NYU Gallatin Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

Back to Courses

First-Year Writing Seminar: The Literary Animal

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number FIRST-UG405
Section 001
Instructor Armando Mastrogiovanni
Days Mon,Wed
Time 6:20 PM - 7:35 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


Literature is obsessed with animals. They howl and lurch through the history of literary art: creatures with clawed wings; faces that breathe fire; whales that smash ships; and men who turn into insects, wolves, and bats. We will begin our exploration of this obsession with two scenes at the origin of the Western tradition: Adam giving names to the creatures assembled in the Garden of Eden, and Aristotle declaring that the real difference between “man and other animals” is that man alone possesses language. Setting out with an examination of the representation of animals in literary and philosophical texts, we will soon take our cue from Emerson’s mysterious statement that “every word was once an animal,” and consider how some works of literature ask to be read as  animals – unpredictable, strangely animate, and uneasily familiar. In the course of exploring the link between animals and language, we will pay special attention to our own writing. We will discuss the construction of analytical and critical arguments, and ask some fascinating questions along the way. What does it mean to write about writing? What is at stake when we take a piece of literature as an object of study? In addition to Genesis and Book I of Aristotle’s Politics , our readings may include selections from the fables of Aesop and La Fontaine; Gulliver’s Travels  (Jonathan Swift); selections from the poetry of William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley; Frankenstein (Mary Shelley); selections from On the  Origin of Species (Charles Darwin); and Elizabeth Costello (J.M. Coetzee).

Course Type

First-Year Program: Writing Seminars (FIRST-UG)

NYU Gallatin Footer

New York University
Gallatin School of Individualized Study
1 Washington Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 998-7370