Special Session: Animal Poetics

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NASSR 2015 - North American Society for the Study of Romanticism
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This panel on the relationship between animals and romantic poetry will elicit new perspectives on how animal rights and science bear on poetic form and genre. There have been a number of studies of prose writings that address animals and animal rights. However, this panel will examine the intersections between animal and poetic forms, inviting papers that give precise and compelling eco-critical, historicist, and formalist readings of how romantic political, philosophical, and scientific discourses might challenge or amend typically metaphorical and figurative conceptions of animals in the period.

This panel brings together work on the Romantic animal to demonstrate the ethical and historical importance of this subject for post-Enlightenment thought. We place animals in the context of recent eco-critical work that redefines "nature" in relation to romanticism. In particular, this panel will focus on how scientific and political discourses treatment of animals and animal rights manifest in romantic poetry—and if poetry has a distinctive capacity to resist or challenge these discourses. These issues include vegetarianism, animal magnetism, vivisection, Cartesian mechanical animals, sentiment and animal cruelty, farming practices, and Enlightenment distinctions between man and animal. According, given the significance of the Romantic animal, we ask how its presence in the period may alter or elucidate our readings of romantic poetry's form and broader metaphors. To this end, we build on recent scholarship by critics like David Perkins, Teresa Sherman-Jones, Ron Broglio, and Kurt Fosso, which recognizes romantic-period animals as embodied creatures that challenge our definitions of sentience. The Romantic animal is not only a metaphorical creature, and we solicit new scholarship that addresses the idealist and materialist connections between animals and "inanimate" matter in the romantic imaginary.

Possible questions our panel may ask include: How does the juxtaposition of animals with politically dispossessed and previously "domesticated" humans influence poetic representations of the natural world? How does the choice of specific animals affect a poem's form or genre? What can animals teach us about poets' explorations of unintelligible natural processes and poetic subjecthood? How can an animal be a poetic or political subject instead of an object? How does adopting an animal's perspective alter a poem's rhythms and tropes? How does the implementation of dialect affect our sense of an animal's—and a poet's—wildness? Can we take a natural historical approach to poems like Shelley's "To a Skylark" or Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale"? The panel will feature three 20-minute talks followed by a question and answer session. Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words.