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Doge, lolcats, and other smol floofs: interdisciplinary approaches to animals in popular culture

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What does the fox say? If you’re interested in exploring the weird and wonderful world of animals in popular culture, from the blanket challenge to trash pandas, this is the course for you.

You will encounter popular representations of animals in various media, such as internet memes, songs, popular sayings, the news, viral videos, and popular science, among others.

Starting from informal animal content, each session will explore possible approaches from philosophy, literature, sociology, and psychoanalysis to grapple with the meaning of animals within our culture and our relationship to them.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through ten, two-hour workshops, made up of lectures, class discussions, small group work, and debates. Class sessions will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.

Syllabus content

Areas for exploration are likely to include:

  • What is an animal? – biological and cultural approaches
  • It me – the mirror test, self-consciousness, identification, and human identity
  • What does the fox say? Also: doge – translation and linguistic representation
  • One for sorrow, two for joy – animal idioms and prophecies
  • Can animals lie? – the psychoanalysis of animal deception
  • The blanket challenge! – object permanence, peekaboo, and the Fort/Da game
  • Birbs – rebellious internet birds, neuroses, and animal geography
  • Trash pandas and sky puppies – popular animal names, bestiaries, and cosmology
  • Toe beans! Boop the snoot! – neoteny and the science and philosophy of cuteness
  • Revision.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

For the assessment, you will produce a portfolio of work that may comprise short reflections, essays and other relevant responses. Portfolios will be in the region of 1,500 to 2,000 words.

Reading suggestions

Full guidance will be provided by the course tutor.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.