WiSe 14/15: S-Culture-Gender-Media II:The Human/Animal Divide in Contemporary Literature and Philosophy
Kai Martin Wiegandt
The distinction between human and animal is a classical philosophical problem and has been reflected in numerous literary works since antiquity. Only recently has the debate been fuelled by animal ... read more
The distinction between human and animal is a classical philosophical problem and has been reflected in numerous literary works since antiquity. Only recently has the debate been fuelled by animal rights groups, discoveries of the biosciences and new arguments by philosophers. The natural sciences have argued that humans closely resemble some animals in certain respects, for example in their DNA. They have also shown that some animals possess capabilities that were formerly regarded exclusively human. In this seminar we will analyse contemporary literary and philosophical contributions to this debate. We will ask how these statements entail a more or less implicit discussion of the concept of the human, and we will consider the intellectual movements informing the debate and the ways in which these movements are part of a struggle for power. We will read Jacques Derrida's posthumous The Animal that Therefore I Am, Giorgio Agamben's The Open and Philosophy & Animal Life by Stanley Cavell and others who use the novels of J.M. Coetzee as a point of departure. Coetzee's novels Disgrace and Elizabeth Costello will show distinctly literary possibilities of dealing with this perennial question.
In order to fulfil the requirement of active participation, you will have to write response papers of 400 words to three critical essays that will be made available on Blackboard. The response papers have to be uploaded to Blackboard before the class in which the critical essays will be discussed. Students who do not manage to upload three response papers in time cannot write a final term paper (4000 words) and cannot get credit for the seminar.
Each participant is obliged to present minutes of one of the sessions, not exceeding 5 minutes. The order of presentations will be determined at the beginning of the seminar.
Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am. Fordham UP 2008.
Agamben, Giorgio. The Open: Man and Animal. Stanford UP 2004.
Stanley Cavell and others, Philosophy & Animal Life. Columbia UP 2008.
J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace. Random House, 2000.
J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello. Vintage, 2004.