Animal Metaphors Revisited: New Uses of Art, Literature, and Science in an Environmental Studies Course
This article describes a team-taught environmental studies course called Animal Metaphors. Focusing on animal metaphors in literature and film, the course emphasizes various cognitive and perceptual biases that lead humans to place ourselves above and beyond nature, making us more likely to engage in practices destructive to the environment. Whereas the first iteration of the course underscored various ways in which humans are less rational or moral than we imagine, the new iteration shifted more of the focus to what inspires and motivates humans, gives us emotional resilience, and best creates conditions for mental well-being as we cooperate and collaborate. This seemed an appropriate tack to take in an age commonly referred to as the “Anthropocene.” We thus continued to examine our status as evolved animals while also calling more attention to spiritual or ecstatic experience, music, humor, and the uniquely human ability for shared intentionality.
Keywords: anthropocene, environmentalism, storytelling, animals, metaphor, cognition, ecocriticism, listening, entrainment
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