VAST 227

Creature: Humans and Other Animals in Contemporary Culture

Instructor: Carrie Rohman

Office: 205 Pardee

Office Phone: (610) 330-5232


Course Description: Animals are our companions, our scientific "models," our evolutionary kin, our food, our genetic playthings, our fashion statements. We experience animals at home, in zoos, in the grocery store, in labs, and throughout the spectrum of popular media such as television and film. Non-human animals and their role in cultural, scientific, and technological discourses require intensely complex ethical frameworks, particularly in a world in which wild species are rapidly decreasing in number while our technologies become ever more proficient at duplicating and manipulating domesticated animals. This course investigates the ways in which non-human animals are situated within cultural, scientific and technological discourses and challenges us to confront the ethical problems that attend these questions. The course helps us see how the question of the animal forces us to synthesize knowledge from disciplines as divergent as cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and philosophy with other fields such as disability studies and religious studies.

We will seek to understand how various animals are valued and used in our culture, with a particular focus on questions such as anthropomorphism and the animal model in scientific research, the controversies surrounding technology and food animals, and the use of animals in genetic engineering practices. The course begins with a broad introduction to the ways animals have been theorized within our own (Western) intellectual tradition, engages the major critical questions within animal philosophy in recent decades, and then applies these rubrics to contemporary questions involving animals in science and technology.