Civilizing Animals @ ACLA 2023

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Keridiana Chez
contact email: 

      In H.G. Wells’s A Modern Utopia (1905), the botanist declares to the utopia-planning narrator: “I do not like your utopia, if there are to be no dogs.” Yet humanity’s civilizations have often been in tension with nonhuman animals: the dog-loving botanist imagines friendly, amenable pet animals bred and reared to emotionally service human needs while the utopianist envisions packs of mangy, diseased strays terrorizing a metropolis.

       In the name of civilization, animals have been variously marked for termination and/or expulsion. At the same time, some animals have been deemed an essential part of civilization-making, either as caged exhibitions that prove humanity’s success, for labor or agriculture, or as cherished pets. This seminar is interested in exploring new perspectives on this tension in literature and culture. Possible directions include:

  • Animals as civilizing agents or subjects to be civilized
  • Animals as an integral step in civilization-building
  • Civilization as measured by success in domesticating animals and eradicating the wild
  • Animals resisting civilizing efforts
  • Exceptions to the exclusion of animals from human civilization (e.g., pets, farmed animals, exhibited animals)
  • Talking, clothed, bipedal animals
  • Animals at the beginnings and ends of civilizational eras
  • Animals as partners in the human project of civilization
  • Expressions of the human need for other species
  • Representations of animal civilizations


The American Comparative Literature Association’s 2023 annual meeting takes place in Chicago, Illinois, March 16-19, 2023. Submit your paper proposals by October 31, 2022 at