ENG4474 – The Nature of the Beast in American Literature

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

  • What kind of beast might be lurking inside you, barely kept in check by your self-control?
  • What kind of instincts do wild animals have?
  • How can representations of animals and human animality in American literary and cultural texts affect the way we think about issues such as "natural" behavior, competition, sexuality, differences between races and genders, and exploitation of various kinds?

From an interdisciplinary perspective, this course will explore the role of animality in American literature and culture.

Drawing upon debates from the academic fields of animal and animality studies, ecocriticism, American literary and cultural studies, and critical theory, we will explore issues such as evolutionary theories used to explain human and nonhuman behavior, different ways of thinking about human/animal difference, and the historical relationship between discourses of animality and the construction of human categories such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability, and class.

Learning outcome

After completing this course you will have:

  • acquired an overview of key ways animals and animality have been represented in American literary texts, along with the significance and implications of those representations;
  • acquired an introduction to important recent theoretical developments in the fields of animal and animality studies, as well as ecocriticism;
  • developed your skills in literary and cultural analysis, with close engagement with key texts, while connecting those texts to theoretical debates related to race, class, gender, sexuality, and species;
  • developed your skills analyzing literary texts in relation to dominant discourses and  historical and cultural contexts.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Admission to the European and American Literature Studies program or LeP.

The course has a capacity of 15 students.  ILOS will not provide additional capacity if there are more applicants.


Seminar, two hours per week for ten weeks, 20 hours in all.

Attendance is obligatory at least 8 out of 10 seminars. Additional absences must be justified by documentation given to the exam coordinator.


The assessment of the course is based on a term paper of approximately ten pages (4000 words). This does not include references and bibliography.

The topic for the term paper will be decided by the teacher and the student together. You will be given an opportunity to submit a draft of the term paper and receive individual feedback on both the form and content of the draft.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

In case of illness, you may apply for a postponed submission date. Please contact the exam administrator.

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Reports from periodic evaluations (in Norwegian)

Facts about this course






This course is offered irregularly


This course is offered irregularly

Teaching language