The Pathetic Fallacy and "Animal" Life

full name / name of organization: 
Eric Earnhardt / Case Western Reserve University
contact email: 

The Pathetic Fallacy and "Animal" Life –– A panel at the ASLE 2015 Conference in Moscow, Idaho (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment)

Organizer: Eric Earnhardt, Case Western Reserve University
Respondent: George Hart, California State University Long Beach

John Ruskin coined the pathetic fallacy three years ahead of Darwin's On The Origin of Species. Ruskin's aversion to anthropomorphism and to evolutionary theory is well historicized, while Darwin's speculative anthropomorphism, as discussed by Gillian Beer, led him to the greatest scientific discovery of our time: our continuity with the animal that lies beneath, under, inside the human. The Ruskin/Darwin dichotomy, therefore, begs the question: what relationships obtain between critical anthropomorphism in a scientific context and the technique of the pathetic fallacy in literature? Is the attribution of human sensation, emotion, or capacity to a nonhuman animal fallacious in either discourse? This panel welcomes discussions of the pathetic fallacy and the anthropomorphism of nonhuman life/consciousness/experience in narrative and poetry, especially when considered alongside the scientific exploration of such phenomena. Papers might touch upon issues from animal studies, the instability of the "human," new materialisms, literature and science, cognitive approaches, formalist narrative and poetic analysis, affect theory and embodiment, and more. Please send abstracts of approx. 300 words to Eric Earnhardt ( by Nov. 23, 2014.