Workshop – Animal Minds between Narrative and Cognition (Dec 6, SMART Animals conference, Amsterdam)

Date: Dec 6, 9:00-16:00

University of Amsterdam: University Library, Singel 425, Doelenzaal


Workshop description

Psychologists working in the wake of Jerome Bruner (1991) have argued that narrative is a key tool for constructing human selves and identities. This workshop confronts the challenges involved in engaging with nonhuman animals’ selves in narrative form. Through what stylistic and formal strategies can narrative encapsulate the lived experience of animal bodies and minds? What are the differences between fictional narratives (in literature and film) that feature animal protagonists and accounts of animal experience and behavior in scientific writing or nonfiction (such as Charles Foster’s Being a Beast)? What interpretive strategies are readers likely to adopt when engaging with these animal narratives? How, and to what extent, can narrative shape people’s beliefs and ethical views about animal life? Finally, what is the epistemological value of animal-centered narratives? How, if at all, can they contribute to the scientific understanding of animal minds?  These are questions that have been raised, more or less explicitly, in multiple areas of the humanities and the social and natural sciences: from David Herman’s (2014) “narratology beyond the human” to Bernaerts et al.’s (2014) account of “nonhuman narrators” to work on the phenomenology of human animal-interactions (Warkentin 2012). But these remain scattered and fragmentary approaches; no head-on attempt has been made so far to interrogate the potential and the limitations of animal narratives from a perspective informed by the mind.



9:00 – 9:15Welcome and introduction
9:15 – 9:40Alexa Weik von Mossner (University of Klagenfurt), “Feeling Animals? Narrative, Anthropomorphism, and the Intricacies of Trans-Species Empathy”
9:40 – 10:05Jon Hegglund (Washington State University), “Transmedial Anthropomorphism, Canine Minds, and the Limits of Experientiality”
10:05 – 10:35Discussion
10:35 – 10:50BREAK
10:50 – 11:15Hans-Johann Glock (University of Zurich), “Toads, Dogs, and Apes: Intelligence and Reasoning in Non-Human Animals”
11:15 – 11:40Simone Pollo (Sapienza University of Rome), “The Clock and the Patient: Philosophical Animals as Fictional Characters”
11:40 – 12:05Eva Meijer (University of Amsterdam), “The Politics of Animal Languages”
12:05 – 12:50Discussion
12:50 – 14:00LUNCH (not included)
14:00 – 14:25Tirza Brüggemann (Free University of Amsterdam), “The Poetry of a Horse’s Mind”
14:25 – 14:50Marco Caracciolo (Ghent University), “Flocking Together: Embodiment and Fictional Engagements with Collective Animal Minds”
14:50 – 15:20Discussion
15:20 – 15:30BREAK
15:30 – 16:00Wrap-up