Animal Humanities: Evolution to Extinction - ENGL9220

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


How is the relationship between animals and humans understood in the modern world? This module examines the role and significance of animals in our society by focusing on literary, cultural and scientific texts from the nineteenth century to the present, and how human activities have affected the lives of other animals and their habitats. It charts the radical shifts in how humans have thought of and written about animals from the arrival of Darwinian evolutionary theory to recent concerns about climate change and mass extinction. Across a range of texts, the ways in which humans have observed, hunted, collected, consumed and displayed animals will be considered alongside topics including sexuality, race and gender. The history of colonialism and post-colonialism provides an important context for the module, as does the rise in the natural sciences and growth in interdisciplinary theoretical approaches to questions of animality.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 280
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Essay (5,000 words) – 100%
In addition to the written assessment, the students will be asked to present their research-in-progress (either in the form of written work or a creative response) to the class at the end of term. Though unassessed, this exercise is designed to foster students' research / presentation skills and to deepen their understanding of, and engagement with, the course materials.

Reassessment method: like for like

Indicative reading

Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (1839)
Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories (1904)
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908)
Leonard Woolf, The Village in the Jungle (1913)
D. H. Lawrence, The Fox (1922)
David Garnett, A Man in the Zoo (1924)
Virginia Woolf, Flush: A Biography (1933)
Irvine Welsh, Marabou Stork Nightmares (1995)
Julia Leigh, The Hunter (1999)
Zakes Mda, The Whale Caller (2005)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

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

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

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


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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