History

Man's Best Friend: History of Human-Animal Relations

Helena Pycior, Professor

Course: HIST 192 SEM 001 (Full)
Class Number: 52099
Credits: 3 HU
Time: TR 11:00 AM -12:15 PM.
Place: HLT 341

Course Description:

Do you share your home with a bird, cat, dog, ferret, fish, snake, turtle, or other non-human animal? Do you see such animals as pets, animal companions, family members, workers, or someone/thing else? Have you thought about when and why people started to keep animals as pets in their homes or when and why people started to speak of their pets as family members? Have you ever wondered when modern pet keeping—including special foods, toys, and veterinary care—began? Did any of the history courses that you have taken cover animals?

This seminar will study the history of pet keeping in the United States and Europe from the nineteenth century through our own times. We will read and discuss major journal articles and book chapters on the history of pet keeping. During the second half of the semester we will research and write case studies of human-animal relationships. Here students will divide into groups and each group will select and analyze a noteworthy human-animal pair from the past. Possible pairs include: Emily Dickinson and Carlo (Newfoundland dog), Sigmund Freud and Jofi (chow chow), Roy Rogers and Trigger (palomino horse), Adolf Hitler and Blondi (German shepherd), Irene Pepperberg and Alex (African grey parrot), Mark Twain and Tammany (cat), General George S. Patton and Willie (bull terrier), and Leonard and Virginia Woolf and Mitz (marmoset). Each group will give an oral presentation on its human-animal pair; each student in the group will submit a final paper on the pair. A paper on Emily Dickinson and Carlo, for example, would include a biography of Emily Dickinson, a life history of Carlo, and an analysis of the relationship that Dickinson and her dog shared.

Work Involved:

In this seminar you will not only learn about the history of pet keeping but also work on the development of some skills essential to your undergraduate career. These skills include: reading carefully and critically; writing in an organized and persuasive manner; using evidence to construct an argument; locating printed and electronic research materials; presenting and defending your ideas publicly; working with others; and constructing an undergraduate research paper.

Assignments and Grading Scheme
Three one-page responses to readings 10 credits
Review of a chapter of a book 20 credits
Attendance 5 credits
Participation in seminar discussions 20 credits
Assignments associated with group work 10 credits
Oral presentation of group work 10 credits
Final paper 25 credits
Highest possible total 100 credits

Sample Reading:

Among the seminar readings are chapters from the following books:

J. R. Ackerley, My Dog Tulip: Life with an Alsatian (1956).
Maureen Adams, Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Brontë (2007).
Stanley J. Corens, The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events (2003).
Katherine C. Grier, Pets in America: A History (2007).
Kathleen Kete, The Beast in the Boudoir: Petkeeping in 19th- Century Paris (1994).
Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (1989).
Roy Willis, ed. Signifying Animals: Human Meaning in the Natural World (1990).

About the Instructor:

Helena Pycior is a professor in the Department of History. As an undergraduate she majored in mathematics. She holds a M.A. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in history of science, both from Cornell University. She is currently writing a book on the history of presidential pets. As a child she shared her life with canaries, cats, chameleons, dogs, fish, a hawk undergoing rehabilitation, parakeets, and turtles. She now has two dogs: Lickety Split, a border collie/terrier mix adopted from the St. Francis Society shelter in Kenosha, and Beary Bearister, a schnoodle adopted from the Countryside Humane Society in Racine.