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Towards Day 25 (Thurs, Dec. 6) : Reflections on The Lives of Animals

Anne Dalke's picture

weather prediction:
39 degrees,  3 mph wind,  0% chance of precipitation, clear

Rochelle is situating us back in the Quita Woodward Room in Thomas Hall (thanks!)

I. coursekeeping

* what shall we do about next week?
(42-3 degrees each day...) are folks happy to gather back in the classroom?
go elsewhere?

* by tomorrow @ 5,
your revised final paper should go up on Serendip

* by Sunday @ 5, your final 'site sit' is due....

* by Monday @ 5, you should read all of the papers, AND COMMENT ON ONE OF THEM
(might be nice if it were your most recent writing partner, but doesn't have to be....)

* we'll discuss these in class on Tuesday; your homework is to come with a
sentence from one of these essays, that we can use in playing "barometer"

* on Thursday, we will have our "teach-in": sign up for the this now/
let me know what groups you've organized yourselves into....
(so I can tell you how much time each of you will have to perform....)

* any more questions arising about final requirements/obligations/portfolio/"teach-in"?

II. sharing re: Carmen Papalia's blind field shuttle? Zoe?
Shengjia: "recalling nonvisual features" (from a period of diminished vision)

III. On Tuesday, we began discussing Part I of J.M. Coetzee'
[kuut-SEE]'s philosophical novel, The Lives of Animals
...and you continued that discussion on-line:

there seems to be the controversy over whether or not animals...have the same type of conscience as us
wanhong: I believe that some of us are capable...of thinking from the perspective of another animal--and I mean psychics.
Shengjia: Coetzee is saying...human should not use human’s conscience to evaluate the worldview of animals
alex: "What is so special about the form of consciousness we recognize that makes killing a bearer of it a crime ...?" I find this to be the more important question.
I don't think the question that whether the conscience of human and other animals are the same is so crucial in how we treat animals....we can tell from their behavior that ... they would prefer not be consumed...the problem more worth thinking is human's manipulation over other beings...
SaraL: I was shocked when Costello makes the connection between the concentration camps and eating meat....I never thought of eating meat as something as atrocious as mass genocide.
To me the whole question of whether animals are intrisically worth as much as humans, because of their supposed lesser consciousness, is both offensive and beside the point....That we automatically...assume superiority is part of the moral heinousness of the situation.
I think the real ethical dilemma that plagues Elizabeth ... is the question of whether or not all animal life forms ... have an "immortal soul"....What is the difference between domestication and slaughter, if we are talking about things with immortal and feeling souls?

The book  is ingeniously written and surprising compelling...I see ...the alienation between vegetarians and meat-eaters.
being an vegetarian is against the natural design in some way...we are only to think about being nice to other beings when survival is not the main concern....we have evolved to be able to even think about being a vegetarian.
if we think...for the environment as a whole, then being a vegetarian might not necessarily be ecofriendly...eating meat or dairy products might be a wiser environmental choice.

I really understand E. Costello's torture due to an idea that one cannot get over....which seems a bit sad to me...
Shengjia: What is tiring Elizabeth the frustration that she could not bridge her radical ideas with other people including her son, which, I agree, is tragic.
mtran: What has been on my mind about this novel is ...Elizabeth Costello is approaching death...I wonder what its broader implication might be...a broader premonition of our humanity’s extinction, prompted by humans' institutionalised anthropocentrism ...?

Susan on narrative:
I thought to myself, "Well this is a let down....just a lot of little essays crammed into a book with a sham of a narrative to bookend them." However...I began to see the genius of the author framing his argument in this way.  I see the son as ... likened to us, the persuadable....the narrative is a forum for all ideas be debated
What is this class really about??? Is it about ecology? Or is the real topic hiding right there in plain sight: is it really about how to be academic?...What is the form? and what is the content?

IV. Let's find out! by attending today to Part II of the collection,
the four "reflections" that follow the fictional portion of the text.

Split into 4 groups (3-4 each?) to re-present each speaker:
Marjorie Garber
Peter Singer
Wendy Doniger
Barbara Smuts

Confer, come back to the group ready to explain to the rest of us what "your" role is in this text:
What dimensions do you add to it? (Why are you needed, in this "ecosystem"?)

III. Attending to the text as a whole:
* what is the function of the reflective responses?
* what do they accomplish, that is not already accomplished within the stories themselves?
(thesis possibility: "a creative project in pursuit of a critical idea")
* what is the relation between the "philosophers" and the "poets" sections of the fictions?
* what is the function of the frame tale, the son's p.o.v.? (how does it matter that he is a physicist?)
* what are the bounds of the imagination in this text?
* what does it accomplish, as a fiction, that couldn't be achieved w/ a polemical text?
* how did it "act on"/move you?
* another question the book raises: can vegetarians and meat-eaters (or anyone w/ decidedly opposed views) actually have dialogue? Or are the divisions so deep that common academic training, common culture, or even familial ties can not bridge the gap?