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LIT 4930: Florida Lit and Culture

Class 25: Animals

    Selected Animal poems and essays:
    Elizabeth Bishop, "The Fish,” "Roosters" (Canvas)

    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)

    Post 13 – group A, Response group B

Class Objectives:

    Discuss animals and place in Florida

Notes and Discussion Questions:

    This class we continue our discussion of animals in the literature of Florida with particular attention to some poems.

    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.

    It may be helpful to consider some insights from the current field of Animal Studies. An ecological perspective tends to privilege human relationships to non-human "nature." For example, when considering water shortages, an ecological perspective would seek out ways to get human populations the clean water they need. There are a variety of pro-animal perspectives that seek to decenter the human perspective in favor of prioritizing animal lives and habitats. For example liberationists, conservationist, cultural studies in different ways try to understand the interests of animals as equal or more important than humans. When reading the poems and essay for today, how do you understand the ways in which these literary representations construct the human-animal relationship?

    When considering the poems for today (and I encourage you 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. For example, The Yearling explores many human/non-human relationships, putting the sentimental-anthropomorphic relationship of Jodi and Flag in direct conflict with the evolutionary-predatory relationships between humans and animals co-existing in the scrub.

    One critic in contemporary animals studies, Marianne 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 snake in "Sweat" 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 Florida?

    To what extent do these poems employ anthropomorphism (the showing or treating of animals as though they are human)? Dekoven responds to animal rights theorists who decry sentimal, anthropomorphic representations of animals because they continue to privilege human perspectives. She 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). What is the interdependence between humans and other animals, and 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?

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