Environmental Humanities

Animal Stories

Animals live fascinating lives. They do so, however, in their own particular ways. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in animal stories of different kinds. Stories about real and imaginary animals abound in art, in children’s and adult literature, in form of television documentaries, and across social media.

The arts, humanities, and social sciences have responded to this ubiquity of animal stories with a new interest in the challenges and possibilities of telling animal stories. Across this work is a central preoccupation with questions of meaning. In some cases, this takes the form of an exploration of how particular animals make sense of their worlds: how they understand and interact with changing environments.

In other contexts, the focus is primarily on the diverse cultural and historical ways in which people attach meaning to animals and their lives, from the reading of auguries in animal movements or entrails, to shifting ideas about animal rearing and welfare. In all of these sites, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that animal stories matter: we craft our own lives and our human identities out of them.