Animal Subjects, an interdisciplinary course designed to examine a wide range of stories, theories, and images of animals in history, is the 2006 winner of the Animals and Society Course Award from the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Respect of Life and Environment.
This award is granted each year to three college undergraduate and graduate courses worldwide. The award includes a $1,500 prize, which will be used to expand CCA's library with resources relating to animal subjects.
Animal Subjects is part of the Critical Studies Program under the category of Methods of Knowledge, which are interdisciplinary humanities seminars required of all CCA undergraduate students in their third or fourth year. These courses are designed to teach critical thinking and to show students historical and cultural contexts.
Kari Weil, chair of Critical Studies and associate professor of Writing and Literature, teaches the course. By teaching Animal Subjects, she hopes for students to "sometime in their work try to make the empathic leap of envisioning a nonhuman perspective." The course evolved from her work on horse-human relations in 19th-century France, but has grown both in response to her research and student interest. Weil tries to integrate students' areas of study into the course. Last year the class took a field trip to the Oakland Zoo, where they learned about zoo design and conservation, which incorporated architecture and design.
Weil has been teaching at CCA for six years, and this is the fourth time she has taught the Animal Subjects course. She is near completion of the book The Equine Other in Nineteenth-Century France, a study that looks at the discourses around and representations of riding and breeding horses. Parts of the book are already published as articles. She also has a forthcoming essay called "Animal Death and the Struggle for Ethics" in a special issue of Configurations, a journal dedicated to animal and agricultural studies.
To learn more about the Critical Studies Program, see Critical Studies.