal representation (such as the Pepe the Frog meme or the Netflix show BoJack Horseman). Students would then develop a sustained argument about how the selected topic shapes and is shaped by contemporary cultural attitudes toward animals.