Winter Term 2017/2018

Mi 14-16 c.t., Geb. C5 3, R. 4.08

VL:  Animals and Us: A Brief Transcultural Survey of Human-Animal Studies

Animals have formed part of our cultural history from time immemorial. The earliest folk tales have talking animals as their protagonists. This trend is unabated, as demonstrated by the example of the recent release of Kipling's The Jungle Book. Not only in children's stories do animals form the conduits of the narrative, they often enough take on the status of icons that can be depended on to fill in for many unfulfilled desires and dreams. On the other end of the scale we have 'real life' animals: the ones kept in captivity for the purposes of experimentation (laboratories), 'simple' pleasure (circuses, zoos), and mass consumption (meat production). Midway on the scale we find the wild animals whose cultural significance these days seems to be restricted to the 'hidden' lives that they lead, as captured on film by photographers and documentary film makers.  

We'll be asking: What is it that connects us to animals, and why should we care?

Materials for study will be placed online


Mi, 16-18 c.t., Geb. C5 3, R. 1.20

HS: Nim Chimpsky: When Does an Animal Count?

“Men have forgotten this truth”, said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince

This seminar will focus on the intersection of human and the animal lives. Taking the example of a chimpanzee who was named "Nim Cimpsky" in order to mock the famous linguist, Noam Chomsky, we'll be looking at the fraught question of experimenting with primates. Why, for example, raise Nim like a child? What effect does this have on the socialization of apes, and how do males like Nim deal with their conditioning on reaching full maturity?  Are they less 'valuable' once they fail to prove that they can in fact 'speak' to us in the ways expected by experimenters? What then happens to these so-called 'failures?

What does a narrative about Nim, to take just one example, tell us about the relations that obtain between humans and their 'close relatives', the great apes?

Main Texts:

Elizabeth Hess. Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would be Human. 2008.

Project Nim. Dir. James Marsh. DVD. 2011.


Do. 14-16 c.t. , Geb. C5 3, R. 1.20

HS: Tarzan and the Apes: A Transcultural Icon?

For reasons that we'll be examining in this seminar, the figure of Tarzan has made a tremendous impact on popular culture and its consumers. Influenced by the adventure fiction genre practised by Victorian writers like Rudyard Kipling, Rider Haggard and G. A. Henty, e.g., Tarzan introduces the new narrative dimension of human beings interacting with apes. In locating his story in 'darkest' Africa, Edgar Rice Burroughs moreover avails of contemporary stereotypes about imperialism's 'civilizing mission'. Why then is it, that the figure of Tarzan continues to universally fascinate, especially spectators, right up to the present moment?  

Main Texts:

Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan of the Apes. 1914. Project

Tarzan. DVD. Walt Disney, 1999.


Do. 16-18:30 s. t., Geb. C5 3, R. 1.20

Koll. Studying TAS

For B.A., M.A. and Lehramt Candidates

All TAS students in the semi-final stages of their studies are encouraged to attend.

Those intending to take any part of their final examinations in TAS are strongly advised to participate in this colloquium a semester prior to the final run through. Those students starting out / meanwhile engaging with their written academic work, i.e. those doing an M.A. or a B.A. thesis, are also expected to attend and therewith to present their work to peer-review. The colloquium's focus is on developing study skills while providing on-going guidance during exam preparation. Further, it provides a supportive forum for presenting theses-in-progress and mock exams, all within the frame of engaging with the application of TAS theory parameters to selected texts.