Proposal Two: Speaking for Animals (Edited)

I. PROJECT OVERVIEW

For thousands of years, in the myths and folktales of people around the world, animals have spoken in human tongues.  A number of Native American myths, for example, begin like this: “Long ago, when all people and animals spoke the same tongue…”

Western literary traditions, too, have abundant examples of animals speaking, and, in many cases, writing their own memoirs, dating to at least the second century CE.

Animals speak, famously, in children’s stories and in cartoons and films, and today, social networking sites and blogs are both sites in which animals—primarily pets—write about their daily lives and interests.

How do we explain this cross cultural and longstanding tradition of animal speaking and writing, of what can be called human-animal ventriloquism?

On one level, this surely speaks to the human desire, perhaps most notably in recent years, to get inside animal minds, to try to understand what they think, how they see the world, and to share, a bit, in their umwelt.

But how else to make sense of the human impulse to not simply attempt to know animal consciousness, which in some ways we know is impossible, but to put it to words?

This book proposes to address this question from a variety of disciplines—anthropology, literature, history, sociology, American studies, religious studies, and women’s studies—and cover speaking animals in literature, religious texts, poetry, social networking sites, video games, comic books, and in animal welfare materials and even library catalogs.

  1. WHY THIS BOOK

Speaking in Tongues will be the only book on the market to examine the question of speaking animals. As such, it will be of interest to the growing number of scholars interested in human-animal studies, as well as the larger public who is interested in books about animal issues.

It is clear, from the preponderance of dog, cat, rabbit and even hamster blogs and social networking sites, that the public is not only interested in reading about talking animals, but they themselves are now creating much of this work, through their own animals’ blogs. In fact, animal lovers create so much writing from the perspective of their animals that Dog Fancy magazine’s editorial policy reads, in part: “We do not publish poetry, fiction, or articles in which the dog speaks as if he were human.” Besides the electronic examples, there is also a growing body of animal memoirs (mostly dog) going back to the eighteenth century but increasing in recent years, indicating a growing interest in the subject.

But the question of humans speaking for animals is not just a trivial or even an academic question. It touches on the most basic aspect of animal advocacy; animal advocates have long said that they speak for those who have no voice. But animals do speak—the problem is that we often cannot understand them, and whether or not we understand them is often less important than whether we care. Speaking in Tongues addresses the ethical issues related to who speaks for animals, and the implications of speaking for animals.

In recent years, a huge body of scholarship has emerged from ethologists, primatologists, animal behaviorists, and others who study the cognitive and emotional abilities of non-human animals. Speaking in Tongues connects with this literature by asking the question: how do we really know what is in animal minds? Speaking for animals certainly presupposes some such knowledge, and many of the essays in Speaking in Tongues addresses how possible, or impossible, accessing such information really is.

Finally, how humans speak for animals, and write in animal voices, tells us much about how we represent and construct ourselves. Speaking in Tongues will be the only book that addresses all of these issues.

III. AUDIENCE

Speaking in Tongues will be of interest to the growing number of scholars interested in human-animal studies, as well as the larger public who is interested in books about animal issues. I see this book as being primarily a scholarly work but secondarily a trade book with a potentially vast readership. In addition, Speaking in Tongues could easily be used as a text for college courses on human-animal studies as well as courses in literature, creative non-fiction, and cultural studies.

  1. RELATED/COMPETING TITLES

There are no books that will compete directly with Speaking in Tongues. However, readers of other human-animal studies (HAS) books, particularly those drawn from the Humanities, will read Speaking in Tongues. Related HAS titles drawn from the humanities (with a heavy emphasis on literary theory) include:

Signifying Animals, by Roy Willis, ed. (Routledge 1994, 288 pages). This is one of the first major collections of HAS essays drawn from both the humanities and the social sciences, with a special focus on animal symbolism and cultural attitudes towards animals.

The Others: How Animals Made Us Human by Paul Shepard (Island Press, 1997, 384 pages). This is another centrally important book which deals with the question of how cultures think about and interact with non-human animals, and the meaning of our representations of animals to the evolution of humanity.

Picturing the Beast by Steve Baker (University of Illinois Press, 2001, 242 pages). This is one of the more important books on the visual representation of animals, and the implications of those representations.

Representing Animals, by Nigel Rothfels, ed. (Indiana University Press 2002, 235 pages). This collection of essays deals with animals in history, animals as objects, and, ultimately, the representation of animals in art, literature, science, and more.

Figuring Animals: Essays on Animal Images in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Popular Culture by Sanders Pollock, Mary and Catherine Rainwater, eds.   (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005, 304 pages). This collection covers the representation of animals in literature, art, science, philosophy, and culture, and addresses the question “who may speak for the animals?”

Knowing Animals by Laurence Simmons and Philip Armstrong, eds (Brill, 2007, 296 pages). In this edited collection, philosophers, literary critics, art historians, and cultural studies scholars discuss the problematics of knowing animals, by looking at images of animals, stories about animals, and a variety of uses of animals.

What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity by Philip Armstrong (Routledge, 2008, 256  pages). This book discusses the meaning of stories about animals, and their relationship to modernity, by focusing on four classic narratives: Robinson Crusoe , Gulliver’s Travels , Frankenstein and Moby-Dick .

None of the books mentioned above touch on the question of speaking animals or giving animals voice, but one recent book, Speaking of Animals: Essays on Dogs and Others by Terry Caesar, ed. (Brill, 2009, 232 pages) does. This is the newest collection to try to “unpack” an animal from multiple perspectives, and it includes one essay which evaluates recent popular dog memoirs.

Another very relevant book is Melancholia’s Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship by Alice Kuzniar (University of Chicago Press, 2006, 215 pages). In this book, Kuzniar writes of our deep connection with dogs, and discusses the ancient literary tradition of speaking dogs, including the work of Franz Kafka, J.M. Coetzee, as well as the artistic representation of dogs both ancient and contemporary.

Finally, Talking Animals in British Children’s Fiction, 1786-1914 by Tess Cosslett (2006, Ashgate Publishing, 205 pages), deals directly with speaking animals. In this book, Cosslett addresses a number of issues surrounding the construction of speaking animals, but crucially for us, examines how animal subjectivity was dealt with by nineteenth century authors at a time when animals were not thought to be capable of language or consciousness.

V. STATUS OF THE WORK

This work consists of 16 chapters broken into 6 sections. All chapters but one are original, and the book is approximately 100,000 words long. The manuscript is complete.

VI. ARTWORK, TABLES, ETC.

The manuscript will have black and white illustrations introducing each section and chapter. There will be no tables in the book. One chapter has separate illustrations.

VII. TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgements

Introduction

Part I: (Mis) Representing Animals: The Limits and Possibilities of Representation

  1. What Do We Want from Talking Animals? Reflections on Literary Representations of Animal Voices and Minds

Karla Armbruster

  1. Our Animals, Ourselves: Representing Animal Minds in Timothy and The White Bone

Ryan Hediger

  1. Investigations of a Dog, by a Dog: Between Anthropocentrism and Canine-Centrism

Naama Harel

Part II: Animals in Human Traditions

  1. With Dogs and Lions as a Witness: Speaking Animals in the Sacred Texts of Christianity

Laura Hobgood-Oster

  1. The Speaking Animal: Non-Human Voices in Comics

Lisa Brown

  1. Who’ll Let the Dogs In? Animal Authors in the Library Catalog

Nancy Babb

Part III: Animal Self, Human Self

  1. Mistresses as Masters: Voicing Female Power through the Subject Animal in Two Nineteenth-Century Animal Autobiographies

Monica Flegel

  1. Catster.com: Creating Feline Identities Online

Jennifer Schally and Stephen R. Couch

  1. Identity, Community and Grief: The Role of Bunspace in Human and Rabbit Lives

Margo DeMello

Part IV: Interspecies Communication and Connection

  1. Talking Dogs, Companion Capital, and the Limits of Bio-Political Fitness

Merit Kaschig

  1. If We Could Talk to the Animals: On Changing the (Post) Human Subject

Kathy Rudy 

Part V: Speaking and Knowing: Accessing Animal Subjectivity

  1. The Power of Testimony: The Speaking Animal’s Plea for Understanding in a Selection of Eighteenth-Century British Poetry

Anne Milne

  1. Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Equine Memoirs and Autobiographies,

Marion Copeland

  1. First Friend, First Words: Speaking of and/to Talking Dogs

Jill Morstad

Part VI: The Ethics and Value of Speaking for Animals

  1. Horse Stories: Perverse Victimization

Natalie Corinne Hansen

  1. Speaking For Dogs: The Role of Dog Biographies in Improving Canine Welfare in Bangkok, Thailand

Nikki Savvides 

List of Contributors

VIII. BRIEF SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS

In Part I: (Mis) Representing Animals: The Limits and Possibilities of Representation, we open with an article by Karla Armbruster which provides an overview of the most popular genre of animal autobiographical writing, dog fiction, focusing in particular on Charles Siebert’s Angus.  Armbruster is concerned with not just the why’s and how’s of such fiction, but with the implications for the animals whose stories are told, who are often made to appear even more foreign, and more inferior, than they normally do. Even with these risks, however, Armbruster is in favor of approaches that allow the author to better understand the otherness of other animals, as long as those differences are not presented as a lack or disability. As Armbruster has written elsewhere, what is important about literary representations of animal minds isn’t whether or not they’re accurate; it’s what they reveal about how humans think about animals, and what the consequences of that thinking is. This goes to the very heart of what this book is ultimately about.

Ryan Hediger’s contribution addresses the question of representation, and the failure of human languages to represent animal minds; Hediger goes further, however, and argues that our languages cannot even adequately represent human minds.  He takes this perspective and gives us new ways to understand the possibilities of human representations of animal minds, even given the limitations.  Like Armbruster, Hediger suggests that representing animal minds can make animal lives more intelligible, exposing both the similarities and differences that we share, using Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone, an account of elephant life told by the elephants themselves (and heavily based on the ethological studies of elephants made by scientists like Cynthia Moss), and Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Timothy, Or Notes of an Abject Reptile, the autobiographical account of a tortoise named Timothy.

Next is Naama Harel’s essay, which, like Hediger’s and Armbruster’s, also deals with the issue of representing animal minds, and the limits of representations. To do this, she looks at Kafka’s 1922 short story, “Investigations of a Dog,” which is narrated by a dog, and discusses the most common tropes used in dog tales, such as loyalty and ignobility. Yet in “Investigations of a Dog,” the dog is not represented according to such conventions. Instead, the dog is presented as the superior being, neither inferior to nor dependent upon humans, challenging the reader’s conception of human-canine relations, and ultimately, our own anthropocentrism.

Part II: Animals in Human Traditions begins with a chapter by Laura Hobgood-Oster. Hobgood-Oster, a religious studies scholar, discusses both the importance of words within Christianity, and within that context, the history of talking animals within the religion. Her essay traces the various roles of animals who speak in the Biblical texts, the apocrypha, and the stories of saints, and analyzes the possible impact of these animal voices for a reinterpretation of animals in the Christian tradition. By doing so, she provides a glimpse into an alternative, and less human-centered, view of the place of animals in Christian history.

From Christian stories we jump to comic books—very modern stories. In Lisa Brown’s article on animal voices in comic books, she looks at how in recent comics, or graphic novels, some authors are attempting to grant animals sentience, exploring their minds and commenting on the state of animals in the contemporary world. Brown shows that some authors continue to rely on speciesist manipulations of their animal-characters as pseudo-humans, using them as mirrors for humans, but others let the animals speak truthfully for themselves, showing them as inherently valuable beings.

In the final chapter in this section, librarian Nancy Babb discusses the problematics of locating animal authors in library catalogs. Within the library catalog, animals are forbidden authorial standing, barred entry as author.  Even when an animal is explicitly named as author on the otherwise sacrosanct title page, animals are relegated to subject heading, following “deities; mythological, legendary, and fictitious characters and places” in the MARC Authority Format for Subjects. Babb’s chapter explores the history of cataloging standards for animal authorship and ongoing arguments for expansion of the standards, and ultimately addresses the question: what is an author?

Part III: Animal Self, Human Self addresses the question of how animal autobiographical writing functions as a mode of self-construction. We begin with Monica Flegel’s chapter on nineteenth century animal autobiographies. Flegel focuses in particular on two such books, both written by women, Frances Power Cobbe’s Confessions of a Lost Dog (1867) and Mrs. E. Burrow’s Neptune: or, the Autobiograpy of a Newfoundland Dog (1869).  She discusses some of the reasons that Victorian women may have been moved to write such books, including the notion that women saw in animals a shared oppression, but Flegel moves to a different interpretation: that such texts illustrate the dominance and mastery that even women of the time held over animals. As such, she finds that these texts are contradictory and conflictual, operating both as explorations of animal and female subjection and as conduct manuals delineating the necessity and right of human power over animal.

Moving into contemporary texts, the next two chapters address the use of social networking sites to construct both animal and human selves. Jennifer Schally and Stephen Couch’s chapter looks at the website Catster, where people interact with each other through the created personalities of their cats, which often involve a particular cat language constructed by Catster participants. Schally and Couch show that Catster members transfer the characteristics of the cats to the people behind the profiles, creating a sort of joint human-feline identity.

Like Catster, Bunspace is a social networking site that allows users to create profiles of their pet rabbits, who then network together, blog, and otherwise create an online community together. In my contribution, I discuss the ways in which the human users both interpret and construct the identities of their rabbits, and then identify with them, and become, by other users, identified with the personalities of their rabbits. The Bunspace community, for members, is even more important than for Catster members because rabbits remain an exotic, minority pet, and rabbit owners are sometimes marginalized by non-rabbit people. In this chapter, I discuss as well the ways in which Bunspace members use the site to cope with the deaths of their rabbits, who themselves must write about their own passing.

In Part IV: Interspecies Communication and Connection, two authors, Merit Kaschig and Kathy Rudy, discuss the question of interspecies communication. On one level, all speaking animal texts are about interspecies communication—using human voices to allow animals to communicate with us. But on another level, they are a very one-sided form of communication. In Merit Kaschig’s piece, she discusses the Harlan Ellison post-apocalyptic novella, A Boy and His Dog, narrated by the dog, Blood.  Here, the relationship between the dog, Blood, and the boy, Vic, is clearly mutual and interdependent—Blood procures women for Vic to rape, Vic provides food for Blood, and eventually, kills a woman that he has grown attached to in order to feed the starving dog.

Kathy Rudy’s chapter begins by lamenting the time in which we, as children, spoke to animals. She discusses the ways in which human language, and human control over language, serves to distance and elevate humans from non-human animals, and wonders if we can come back to a point, experienced by children and by many pre-literate cultures, where humans and animals did in fact communicate with each other. Here she turns to religion, and in particular, to animism, to rescue us from our anthropocentricism and to bring us back to a true transpecies communication.

In Part V: Speaking and Knowing: Accessing Animal Subjectivity, the essays included here address the problem of accessing animal subjectivity. Anne Milne, in her chapter on speaking animal stories from the eighteenth century, wonders whether anthropomorphizing animals constitutes a violation of animal rights, and whether autobiography as a strategy for understanding animals deepens or confounds our understanding of the animal other.  She addresses as well the philosophical trends of the time which gradually moved English society towards passing a number of important anti-cruelty laws, and the role that such texts may have played in this shift.  She concludes by suggesting that some of the resistance to acknowledgements of animal subjectivity come from ways in which humans utilize the autobiographical animal to undermine the very rights they appear to be promoting and enacting.

In Marion Copeland’s chapter, which focuses specifically on equine autobiographies like Black Beauty and Sweet William, she addresses the ways in which these texts provide for the horses not only a biography, but intelligence, self-awareness, and ultimately, subjectivity. Rather than treat such novels as fantasy or allegory, Copeland reads them from an animal-centric perspective, showing that there is much to learn about horses “straight from the horse’s mouth” from such stories.

Jill Morstad, who writes about Carolyn Parkhurst’s novel, “The Dogs of Babel,” explores an uncomfortable issue: making dogs speak. Morstadt, herself a dog trainer, writes about the seemingly-inescapable human need for dogs to be like us, including the desire for them to speak human language. What are the implications of this desire? And what does this say about our own subjectivity, as well as that of the dogs who we think we know so well?

In our final section, Part VI: The Ethics and Value of Speaking for Animals, we come back to the implications of speaking for animals. We begin with a piece by Natalie Hansen, who writes about Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. Hansen argues that not only did Sewell write Black Beauty in order to improve the treatment of horses, but that the same sentimentality found in the novel characterizes many contemporary animal protection discourses. The result, according to Hansen, is both improvements in the welfare of many animals, but also a perpetuation of anthropcentric notions of human dominion over animals. She asks, how might humans speak for nonhuman animals, in the format of animal autobiographies or in other formats, in ways that challenge the inherent anthropocentrism of our human point-of-view?

Finally, we end with a contribution from Nikki Savvides, who writes about the street dogs (or sois) who live in Bangkok and the people who work to protect them. Savvides writes about Bangkok Street Dogs, a blog written by a street dog named Casanova, a three year old dog of mixed ancestry who blogs about his life and the life of other dogs like him. She also writes about Soi Cats and Dogs, a Bangkok advocacy organization for which she volunteered, which uses dog biographies as a way to personalize the dogs that they rescue. Savvides discusses how by speaking for soi dogs, these advocates gain visibility for the dogs by revealing the complex and unique nature of their personalities. Rather than appear en masse, through these stories the dogs appear as individuals, part of a community that operates alongside the human population in Bangkok. The result is that the dogs are seen as having lives as significant as those of their human counterparts, which has resulted in concrete changes for the dogs behind the stories.

 

IX. CONTRIBUTOR BIOS

Karla Armbruster is an associate professor in the English Department at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she teaches American literature, professional writing, and environmental studies.  Karla holds a Ph.D. in English from The Ohio State University, where she competed a dissertation on environmental advocacy in American literature and culture. With Kathleen R. Wallace, she is editor of Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 2002), and she is a past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment.  Most recently, she has become very interested in animal studies and is working on a book about representations of dogs in literature and popular culture.

Nancy Babb is an associate librarian at the Charles B. Sears Law Library, University at Buffalo, SUNY, specializing in cataloging and website management.  Babb’s research interests include library history and development, cataloging, bibliography, authorship, and popular culture.

Lisa Brown received her Master’s degree in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is the author and editor of Animal Inventory, a blog that tracks and analyzes representations of animals in popular culture. Brown is on the Board of Directors of the Nature in Legend and Story Society (NILAS) and has lectured about animals in culture at a number of venues, including Tufts University, Bentley College, and the annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (2007). Brown will guest edit the June 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture (the theme is “animals in graphic novels”). In addition to Animal Inventory (ongoing since August 2007), Brown’s writing on animals has appeared in the following: Brown, Lisa G. June 2009. “An Interview with Director Geralyn Pezanoski about her film, MINE.” Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture; Brown, Lisa G. Mar 2009. “An Interview with Writer Grant Morrison about his Graphic Novel, We3.” Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture; Brown, Lisa G. Mar 2009. “An Interview with Artist Jessica Joslin.” Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture; Brown, Lisa G. Sept 2008. “A Graphic Novel Raises Ethical Issues: Laika by Nick AbadzisSociety & Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies, 16 (2008) 293-296.

Marion W. Copeland is an independent scholar affiliated with Humane Society University where she offers courses in Animals in Literature and Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Animal Studies. She is book review editor for both NILAS and Society and Animals, and frequently publishes book reviews and review essays. She is also Co-editor of NILAS’ What Are the Animals to Us?, and is the author of numerous essays as well as of Ohiyesa: Charles Eastman (U of Nebraska) and Cockroach (Reaktion Books).

Stephen R. Couch is currently the Director of Academic Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University, Schuylkill Campus and holds the academic titles of Professor of Sociology and Professor of Science, Technology and Society. After receiving an undergraduate degree in music from Oberlin College, he remained at Oberlin for an M.A. in sociology. His doctorate in sociology is from Binghamton University. Dr. Couch is co-author or co-editor of four books and has written over thirty published research articles, most of them dealing with environmental sociology and technological hazards. Dr. Couch has served as an expert witness in several cases involving environmental contamination. He has consulted in his area of expertise for numerous governmental and business organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and Borden Chemicals. He is past Chair of the Environment and Technology Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Editor of Social Problems Forum, a member of the Board of Directors of the Sociological Practice Association, and has sat on the Council of the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association. Dr. Couch’s current research interests are on community breakdown and recovery from environmental contamination, the relationship of lay and scientific knowledge concerning environmental risks, the collective construction of meaning by groups victimized by modern technology, and disasters in popular culture.

Margo DeMello received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from U.C. Davis in 1995, and currently lectures at Central New Mexico Community College, teaching sociology, cultural studies, and anthropology. Her books include Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community (Duke University Press 2000), Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature (Lantern 2003), Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection (Prometheus 2007), The Encyclopedia of Body Adornment (Greenwood 2007) and Feet and Footwear (Greenwood 2009). She has recently had articles published in the Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships (Marc Bekoff, ed.), Encyclopedia of Animal Rights (Marc Bekoff, ed.), and A Cultural History of Animals: The Modern Age (Randy Malamud, ed.). Her newest book will be the edited collection, Teaching the Animal: Human Animal Studies Across the Disciplines (Lantern 2010) and she is under contract to write Animals and Society for Columbia University Press and Faces Around the World for ABL-CIO.

Monica Flegel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Lakehead University.  Her monograph, Conceptualizing Cruelty to Children in Nineteenth-Century England: Literature, Representation, and the NSPCC (2009), focused on the emergence of child abuse as a subject of legal and social concern.  Her examination of the overlap between animal protection movements and the nascent child protection movement in the nineteenth-century was the subject of the second chapter in that text, “‘Animals and Children’: Savages, Innocents and Cruelty,” and of a recent article in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, “Bend or Break: Unravelling the Construction of Children and Animals as Competitors in Nineteenth-Century English Anti-Cruelty Movements.” Her current project, “Strange Domesticities: Animal/Human Relations in Nineteenth-Century Literature,” expands upon her previous work in order to examine the central role played by animal/child metaphors in the construction of the Victorian domestic space.    

Naama Harel is a Hebrew lecturer at the College for Oriental Languages and Literature of Shanghai International Studies University, China. Her published articles critically examine the representation of nonhuman animals in literature, dealing with anthropomorphism, beast fables, metamorphosis literature, interspesific liminality and other issues.

Ryan Hediger is assistant professor of English and American Studies at La Salle University in Philadelphia.  His areas of concentration include American literature, animal studies, ethics, and wilderness.  He has published on Ernest Hemingway, Temple Grandin, and others, and is co-editor with Sarah McFarland of the collection Animals and Agency, published by Brill Press in 2009.  He is currently working on a book dealing with weakness and animals.

Laura Hobgood-Oster is Professor and Paden Chair in Religion and Environmental Studies at Southwestern University where she has been a faculty member since 1998. She teaches in the areas of animals and religion, history of Christianity, religion and ecology, and women and religion. Her publications include Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition (U of Illinois P, 2008), The Sabbath Journal of Judith Lomax, and Crossroads Choices: Biblical Wisdom Literature in the 21st Century. She contributed to The Earth Bible series and served as executive editor of The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. She served for six years as co-chair of the Animals and Religion Consultation of the American Academy of Religion. Dr. Hobgood-Oster is currently working on a book entitled Even Dogs Deserve the Crumbs: Animals and Christianity in the 21st Century.

 

Merit Kaschig is a doctoral student in American Studies at the College of William and Mary. She received her undergraduate degree in English Literature and Culture from the University of Potsdam, Germany, in 1999 and her M.A. in English from Georgia State University in 2001. Combining her fervor for literature with her penchant for cultural studies, Merit’s research investigates the role of earthly animals in the negotiation of human identities. Her special academic interests are human-dog relations in U.S. literature and culture and the limits of inter-species intimacy. Merit has presented her work at academic conferences in North America. She has published pieces in the Journal of American Periodicals and American History through Literature, 1820-1870 and has had the opportunity to further explore the importance of non-human animals in the creation of western imaginaries in her upper level undergraduate course on Animals in America at the College of William and Mary.

Anne Milne is an Assistant Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario where she specializes in animal studies, labour studies and ecocriticism in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British literature.  Her book, Lactilla Tends her Fav’rite Cow: Ecocritical Readings of Animals and Women in Eighteenth-Century British Labouring-Class Women’s Poetry was published by Bucknell University Press in 2008.

Jill Morstad has been training dogs and teaching people to train their dogs since 1985; she also trains and exhibits her own dogs at the most advanced levels of obedience competition, and has earned more than two dozen obedience and tracking titles and AKC breed championships on various dogs. Morstad is a frequent speaker on issues related to language, dog ownership and public policy, and host of the public affairs program Canine360.  Her published work has appeared in academic journals, trade journals and magazines, and on the web. She is an adjunct professor of writing and rhetoric at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kathy Rudy is Associate Professor of Ethics and Women’s Studies at Duke University, and is the author of Beyond Pro-Life and Pro-Choice: Moral Diversity in the Abortion Debate (Beacon, 1996), Sex and the Church: Gender, Homosexuality, and the Transformation of Christian Ethics (Beacon, 1997).  She has also published articles on abortion, reproduction, sexual ethics, feminist ethics, bioethics, adoption, and feminist theory.  Rudy holds an M.Div. and Ph.D. in Theological Ethics.  She is currently working on ethical issues in speciesism and human-animal relationships.

She is completing a book on animals and ethics, tentatively titled The Ethics of Earthlings.

Nikki Savvides is a postgraduate researcher, musician and horse trainer who lives in Sydney, Australia. She completed a Master of Arts in 2008 at The University of Sydney, her thesis focusing on developing ethical human-horse relations in the practice of dressage. In late 2009 she plans to travel to India to begin research for her PhD, which will focus on animal-related tourism in South East Asia. Currently she is working on research projects that examine the lives of elephants and street dogs in Thailand.

Jennifer L. Schally is currently a PhD student in sociology at The University of Tennessee where she teaches social justice and social change. She has recently served as Adjunct Instructor of Human Development and Family Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, Schuylkill Campus and as a research assistant on various projects including ones dealing with the topics of sexual assault among Latinas and educational barriers for international students. Ms. Schally received her B.S in sociology from the Pennsylvania State University, Capital College in May 2007 with honors and highest distinction. She then continued her education at The Pennsylvania State University, Capital College and received her M.A. in community psychology and social change, with a concentration in environmental issues, in August 2009. Her master’s paper was titled Sense of Virtual and Vicarious Community among Members of an Online “Community of Cats.” Ms. Schally’s research interests include the roles of animals in society, animal rights, and grassroots environmental movements.

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