The “posthuman” turn in social theory has directed renewed attention to what non-human animals want. How can one know, when animals lack human language? What do attempts to communicate with animals tell us about animals, about humans and about language? This course looks at what it means to communicate with beings who do not, and will never, speak. We will investigate the field of human-animal communication from its inception with ape language projects to recent work on interspecies communication. The course will explore this topic through an eclectic range of literature, including scientific studies, memoirs, novels and philosophical writing. Readings will include work by Donna Haraway, Jacques Derrida, Irene Pepperberg, JM Coetzee, Temple Grandin and others
Animals vs. Humans
Perspectives on Language and Communication Between Humans and Animals
- Students will develop an understanding of historical and contemporary theories and ideas about the relationship between humans and non-human animals, about ethics and responsibility, and about the role that language plays in that engagement.
- Students will learn to evaluate how different individuals and groups view animals, and how different understandings of animals differently impacts the lives of both people — including their own – and animals.
- Student will develop the ability to discuss and analyse how Western views of animals have changed, and what those changes mean for:
i. the way non-human animals are regarded and treated,
ii. the way views of animals are tied to views of humans,
iii. what communication with beings that cannot speak entails,
iv. the meaning and role of ethics and ethical engagement.
- Students will develop confidence in deploying the elements of good analysis, including:
i. identifying a problem,
ii. making a defensible claim,
iii. supporting a claim with evidence,
iv. articulating the assumptions and inferences that link evidence to a claim, and
v. providing a motive for their argument.
- Students will develop their own writing and presentation style and organization, achieving coherence and clarity of argument, and will build skills in the different modes of oral and written argumentation and analysis, including:
i. close reading for argument,
ii. research arguments and analysis, and
iii. reflective thinking and cultural criticism.
20%: Participation in lectures and tutorials
20%: Continuous reflective diary
20%: Group presentation
Weekly critical readings:
- Harriet Ritvo 1987. The Animal Estate: the English and other creatures in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, Chapter 1 “The Nature of the Beast”, 1-42.
- Clinton Sanders and Arnold Arluke 1996. Speaking for dogs. In Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald, eds. 2007. The Animals Reader: the essential and classic contemporary writings. London: Berg, 63-71.
- Talking the dog: framing pets as interactional resources in family discourse. Research in Language and Social Interaction 37: 399-420.
- K. Hirsh-Pasek and R. Treiman 1982. Doggerel: motherese in a new context. Journal of Child Language 9:229-37.
- Janet Alger and Steven Alger 1999. An ethnographic study of a cat shelter. Society and Animals 7(3):199-218.
- Kalof, Linda and Amy Fitzgerald, eds. 2007. The Animals Reader: the essential and classic contemporary writings. London: Berg [Selections]
- Thomas Nagel 1974. What Is It Like to Be a Bat? The Philosophical Review, Vol. 83, No. 4 (Oct., 1974), 435-450.
- Jacques Derrida 2002. The animal that therefore I am (more to follow). Critical Inquiry 28 (2): 369-418 [Selections]
- Barbara Smuts 1999. In J.M. Coetzee. The Lives of Animals. Princeton University Press, 107-120.
- J.M. Coetzee. The Lives of Animals. Princeton University Press, 11-69.
- Young, Iris Marion 1997. “Asymmetrical Reciprocity: On Moral Respect, Wonder and Enlarged Thought.” Constellations 3 (3): 340-63.
- Joel Wallman 1992. Aping Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3-28.
- Christopher Riley 2014. The dolphin who loved me: the NASA funded project that went wrong. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/08/the-dolphin-who-loved-me
- Greenfield, S., G. Osborn and P. Robson, “Strictly Courtroom? Law Film and Genre”, in Film and the Law: The Cinema of Justice. 2nd edition. (Hart: 2010), 51-68.
- Margaret Talbot 2008. Birdbrain: the woman behind the world’s chattiest parrots. New Yorker, May 12. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/12/080512fa_fact_talbot
- Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson 2005. Animals in Translation: the woman who thinks like a cow. London: Bloomsbury. Chapter 2 “How animals perceive the world”, 27-67.
- Olga Solomon 2010. What a dog can do: children with autism and therapy dogs in social interaction. Ethos, Vol. 38 (1): 143–166.
- Fon T. Chang and Lynette A. Hard 2002. Human-animals bonds in the laboratory: how animal behavior affects the perspective of caregivers. ILAR Journal, Vol 43 (1): 10-18, https://doi.org/10.1093/ilar.43.1.10
- Simone Dennis 2010. For the Love of Lab Rats: kinship, humanimal relations, and good scientific research. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press. Chapter 4, “And Darwin Wept”, 107-142.
- Timothy Pachirat 2011. Every Twelve Seconds: industrialized slaughter and the politics of sight. New Haven: Yale University Press. Chapter 6, “Killing at close range”, 140-161.
- Donna Haraway 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 3-27.
- Don Kulick 2009. Fat pets. In Fat Studies in the UK, edited by Corinna Tomrley & Ann Kaloski Naylor. York, UK: Raw Nerve Books, 35-50.
Primary non-book texts
Film: Project Nim, directed by J. Marsh 2011, Icon Home Entertainment, 95 minutes
Film: Le sang des bêtes, directed by Georges Franju, 1949, 22 minutes
Film: Zoo, directed by Robinson Devor 2007, ThinkFilm, 80 minutes