Lecture and poetry reading: From Aesop to Kafka: Talking Animals in Children’s Literature and Writing for Adults; Bath University; 4 December 2018

The Bath University Politics of Culture & Memory Cluster would like to invite you to the following afternoon event:

The Politics of Culture & Memory Cluster seminar

From Aesop to Kafka: Talking Animals in Children’s Literature and Writing for Adults

4 December 2018, 16.15-18.45, Room 1W 2.103

Two papers will be presented, by Lorraine Kerslake Young (University of Alicante/ GIECO-Instituto Franklin) and by Axel Goodbody (University of Bath/ Bath Spa University). The event will end by a poetry reading by Terry Gifford, chair of the event, from his collection of poems A Feast of Fools (2018). Refreshments including wine and nibbles will be served. All are welcome, free tickets have to be booked on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/from-aesop-to-kafka-talking-animals-in-childrens-literature-and-writing-for-adults-tickets-53010808756

Lorraine Kerslake Young (University of Alicante/ GIECO-Instituto Franklin) Raising Ecological Awareness through Talking Animals in Children’s Literature

The tradition of over-enthusiastically attributing physical human forms to real or imaginary creatures is a practice frequently encountered in children’s stories today. The fascination of children with anthropoid dressed-up creatures led by Peter Rabbit, Toad, Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear, Barbar, Rupert Bear and a long list of other quadruple creatures is indeed one of the most interesting developments in the history of children’s literature. But where has the genre come from and why do we think it is so suitable for children?

This paper offers an overview of the history of talking animals in children’s literature by placing the study of talking animals inside a wider literary tradition in order to consider the different uses of anthropomorphism and raise questions such as the following: Can anthropomorphism be seen as a useful tool in children’s literature for understanding animals? Could it be seen as a step towards “eradicating” anthropocentricism by educating through environmental awareness in animal stories of children’s literature? Can it be justified and even seen as necessary in order to create environmental imagination and empathy towards the other, non-human, in the child from an early age?

Axel Goodbody (University of Bath/ Bath Spa University) Undermining Human Exceptionalism in Franz Kafka’s Animal Stories

Talking animals are mainly found in children’s literature. Lorraine has argued that far from trivialising animals, annexing them to the human sphere and depriving them of their otherness and autonomy, having animals talk and look like little people can serve to arouse empathy with non-human Others in young readers and viewers, and enable them to understand animals better, thereby promoting environmental awareness and furthering environmental education. In my paper I think about what functions talking animals serve in writing for adult readers, using Kafka’s animal stories as an example. ‘Metamorphosis’ and ‘A Report to an Academy’ are classics of literary modernism, enigmatic but haunting parables which continue after a century.

Lorraine Kerslake is doctor in children’s literature and ecocriticism.  In 2013, she co-edited a special issue of the review Feminismo/s (CEM) on Ecofeminism: Women and Nature. She is an active member of the ecocriticism group GIECO and in 2018 she published The Voice of Nature in Ted Hughes’s Writing for Children: Correcting Culture’s Error (Routledge).

Axel Goodbody is Emeritus Professor of German and European Culture at the University of Bath, UK. His publications include, as co-editor, Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches (2011) and Climate Change Scepticism (2019)

Terry Gifford is Visiting Research Fellow in Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University and Profesor Honorifico at the University of Alicante. Author of eight collections of poetry and author/editor of seven books on Ted Hughes, his research interests also include post-pastoral theory, John Muir, new nature writing and ecopoetics. He is the author of the poetry collection A Feast of Fools.

with best wishes,

Christina & Jorge

Dr Christina Horvath

Senior Lecturer in French

Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies

University of Bath

1 West North  4.25, Bath BA2 7AY

+44 (0)1225 383272





Author: Owain Jones

I work at Bath Spa University as a Professor of Environmental Humanities, and I am Director of the University's Environmental Humanities Research Centre

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