Animal Studies

Some Animal Studies courses offered in Spring 2011:

Primate Encounters (PHIL 266) What does it mean to see ourselves as primates, as close evolutionary relatives to other great apes and distant kin to old world and new world monkeys? In this course we will explore the wide-ranging philosophical implications of answers to this question by examining the evolution and behaviors of other primates, the ideas and assumptions (often gendered) of primatologists watching primates, and the thoughts of observers of the primatologists watching primates. We will pursue topics in the philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and ethics. We will adopt a largely comparative perspective and examine philosophical, scientific, psychological and popular writing (as well as films). We will end the course exploring how seeing ourselves as pimates might have implications for the survival of our primate kin, and ultimately our own survival. Taught by Professor Lori Gruen

Animal Subjects (COL 238) Within the Western tradition, the human has largely been defined in opposition to "the animal." Language, thought, moral agency have been regarded as exclusively human activities and as such, guarantee that subjectivity itself is reserved for human-animals alone. This course will begin by examining the legacy of Enlightenment efforts to identify subjectivity with humanity. It will then proceed to examine a range of literary, philosophical, and visual works that contest this exclusivity and privilege either by claiming that such talents are possessed by at least some nonhuman animals or by regarding the absence of human language and rationality not as a "privation" or disability, but as signals of alternate subjectivities and alternate ways of being in the world. In their attempts to redress the humanist bias regarding subjectivity, such works also seek other ways of understanding human animality. Taught by Professor Kari Weil

Primate Behavior (BIOL 145) This course will examine the full spectrum of the primate order. How has evolution shaped these different primate species, and what are the underlying mechanisms that have fueled their development? We will discuss primate ancestry, primate environments, and primate competition, all factors that mediate primate behavior. In addition, we will take the lessons learned from primate studies to determine how humans might use this knowledge toward the preservation and conservation of their nonhuman relatives. Taught by Professor Joyce Powzyk.

Animal Stories (COL 120) Humans are a species of animal, and animals have long been used to represent human qualities and dilemmas. In Western narrative, these representations have taken many complex forms, all the way to wildly imaginative distortions of the human in the animals, and the animal in the human. We shall look first at traditional representations (Homer's similes, Aesop's and La Fontaine's fables) and some modern revisions (Bresson's film AU HASARD BALTHAZAR, Art Spiegelman's MAUS), then at obsessional relations of men to animals (Kleist's MICHAEL KOHLHAAS, Flaubert's A SIMPLE HEART, Cormac McCarthy's novel THE CROSSING), and conclude with the powerful renderings of animals - scarcely human, all-too-human - in Kafka's short stories. The seminar is an introduction to the close study of comparative literature across different periods, styles, and cultural contexts, with a view toward the philosophical issues raised by literature. This course is an FYI course.  Taught by Professor Timothy Bahti.