Dialogues on Animality

A symposium exploring the relationship between the human and the animal in contemporary thought


Fields of Knowledge
  • Pedagogy
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, University of Pennsylvania


Ruth Erickson, Nathaniel Prottas


University of Pennsylvania's History of Art Department, Cinema Studies, SASgov, English Department, German Department, Comparative Literature Department, the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought and the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to announce "Dialogues on Animality," a symposium on Friday October 2 and Saturday October 3, 2009 exploring the relationship between humans and animals in contemporary thought. The event will feature a keynote lecture by Akira Mizuta Lippit, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California, as well as a variety of panel discussions featuring graduate student work in English, Art History, German Literature, Philosophy, Law, and Cinema Studies.

Despite Darwin's claim that the human is an animal, humanity is often described in contradistinction to animality. Various binaries have defined the relationship between humans and animals, with the human capacity for consciousness, culture, rationality, and language understood as fundamental and determining differences. Today, rather than being fixed, the terms "animal" and "human" are increasingly understood as in flux, bound together theoretically, historically, and socially to enact a complex reciprocity that both defines and challenges the traditional categories of disciplines. If at the heart of the humanities is the question "what does it mean to be human?" this symposium seeks to explore the role of animals in the history and formation of this question from different disciplinary viewpoints.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

The Literary Animal (9:30-11:30AM)

Respondent: Jean-Michel Rabaté, Vartan Gregorian Professor in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania

"Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop: Poetics of Animality" by Anna Eyre
"'Vile Attentions': Animals and the Limits of Attention in J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians" by Daniel Williams
"'Making the Asse to Speake': Invisible Animals as Actors and Artifacts in Medieval English Theatre" by Darragh Martin
"Kant, Kafka, and Kater Murr: On the Mind of the Animal" by Rahel Villinger

Keynote Address (12-1PM)

"On Autobiography and (Animal) Locomotion"
Akira Lippit

The Ethical Animal (2:30-4PM)

Respondent: Sheila Rodriguez, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, Rutgers School of Law

"This is your Dolphin Calling: Winter v. NRDC (2008) and False Choices Between Wildlife and Technology in the Seas" by Matthew A. Axtell
"Instrumental Effort and Moral Appraisal: The Trope of Animality in the Canadian Death-Penalty Debate, 1958-1976" by Joel Kropf
"On Immigration, Emigration and Those who are Still Here: Humans, Animals, and the Inhuman" by Taylor C. Nelms

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Artistic Animal (10-12PM)

Respondent: Karen Beckman, Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Associate Professor of Film Studies, History of Art, and Director of the program in Cinema Studies, University of Pennsylvania

"The Bear King's Bride: From the animal to the human and back again in Franz Marc's 'Two Pictures'" Charles Butcosk
"Stable Identities in the Age of Humanism" Nachiket Chanchani
"Projecting Black Life: The Animal in Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep" Nijah Cunningham

Darwin and the Animal (12-1PM)

"Naturalizing the History of Reason: Charles Darwin and the Defense of Animal Agency" Kathryn Tabb
"'Almost Sure to Mislead': Rejlander, Darwin and The Apes" Stassa Edwards