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Dr. Laura L. Runge
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LIT 6394: Literature of Place: Florida

Class 14: Animals -- Speciesism, Sexism, Racism

Reading Assignment:

    Fleming, Fearsome Creatures

    The following poems can be found in course docs:
    Bishop, "Roosters," "The Bight"; Wallace Stevens, "Nomad Exquisite"; Hart Crane, "O Carib Isle"; Meinke, "Song from the Wrong Bay," The Vietnamese Fisherman on Tampa Bay," "Goalfish," "Ibises," "Chicken Unlimited," "The Death of the Pilot Whales"

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

    Post #13

Class Objectives:

    Discuss Fearsome Creatures
    Discuss representations of animals and place in a variety of poems
    Student Presentations: Jarad White and Susan Taylor Gernenz
    Student presentation of Service Learning projects / bibliographies

Notes and Discussion Questions:

This is our final regular class, and we will devote equal time to the stories by Fleming and the poetry by various artists. Let us continue to work out our ideas of the relationship between humans and animals and place (Florida). I've added a short descriptive piece on animal and animality studies from PMLA last year to focus our discussion some.

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 rooster fight in Anna in the Tropics 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 unforgetting?

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?

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?

The idea of comfort has come up in class -- Florida seems to offer comfort in many ways. How does this book challenge ideas of human comfort?

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

Please be prepared to spend five minutes to summarize your service learning project and answer any questions. You will be expected to hand in a print copy of the completed project by the end of class.


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