“Giving Voice to Animals”: A CALS/Centre County Reads Roundtable
Shelby Van Pelt’s bestselling novel Remarkably Bright Creatures (2022) focuses on an unlikely friendship between a widow working the night shift at a West Coast aquarium and one of the animals kept “captive” there, a curmudgeonly but remarkably intelligent Pacific octopus named Marcellus. Readers have been especially moved by Marcellus’s deeds and his words, as he is afforded a human-like voice across the narrative. The panelists on this roundtable discussion will use Van Pelt’s novel, this year’s Centre County Reads selection, as a launch point for a broader discussion about depictions of animals in literature and other media, and the possibilities and limitations of giving voice to nonhuman creatures.
- Nigel Rothfels, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Nigel Rothfels is an historian of animals and cultures. He is author of Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo (2002), co-author of Elephant House (2015), an exploration of the lives of elephants and keepers in a contemporary American Zoo, and editor of the cross-disciplinary collection Representing Animals (2002), one of the foundational works in Animal Studies. He is the General Editor of the series Animalia: Of Animals and Cultures, published by Penn State University Press. His most recent book is Elephant Trails: A History of Animals and Cultures (2021).
- Benjamin Hale, Writer in Residence, Bard College. Benjamin Hale is the author of the novels The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Twelve, 2011), and The Grid (forthcoming from Simon & Schuster), and the story collection The Fat Artist and Other Stories (Simon & Schuster, 2016). His writing has appeared, among other places, in Harper’s Magazine, the Paris Review, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013. He teaches at Bard College and Columbia University, serves as a Senior Editor at Conjunctions, and lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.
- Jessica Myrick, Professor of Media Studies, Penn State. Jessica Gall Myrick’s work examines our emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to media messages including those featuring animals such as cat videos, “Shark Week,” and internet memes, to name a few.
- Jess Rafalko, Graduate Student in English, Penn State.
Following the panelists’ opening statements there will be ample time for questions and answer with the audience.