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Tag: Boston College

Q&A with Christopher Polt PhD., who teaches a Talking Animals course at Boston College (Part 2)

by Patch O'Furr

We’re back after Part 1 of the Q&A with Christopher Polt, PhD., from Boston College. His Twitter is full of art and animation history that welcomes furry fans.

Rate My Professor loves him.

(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?

(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.

Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1756-0101-1126

She talks about chasing other animals through the woods, how she used to nap on her humans’ laps and sleep in their bed, and how she barked a lot but never scared anyone. So after we read a range of things like that, we go to the pet cemetery and read modern grave markers, and we compare how people grieve for animals differently and what they choose to celebrate and memorialize about them. My favorite is this one for a cat named Useless:

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Q&A with Christopher Polt PhD., who teaches a Talking Animals course at Boston College (Part 1)

by Patch O'Furr

It wasn’t long ago that Furry Twitter found Christopher Polt, PhD. and his threads full of art and animation history that whole-heartedly welcome furries.

His content isn’t just catering to fandom — it goes deep into history in a fun and engaging way. But the parts with furry interest reminded me of another account profiled here before, Ancient Furries. I asked him if he wanted a brief “Great Accounts To Follow” article, and it led to a much more involved Q&A. It’s special to get such effort from a professor who handles lots of students and curriculum! Here’s Part 1, with Part 2 posting tomorrow.

(Dogpatch Press): I see you’re a Classicist and Assistant Professor at Boston College. That looks like a super active place (with beautiful architecture!) Can you talk about what it’s like to work there and what the job involves?

(Christopher Polt:) If you like Collegiate Gothic, we’ve got you covered! It’s a nice place to work — supportive colleagues, friendly and bright students, freedom to teach mostly what and how I want. Each semester I teach two or three courses, which are a mix of intro/intermediate ancient Greek or Latin, advanced seminars on Latin literature (esp. Roman poetry), and courses on ancient culture that don’t require knowing ancient languages (some examples: Roman spectacles; art and resistance under the early Empire; and “Beast Literature,” which is about talking animals in ancient and modern literature and film).

I also spend a lot of time on research and writing. My first book, which is coming out from Cambridge soon, is about how Romans in the 1st century BCE used theatrical comedy to think and talk about their everyday lives and relationships.

I’ll bet Covid has really affected everyone at colleges everywhere, what’s your story for that? You mentioned starting to tweet about Disney history a few months ago, is that using social media to maintain energy with your work that got disrupted by the pandemic?

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