Course Name: Animal Stories: The Wild and the Human
Instructor: Randi Ewing
Storytellers have long used animals of all sizes and pedigrees to reveal human truths and explore the human condition. Who didn’t grow up with the little red hen, the big bad wolf or the Berenstain Bears? Beyond fairy tales and fables, we find animals throughout literature, from the wary dog in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” to the war weary narrator of War Horse. Animals in fiction play a variety of illuminating and profound roles, acting as mirrors and foils for human characters. Those characterizations of animals often spill over the pages into our everyday lives in the form of Disney movies and television ads featuring polar bears sledding and drinking Coca-Cola. Once we start looking for animal stories, we find cat videos have taken over the Internet, newspapers have started obituary columns for deceased pets, and researchers are trying to bring the wooly mammoth back from extinction. Animals – alive or dead, as narrators, main characters, mascots and spokespeople – populate our literature, science and popular culture.