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Dogs as Sensory Extensions of Self: A Gift / Scott Slovic

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Dogs as Sensory Extensions of Self: A Gift / Scott Slovic

Dogs as Sensory Extensions of Self: A Gift / Scott Slovic, Keynote in International Symposium "Companion Species in North American Cultural Productions", organisé, sous la responsabilité scientifique de Claire Cazajous et Wendy Harding, par le Département d'Études du monde anglophone, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, 17 juin 2016.

Scholars such as Laurence Goldstein, in The Flying Machine and Modern Literature (1986), have long been thinking of machines, aerial and otherwise, as “protheses,” as empowering extensions of the human self. It is common to think of prosthetic limbs (arms and legs, and these days even hands) as mechanical corrections for disabled bodies—and it makes sense to think of hearing aids and eyeglasses, too, as artifical means of counteracting the effects of aging or accident. But what about the prosthetic contributions companion animals? The “functionality” of pets? Immediately one thinks of “seeing-eye dogs,” a familiar employment of animals not simply as companions but as “support staff.” If one is blind and makes use of a seeing-eye dog, the dog becomes both friend and guide. Even if a person is fit and fully functional, the companionship of an animal -a falcon, a horse, a cat- can contribute to human wellbeing in a purely practical way (hunting, transportation, ridding one’s home of mice). But I am particulary interested in the role of dogs as “sensory extensions of self.” When psychologist Alexandra Horowitz describes the way dogs experience the world (what we might call “dog epistemology”) in Inside of a Dog (2009), she is essentially offering a remarkably non-human world view in terms accessible to human readers—her book itself, based on her life with a particular dog and her research on dogs more generally, works as a sensory extension of the kind I have in mind. When nature writer Richard K. Nelson describes his life with hunting dogs in southeastern Alaska in such works as The Island Within (1989), he reveals these companion animals as sensory prostheses who help him track deer and avoid grizzly bears. When I run with my eyes closed for five minutes at a time along long, flat Heceta Beach on the Oregon Coast, a few steps from the waves, listening to the surf and the sea birds and trusting my companion Hanna to guide me by leash straight ahead, I am relying on my dog as a sensory extension who frees me from my own eyes and enables me to experience the world safely through sound and touch. In this way, companion species can facilitate mind-expanding changes in perspective—I understand this as a gift, an interactive behavior, from my canine companion, not simply as a mechanical function.

    Date de réalisation : 17 Juin 2016
    Durée du programme : 61 min
    Classification Dewey : Critique et histoire de la littérature américaine de langue anglaise, Respect de la nature et de la vie (morale de l'environnement, morale écologique)
    Catégorie : Conférences
    Niveau : niveau Master (LMD), niveau Doctorat (LMD), Recherche, L3
    Disciplines : Langue et Littérature anglaise et américaine, Civilisation anglaise et américaine
    Collections : Companion Species in North American cultural productions
    ficheLom : Voir la fiche LOM
    Auteur(s) : SLOVIC Scott
    producteur : Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès-campus Mirail
    Réalisateur(s) : MICHAUD Nathalie
    Editeur : SCPAM / Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès-campus Mirail
    Langue : Anglais
    Mots-clés : relations homme-animal, écocritique, philosophie de la nature
    Conditions d’utilisation / Copyright : Tous droits réservés à l'Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès-campus Mirail et aux auteurs.


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