Clare Hall Colloquium

Tuesday 10 March

Ruth Parkin-Gounelas
Regarding Animals
Regarding Humans

Emeritus Professor, English Literature and Culture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

How should humans define themselves in relation to other animals? This familiar question has recently attracted new attention in several disciplines, with some radical results.

Jacques Derrida recreates a scene in which he stands naked before the gaze of a cat, experiencing both its ‘intolerable proximity’ and the ‘absolute alterity’ of its point of view. Animals, he argues, have been turned into a ‘theorem’, seen but not seeing. To be confronted by their gaze is to face up to ‘the abyssal limits of the human’.

The talk will explore ways in which disciplines from ethology and cognitive neuroscience to biopolitics and the philosophy of mind are unsettling definitions of human subjectivity which, since the Enlightenment, have excluded other animals. The effect of this work has been the increasing erosion of the distinctions humans have awarded themselves (speech, reason, having a relation to death, etc.). 

Examples from literature (EmilyDickinson, Kafka, J.M. Coetzee) will be included to illustrate the tensions and dislocations produced by the encroachment of other animals, with their uncanny proximity and alterity, upon the human domain.

Lent term – 13 January - 13 March 2015

27 January
Emilia Wilton-Godberfforde
Research Fellow, Clare Hall
The Liar in Seventeenth-Century French Comedy

3 February
Bruno Riccò
Professor of Electronics, University of Bologna
From Silicon to Graphene and beyond
The hidden engine of change

10 February
Michael Loewe
University Lecturer in Chinese Studies 1963-90
Life in the capital of China's Song Dynasty ca. 1100 CE 

17 February
Ian Goldberg
Associate Professor of Computer Science
University of Waterloo, Canada
Privacy enhancing technologies:
Combatting surveillance and censorship on the Internet

24 February
Gill Brown
Professor Emeritus of English Language and former Director of the Research Centre in English and Applied Linguistics, Cambridge University
A brief look at 500 years of changing patterns in English English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation

10 March
Ruth Parkin-Gounelas
Emeritus Professor, Department of English Literature and Culture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Regarding Animals Regarding Humans:
How should humans define themselves in relation to other animals?

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A Midnight Modern Conversation (Detail)
Engraving by
William Hogarth, 1732

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Updated  Feb.19.2015