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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3402 Home Bodies: Domestic Animals in Contemporary Literature

20 creditsClass Size: 20

School of English

Module manager: Dr Amelia DeFalco

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary



• To explore the meanings and functions of the categories “animal” and “human,” as well as their broader ethical and political implications.
• To explore the role of animal (especially domestic companion animals), and animality in contemporary literary representation.
• To consider the ways literary representations of domestic animals and animality are in dialogue with critical and cultural discourses around difference (especially gender, race, and sexuality).

Learning outcomes
By the end of the semester, students should have:
• A general understanding of animal studies and its related disciplines, including animality studies, vulnerability studies, animal ethics, and critical posthumanism.
• An awareness of the ethical and political issues pertinent to representations that speak for and about nonhuman animals.
• Advanced critical reading skills, particularly in relation to literature and visual film. An ability to transfer these skills to “everyday” texts encountered outside the classroom.
• The ability to communicate their own ideas and respond to others in discussion.
• The ability to use written and oral communication effectively.
• The capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse, to employ critical reasoning, and produce independent interpretations.
• Research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance


Claude Levi-Strauss’s oft-quoted claim that “animals are good to think with” draws attention to the animal’s function as a marker of structural difference. In other words, the animal assists us in organizing the world around us. For centuries human beings have also found animals “good to live with.” In this module, we will bring these two assertions together to think with and about the animals that share our domestic spaces. We will examine contemporary representations of companion animals (especially dogs) within the larger context of the field of animal studies, which interrogates seemingly self-evident boundaries between human and animal and considers what, if any, are our responsibilities to nonhuman animals.
This module explores the treatment of vulnerability, responsibility, and care in representations of the non-human animals that share our everyday lives, our homes, even our beds. How do these liminal lives, at once nonhuman and domestic, strange and homely, other and familiar worry the boundaries between species? We will read a selection of contemporary literary and theoretical texts treating the experience and implications (personal, political, ethical) of human/nonhuman cohabitation to better understand the relationship between the cultural construction of animals and animality and our everyday interpretations of humanity, species, gender, race, ethics, and responsibility.
We will consider the following questions:
• What happens to animals when we bring them home? What is the difference between civilization and wildness?
• How does the transformation of nonhuman animals into kin affect the meaning of the human? How do depictions of human-nonhuman relationships worry the boundaries between species?
• What images, metaphors, tropes, and narratives does contemporary literature use to represent animality?
• How do gender, race, sexuality, and species intersect?
• How does contemporary literature imagine animal subjectivity and/or agency? What are the consequences of such depictions?
• What is at stake in scrutinizing the ethical dimensions of human/animal relations?

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Film Screenings11.501.50
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 Word Essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The final assignment is 4000 words. Students have the choice of completing a) a research essay b) relevant fieldwork with a critical, reflective account c) a creative writing piece with a critical, reflective account.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:24:14


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