Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

Animals & Culture

Dr. Christopher Laursen

Explore myriad ways in which animals populate the planet, culture, and are in fact integral to what makes “humanity” human and life on earth lively. Historically, animals have been viewed as separate from humans. The interdisciplinary field of animal studies breaks down such socially constructed barriers in unexpected, even disruptive ways. Through a holistic historical ecology, we will trace the presence of animals past and present through categories such as wild, feral, domestic, worker, companion, entertainment, experiment, and food. Alongside that, we will creatively explore how nonhuman animals hold intrinsic value and agency, how they interact and come into conflict with humans, and how they in fact crucially shape our world. As we progressively illuminate animals’ lived presences, we’ll creatively consider cultural artifacts involving animals: films, fiction, poetry, folklore, art, performance, material culture, animist religions, in dreams and visions, as spirits and guides, and as portents (auguries).


Required Texts/Materials