Current Rearch Projects - New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Animals in Literature

Scholarship into the place of animals and human-animal relations in literature is one of the strongest focal points of research at NZCHAS.

Completed projects 

Armstrong Sheep

Associate Professor Philip Armstrong (of the Department of English and the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies) has just published his latest book, a study of the natural and cultural history of sheep. The book is part of Reaktion Books' influential 'Animal' series.... [read more]

Listen to Philip's interview about the book with National Radio's Kim Hill here.

'A superb volume that more than meets the high bar set in the Reaktion Books Animal Series' -- Barbara J. King, TLS.

Download the full TLS review of Sheep here. 


Political Animals: Dogs in Modern Russian Culture

Political Animals: Representing Dogs in Russian Culture (Brill 2015), the latest book by Professor Henrietta Mondry (of the Departments of English and Russian, and the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies), has been reviewed at length and very positively in Slavic Review (75.1, Spring 2016, pp. 218-19), the foremost international journal in its field. The reviewer describes Political Animals as a “significant contribution to the growing field of animal studies”, and singles out for special praise the book’s “impressive range of scholarship”, its virtuoso investigation of a “diverse set of texts and contexts”, and its “particularly productive” exploration of Russian folk beliefs.

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A New Zealand Book of Beasts: Animals in our History, Culture and Everyday LifeNZ Book of Beasts

by Annie Potts, Philip Armstrong and Deidre Brown (Auckland University Press, 2-13). This book is the first comprehensive human-animal studies analysis of New Zealand's history, literature, visual arts, popular culture and everday life.

The book is divided into four sections. Part One, 'Animal Icons' offers a history and analysis of the meanings associated with four 'totem' NZ animals: moa, sheep, dolphin and whale, Part Two, 'Companion Animals', provides a detailed history of 'pet' relationships from pre-European times to the present. In the third part, 'Art Animals', examines engagement with animals in a wide range of visual arts, focussing in particular on indigenous Māori traditions and on contemporary artists. And the final section, 'Controversial Animals', explores New Zealanders' complex and sometimes contradictory attitudes to animals we think of as 'pests', and those we farm for food.

'A New Zealand Book of Beasts ... will prove a treasure to anyone interested in an in-depth look at animals in New Zealand that goes beyond the stereotypes.' – Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, New Zealand Listener.

What Animals Mean

January 2008 saw the publication by Routledge of What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity, by NZCHAS Co-Director Philip Armstrong.

What Animals Mean begins by examining the function of animals and animal representations in four classic novels: Robinson CrusoeGulliver’s TravelsFrankenstein and Moby Dick. The later chapters then explore how these stories have been re-worked, in ways that reflect shifting social and environmental forces, by later novelists including H G Wells, D H Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Brigid Brophy, Bernard Malamud, Will Self, Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel and J M Coetzee.

Read the transcript of an interview with Philip Armstrong about this book on Australia's ABC National Radio.

Order What Animals Mean by Philip Armstrong

Knowing Animals

The launch of NZCHAS coincided with the publication of a collection of essays in Human-Animal Studies called Knowing Animals edited by NZCHAS Co-Director, Philip Armstrong, and Laurence Simmons from the University of Auckland. The volume includes essays on animals in philosophy, literature, painting, environmental discourse, science, the circus, TV, cinema and popular culture. Contributors include Brian Boyd, Ian Wedde, Allan Smith, Helen Tiffin, Barbara Creed, Rick de Vos, Catharina Landstrom, Alphonso Lingis, as well as three NZCHAS members - Philip ArmstrongAnnie Potts , and Tanja Schwalm

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Completed postgraduate projects 

Sally Borrell"Atwood's Animals: Triangular Identification in The Edible Woman, Surfacing and The Blind Assassin", MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2005.

Kirsty Dunn, "Inherit the World, Devour the Earth: Representations of Western Meat Production and Consumption in Contemporary Fiction", MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2015.

Annie Finnie, "Framing the Beast: Human-Animal Narratives in Selected Works by Janet Frame", MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2010.

Sarah Fisk, "When Words Take Lives: The Role of Language in the Dehumanization and Devastation of Jews in the Holocaust", MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2009.

Donelle Gadenne, "A Canine-Centric Critique of Selected Dog Narratives", MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2015.

Hadassa Prattley, "Defamiliarising the Zoo: Representations of Animal Captivity in Five Contemporary Novels", MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2013.

Tanja Schwalm"Animal Writing: Magical Realism and the Posthuman Other", PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, 2009.

Peter Ward, "Animals in the Fiction of John Irving and Haruki Murakami", MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2012.

Mandala White, "From the Sublime to the Rebellious: Representations of Nature in the Urban Novels of a Contemporary New Zealand Author”, MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2007.