Reading Animals

An International English Studies Conference

School of English, University of Sheffield, UK
17–20 July, 2014

Keynote Speakers:
Tom Tyler, Erica Fudge, Laura Brown, Kevin Hutchings, Diana Donald, Cary Wolfe, Susan McHugh 

Student Bursary Winners

The Reading Animals conference team are pleased to announce the winners of our three student bursaries: the two ASLE-UKI bursaries along with the University of Lincoln bursary.

The winners of the ASLE-UKI bursaries are:

  • Shannon Lambert for the paper ‘“An Unbearable Sight”: Early Modern Bear-Baiting and Becoming-Animal’
  • Anna West for the paper ‘Mrs Yeobright and the Adder: The Ethics of Encounter in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native

The winner of the University of Lincoln bursary is:

  • Gerard Sargent for ‘“…not subject to a beast?”: Bestial Sovereignty and the Rejection of Exile in Timon of Athens’.

Congratulations to the winners and to all entrants for making this such a fierce competition.

Reporting in the journal PMLA on the emergence and consolidation of animal studies, Cary Wolfe drew attention to the role of the Millennial Animals conference, held in the School of English at the University of Sheffield in 2000, as a formative event in this interdisciplinary field. Seeking now to focus the diverse critical practice in animal studies, a second conference at Sheffield seeks to uncover the extent to which the discipline of English Studies now can and should be reimagined as the practice of reading animals

This conference seeks to reflect and to extend the full range of critical methodologies, forms, canons and geographies current in English Studies; contributions are also most welcome from interested scholars in cognate disciplines. Reading Animals will be programmed to encourage comparative reflection on representations of animals and interspecies encounters in terms of both literary-historical period and overarching interpretive themes. As such, seven keynote presentations are planned; each will focus on how reading animals is crucial in the interpretation of the textual culture of a key period from the middle ages to the present. The conference will also feature a plenary panel of key scholars who will reflect on the importance when reading animals of thinking across periods and in thematic, conceptual and formal terms.

Papers should focus on the interpretation of textual animals at any date from the Middle Ages to the present. We seek submissions that read animals in relation to period or in terms of the following indicative list of themes:


  • animals in genre (adventure; tragedy; classic realism; satire; comedy; epic; lyric; elegy; nature writing; non-fiction, criticism and polemic; detective/mystery; gothic; sf; children’s literature; graphic novel)
  • animal genres (bestiary; fictionalised [auto-]biography; fairy tale; fable; allegory; didactic story; pet memoir)

Arts, Aesthetics, Philosophies

  • reading animals in theatre and performance, music, visual culture, film, dance, theory

Ethics, Politics, Society

  • intersections of species—race—ethnicity—disability—sex—gender—sexuality— class—


  • animals as subjects and objects of historical interpretation; animal materialisms; post-anthropocentric literary and cultural history

Science and Technology

  • bio-engineering; technologies of animal use; narratives of meat/vivisection; ethology; biosemiotics and zoosemiotics

Environments and Geographies

  • empire and colonialism; politics and poetics of space; globalisation; zoo-heterotopias; extinctions; comparative animal literatures

Further General Information

The University of Sheffield is a major UK research University, rated 13th in the UK in the THES rankings and 71st in the QS World University Rankings. Further Information about the University.

Sheffield is one of the largest cities in England, located 2 hours by train from London. Further Information about Sheffield.

Information about transport and visiting the University.

Conference Lead Organisers

Robert McKay, co-author (with The Animal Studies Group) of Killing Animals (2006); Associate Editor (Literature), Society and Animals

John Miller, author of Empire and the Animal Body: Violence, Ecology and Identity in Victorian Adventure Fiction (2012); General Secretary, Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (UK)

Further information, including the conference programme, conference costs and accommodation options will appear here shortly. Please sign up to our Twitter account for updates:

‘The hunter’s dance has no likeness to the elephant one’, The Elephant and the Birds (1942), by Sir William Empson, Professor of English Literature at the University of Sheffield from 1953-1972.