Neil S. Banas
Each colloquium examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework. A list of topics is available from the CHID office.
HUMANS AND OTHER ANIMALS
(Follow the link below to the course homepage for a lot more info.)
The last few hundred years of Western history have forced non-human animals off much of their traditional range. They have come to inhabit only the margins of our daily awareness, our communities, and our understanding of our own identity. This eviction of animals and animalness from our lives continues in spite of all we know from biological science about the animal roots of human nature and the ecological ties that bind us.
From where, exactly, has our culture inherited the notion that humans and animals are so thoroughly separate? To what extent should we accept this inheritance? When one considers specific cases--a gorilla who learns sign language in a lab and then uses it to make bad jokes; Spanish villagers who live with their cows under one roof like members of one family, but still kill them and eat them; birds and dolphins confined in zoos who begin to exhibit pathological behavior very similar to what humans packed into cities have come to regard as normal--how viable or attractive does it seem to maintain the walls between humans and animals?
There are questions here that go beyond the familiar political dialectic of kindness to animals versus apathy toward animals. We will be questioning the logic of both sides of those debates.
One of the main goals of the class is to give students an opportunity to explore ways of talking about animals and their own experience that are intellectually serious but outside the standard academic mold. Thus the writing assignments for the class will encourage experimentation, and our reading list will emphasize fiction, firsthand accounts by scientists and naturalists, and good, clear writing in general.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading