2011-12 Catalog

Decorative graphic

Offering Description

Animal Morphology, Motion, and Mind

Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Ruth Hayes animation, media studies , Kevin Francis history of science and technology , Amy Cook biology, fish biology
Fields of Study
biology, media arts, philosophy, visual arts and zoology
Preparatory for studies or careers in
art, animation, science and education.

Humans have a complex, intricate, and paradoxical relationship with other species. We are animals and we define ourselves against them. We celebrate our kinship with animals and use them as laboratory specimens. We create animal characters and infuse them with human qualities. We befriend animals and we eat them. In this program, we will integrate perspectives from the arts, sciences and humanities to explore such seeming contradictions in our understanding, representation and treatment of animals.

In fall quarter, we will study animal form, function and evolution.  Students will practice observational approaches to learning about animals, including drawing, laboratory dissection and field study. They will also study animal morphology, comparative anatomy, and biomechanics as a foundation for animating the locomotion of different kinds of animals. Students will explore evolutionary biology as a framework for understanding the biological parallels between humans and animals. Finally, we will examine how artists and writers have represented animals in images, stories and films.

In winter quarter, we will shift our focus to human and animal neurobiology, cognition, emotion, and behaviour. As we study these topics, we will investigate how scientists and artists anthropomorphize animals in their work and explore the implications of this practice. Consider the scientist who empathizes with a chimpanzee's elation or an elephant's sadness or a dog's pain. Does this empathy provide valuable insight into the experience of another species or simply reveal the ability to project one's own sentimental fancies onto another creature? And how do we test these intuitions? Or consider animators who create films populated with animal characters. Why do they select particular species to represent specific human qualities? And how do these fictional representations of animals affect how we treat real animals? In each of these cases, we risk putting ourselves in dialog with anthropomorphized versions of animals without recognizing the full extent of our own narcissism.

During both quarters, students will participate in lectures, seminars, labs and writing workshops. They will learn how to analyze several types of media, including books and films, and will be expected to develop and improve their writing through a variety of assignments. This program will also encourage students to reflect on their own assumptions and attitudes about other species. During fall quarter, art workshops will emphasize the development of basic skills in drawing and animation. During winter quarter, students will continue developing these skills and will also explore their own scientific and/or creative approaches to representing animals.

Academic Website
Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$51 per quarter for drawing supplies and entrance fees.
Offered During