Animals, Humans, Writing - EN709

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 30 (15)




Not available as wild



What is the relationship between 'animal' and 'human', and how is this explored through writing? This module seeks to examine creaturely relations by focusing on literature from the eighteenth century up to the present, alongside key theoretical and contextual material that engages with questions concerning animality and humanity. We will focus on how writers imagine distinct animal worlds as well as how they understand the role of animals in human cultures. A range of novels, short stories and poems will raise questions about how we look at, think with, and try to give voice to animals, and topics covered will include 'Becoming Animal', 'Animal Autobiography', 'Observing Animals', 'Colonial Creatures', 'Animal Experiments', 'Taming and Training', and 'Questions for Animals'. Students taking this module will gain a firm grounding in the diverse critical field known as 'animal studies', whilst also considering the broader cultural, philosophical and ethical implications of how we think about the relationship between humans and animals.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

30 contact hours over the term, consisting of ten 2-hour weekly seminars plus a further directed hour.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed on the basis of two essays of 3000 words each (45% for each essay, forming a total of 90%), with the remaining 10% coming from a seminar performance mark.

Indicative reading

James Thomson, John Clare, William Cowper, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, selected poems (1730-1815)
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty (1877)
Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books (1894-95)
H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)
Louis MacNeice, Zoo (1938)
Octavia Butler, Wild Seed (1980)
J. M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (1999)
Paul Auster, Timbuktu (1999)
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals (2009)
Heken Macdonald, H is for Hawk (2014)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

1 nuanced knowledge of representations of animals in literature across different periods (from the early 19th century to the present).
2 an ability to compare representations of animals in different genres, including novels, short stories and poetry.
3 an ability to relate writing about animals to broader historical, cultural, philosophical, and political contexts.
4 sophisticated analytic skills, including close textual analysis;
5 a thorough understanding of critical approaches to animals in literature.

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

1 apply sophisticated close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and genres and made productive and complex comparisons between them;
2 display strong presentation skills and an ability to actively participate in group discussions;
3 showed an increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives making use of appropriate scholarly sources;
4 framed and identified appropriate research questions and to construct original, clear and well-substantiated arguments.

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