Of Animals: Literature, Theory and Culture

How we define, represent and see animals significantly impacts both their lives and ours. We will explore the question of the animal from many disciplinary perspectives. We will consider the roles the figure of the animal plays in our lives, and how anthropocentricism influences society. How do different contexts shape human-animal relations? What are the possible ways to represent animals? How should extinction be tackled? How do we communicate with animals? In what ways did the pandemic change our interactions with animals? Are animals political? Can “the animal” challenge identity categories? By studying scholarship as well as literature and film, we will explore what animals can teach us.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Hande Gurses $170.00 15 Register

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, November 8 to Friday, December 3. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to discussion board topics, and engage in course activities. You will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Monday from 3:30–5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Identify terminology related to the field of critical animal studies from the perspective of different disciplines
  • Identify questions that shape critical animal studies and its main objectives
  • Practise critical, creative and analytical thinking through close readings of examples from world literature, philosophy and cinema
  • Describe the relevance and necessity of animals to some of our most crucial contemporary issues
  • Read, summarize, compare and critically engage with scholarly articles
  • Create and apply skills for developing and defending an argument

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Academic and non-academic articles
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Why animals?

Why do we need to think about animals? In what ways do the figure of the animal impact the figure of the human? Is it possible to reconfigure the human/animal separation?
Kari Weil, Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now?
John Berger, “Why Look at Animals”
Gerald L. Bruns, “Otherwise than human”

Week 2: Animals as thought

The figure of the animal has long been a philosophical exploration. What does the “question of the animal” allow us to discuss in terms of ethics and the definitions of being human?
Matthew Calarco, “The Question of the Animal”
Thomas Nagel, “What is it like to be a bat?”
J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals

Week 3: Animals as symbol

Examples of literary and cinematographic representations of animals as metaphors or symbols are endless. This week’s readings and film invite us to think beyond conventions and explore alternative ways of representing the animal.
J.M. Coetzee, The Dog
Ceyda Torun, Kedi (film)
Charles Perrault, “The Master Cat; or, Puss in Boots”
Angela Carter, “The Puss-in-Boots”

Week 4: Animals as food

We explore the politics of eating. What does our diet tell us about the broader political structures of the society we live in?
Carol J. Adams, “The Patriarchal Texts of Meat”
“Eating Well, or the Calculation of the Subject: An Interview with Jacques Derrida”
Sarah Salih, “Vegans on the verge of a nervous breakdown”

Books, materials and resources

You will access course resources using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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