The paper must be 5 – 6 pages (double-spaced).So far this year we have read Cervantes, “Dialogue of the Dogs,” Baldwin’s, “Beware the Cat,” Shakespeare’s, “The Tempest,” Calderón’s, “Life is a Dream,” Cavendish’s, “Blazing World” as well as “Gulliver’s Travels.”We’ve been looking at the theme of the “human animal” all quarter and this paper is asking us to make some connections between the readings, so the paper should engage with at least two different works (by two different authors).
- The Human Animal. How do you define the “human animal”? Throughout the quarter, we have allowed this concept to guide our discussions because it is flexible enough to connect to a number of questions relating to the categories of the “human” and the “animal.” Here’s your chance to put some of these ideas together. Based on our readings, what do you find the most interesting aspect of the “human animal” in the context of early modern literature? Is it the question of animal rationality? Is it the potential for a social criticism of humanity? Or something else? Choose one perspective and explain why it is important, with reference to at least two of the readings.
- Hybridity. We have seen several examples this quarter of hybrid forms, where the character in question is not simply “human,” but rather a mixture of human and something else (such as animal, monster, or another thing altogether). If you work on this topic, pick two examples, from two different readings. Then try to understand how the hybrid state functions in each and look for any interesting points of similarity or difference. It might help to ask how the hybrid state is shown: through language? a character’s appearance? some other way? Is the character’s hybridity stable? Does it undergo some sort of change? You can also find your own angle to explore why this topic is interesting.
- Species. Although we have spent a lot of time comparing humans and animals in general, most of the texts we have read refer to particular species: dogs (Cervantes), cats (Baldwin), horses (Swift – coming up in week 10!), and of course the many animals of La Fontaine’s fables. If you work on this topic, first select two of the species from our little “zoo.” Then consider, for your two examples, why the author might have picked that species and not a different one. Are there any clues in the reading that might explain this choice? What kind of characteristics are associated with the species? Does the social or political context of the readings you refer to play a role? Is there something else you find interesting?
- Inequality. This topic is connected to one or two of the prompts listed above but deserves its own special mention. On the basis of the readings this quarter, you might have the impression that literary texts refer to animals when there is some injustice or state of inequality to be addressed in the human sphere (such as gender, class, or racial differences). If you pick this topic, discuss examples from at least two different readings and try to explain how a focus on animals can help illuminate problems that are very human.