January 31, 2020

Teaching After Coetzee

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Teaching After Coetzee: Sample Discussion Questions
Faculty, feel free to copy and paste into your documents for lesson planning
  1. In what ways might After Coetzee: An Anthology of Animal Fictions seem influenced by J.M. Coetzee's work, especially the novel Elizabeth Costello?
  2. Does the anthology inspire empathy for other animals? Is empathy a worthy goal for literature? Is it attainable?
  3. Select a few favorite pieces from After Coetzee to analyze.
    1. What draws you to them?
    2. What are a few similarities in their literary devices and techniques, such as themes, imagery, mood, setting, or point of view? How do those devices or techniques underscore the aims of the anthology?
    3. How are differences between these pieces just as important?
  4. What are specific instances in which the anthology challenges anthropocentrism and speciesism?
  5. How would you now define "animality" and "humanity," having read After Coetzee? Do you find the task difficult, and if so, why?
  6. What is the significance of embodiment in several pieces from the anthology? How is embodiment important to challenging problematic ways of thinking about and relating to other animals?
  7. How has After Coetzee changed or confirmed your own beliefs about humans and the more-than-human?
  8. In the anthology, how are racism, heteronormative sexism, and economic injustice shown to interrelate with oppression of other animals?
  9. What is the importance of pronoun usage in several of the anthology's selections? Should we use gendered or gender-neutral pronouns when we refer to other animals?
  10. Scholars in the feminist care tradition stress the importance for animal ethics of love. Other scholars argue that love isn't a necessary component of an animal ethics.
    1. Does a sense of love and care guide your treatment of other animals?
    2. In what ways does or doesn't After Coetzee support your view?
  11. What do readings in After Coetzee convey about causes of violence against other animals?
  12. What forms of conceptual and material (physical) captivity of other animals show up in After Coetzee?
  13. What is the importance of naming and categorization throughout its pieces?
  14. In what ways might the words, "See me," from "Truth Be Told," speak to the anthology's themes? Relatedly, in what ways does After Coetzee represent the drive to see, to know, as destructive?
  15. How do the legacies of colonialism and modern statehood create peril for humans and nonhumans in "Our Fathers, Which Aren't in Heaven," "Galaxies Beyond Violet," and "Procyon Lotor"? Think of borders, conquest, protectionism, and citizenship.
  16. J.M. Coetzee's character Elizabeth Costello, from the The Lives of Animals and Elizabeth Costello, regards poetry as producing truer or more ethical ideas about other animals than science or region, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Having read After Coetzee, would you agree with Costello? Why or why not?
  17. A few pieces in the anthology, such as "The Sky Above Chairs," create or convey a sense of disorientation and estrangement.
    1. What literary techniques are used in these and other works to produce that sense?
    2. Do these pieces suggest that disorientation and estrangement can give rise to the less destructive, more ethical, ways of knowing that Costello seeks? How so?
  18. Some of the anthology's pieces are straightforward works of realism, while others are experimental or lyrical. Explore your reactions to these approaches.
    1. Do you prefer one approach to another?
    2. Does one style or another seem more suited to the anthology's purposes, or do each have benefits and drawbacks?
  19. Didacticism—the use of literature to convey a moral lesson through fiction—came to be disavowed in modern fiction and poetry. What has your response to didacticism in After Coetzee been—pleasurable, challenging, or something else?