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LIT 6934: Literature of Place: Florida

November 24 Class 14: Animals of Florida

    Fleming's Fearsome Creatures

    Elizabeth Bishop, "The Fish,” "Roosters,"; Meinke, “The Vietnamese Fisherman on Tampa Bay," "Goalfish," "Ibises," "Chicken Unlimited," "The Death of the Pilot Whales" (Canvas)

    John Mortimer Murphy, "Alligator Shooting in Florida" (1899), in Tales of Old Florida ed. Frank Oppel and Tony Meisel, (New York: Castle, 1987): 353:364. (Canvas)

    Dekoven, "Why Animals Now?" PMLA 124.2 (March 2009): 361-369; (Canvas)

    From Animals and Women Introduction by Josephine Donovan and Carol J. Adams, and Susanne Keppler's "Speciesism, Racism, Nationalism, ...or the Power of Scientific Subjectivity" pp. 320-352 (Canvas)

    DUE: Post #13
    Photo Essay on field trip of your choice (due by this date)

Notes and Discussion Questions:

    After reading through much of the literature on Florida, it became apparent to me that animals were central to a representation of this place, and further that we needed to have a deeper understanding of animals in order to analyze and assess our ecological relationship in Florida. This week offers a range of representations and theories, including Fleming's haunting story collection, a number of poems by Florida poets, and two short newspaper pieces from 1899 on Shooting Alligators. This smorgasbord represents the last of our content reading for the course, so focus on what develops your scholarly interests most.

    Take the opportunity to review Chapter 7 from Garrard, on Animals. Consider the ecological perspectives versus the various pro-animal perspectives (liberationists, conservationist, cultural studies). How do you understand the ways in which these literary representations construct the human-animal relationship?

    NB: I find the "Alligator Shooting" disturbing on many levels, but it is representative of this entire, thick collection of stories, and I felt we needed to deal with this view.

    Fearsome Creatures: Why does this work want to scare its readers? What is scary about it? What is monstrous?

    By constructing the monstrous, Fleming invokes norms and borders. In what ways does this work in the interstices of place? Of genre? How are the borders negotiated?

    I am intrigued by the use of the map at the opening of the book. What function does this serve? What is being mapped?

    What might it mean that part of the proceeds from this work will be donated to nonprofit environmental preservation groups in Florida? Is there an environmental subtext?

    Note the way the individual stories are located in place. Choose one and analyze the construction of place.

    Note the way the stories weave history and fantasy and horror. What is the effect?

    What is the reader's relationship to the creatures in these stories? Does the collection suggest commonalities about animal-human relations? About the animal-human continuum?

    Does this work disrupt, interrupt, or erupt (to borrow Janz's terms) ideas of Florida as a place? If so, how?

    How does the collection represent / interrogate the violence of animals?

    When considering the poems for today (and I encourage to recall previous works we have discussed under different themes in the class thus far), analyze the role that animals play in creating a sense of Florida as a place.

    Dekoven suggests that the rise of animal studies has coincided with a shift in perspective, where we see animals as part of our world. This is a process like attention to place that we can connect to contemplation. What happens when we shift perspective to consider the rabid dog in Their Eyes Were Watching God for example?

    How do these poems represent human-animal relations? Do they enrich our moral or place imagination? Do they allow us to see things in a new way? Are there examples of restorying?

    To what extent do these poems employ anthropomorphism? Dekoven writes that "the strictures against sentimentality that forbid empathy for other animals and that often accompany charges of anthropomorphism are also more and more being replaced by an awareness of the intricate and massive interdependence between humans and other animals" (366). Is there evidence of this in the readings for today?

    To what extent do animals serve as metaphors for human behaviors / experience? What are the ethical implications?

    Keppler's essay is dense and meandering and advocates a strong line of activism. Examine the theories of political organization and the connection between racism, sexism and speciesism. What makes these oppressions interlocked?

    What is her argument against "multiculturalism"?

    She makes a claim for a modern paradigm called a "human zoology of cultures" (338). "We seem to think that the harm in racism lies in the use of biological criteria of classification" but we know that racist theories have never been entirely biological (338). How are nation-states like a zoo? Who is being protected from whom?

    She recognizes a hierarchy of cultures (not all cultures are created equal), indeed an evolutionary understanding of cultures, that leads to the justification of war among the nation states. This then leads to a critique of the allotment of living space. Who has access to living space? Whose rights take priority? We can connect this to ideas of place and place making. (340)

    "Reproduction, the sexist instrumentalization of women as reproducers of their 'kind,' is the pivot of all speciesism, racism, ethnicism, and nationalism, -- the construction of collective entities at the cost of the rights and interests of individuals" (348). Comment.

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