Humans and Animals (Q3268)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

The question of the human’s relation to the animal structures everyday life in ways we do not necessarily notice: we encounter animals as companions, as food, as property, as pests, as curiosities, and as creatures like ourselves. Though humans are animals, there is a long tradition of thought that emphasizes the distinction between humans and other animals based on reason and speech; there is also a counter-tradition that objects to such a hierarchy and insists that sensation and feeling are far more important than reason and speech.

This module investigates the relationship between humans and animals in British literature and culture from the eighteenth century to the present. It considers how the categories of human and animal are defined, how humanity and animality are used as social and political metaphors, and how cultural and historical developments, ranging from pet-keeping to industrialization to the spread of empire, shape the representation of animals. We will begin by focusing on these and other issues in the eighteenth-century, a period often described as the beginning of the modern era, and we will continue to track them through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, up to the present.

Readings will include works of prose and poetry, among them texts written from the point of view of animals, as well as selections from theoretical works. Topics covered will include the animal rights movement, vegetarianism, the ‘state of nature’, sympathy, monstrosity, colonialism, and various theories of animal intelligence.


27%: Lecture
73%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay, Project)

Contact hours and workload

We’re currently reviewing contact hours for modules and will update with further information as soon as it is available.

This module is running in the academic year 2020/21. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: