Representing Animals: The Case of Bears
No animal is subject to more ambivalence than the bear. From Ursus Arctos Horribilis to Teddy, Winnie, and Gentle Ben, the bear’s myriad representations across the centuries have inspired at once dread and comfort, while evoking utter savagery as well as irresistible cuteness. This seminar will analyze the cultural roots of a contradiction that has impacted the ursine species all over the world, including in New Jersey, where black bears have been at the center of a two-decades-long controversy. Essays, shorts stories, poems, photographs, and films will help us reflect on the concepts of animality and humanity, and on the connection between how we see or represent animals and how we treat (or mistreat) them. We will also address the question of bear conservation, and discover the rehabilitation mission of a local organization, the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in Pittstown, NJ.