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Tag: talking animals

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:

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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Publishing for Furries; a Look at Mainstream Writing For and About Furries, by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

This is a companion piece to Fred’s overview of The History of Furry Publishing.  See Part One: Beginnings – and Part Two: Current Publishers.  

This looks beyond publishing by-fans/for-fans, to books you might find in stores.  There are very few because fans make a tiny market for a mainstream publisher.  I’ve often said that I think it’s worth ambitiously hoping for a “Furry Bible” coffee table book (like a Taschen book) worth selling in stores one day.

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Publishing for Furries; a Look at Mainstream Writing For and About Furries.


Okay, we’ve covered the specialty furry publishing companies. What furry books have there been from the non-furry publishers?

Most of them are either s-f & fantasy novels about talking animals, or how-to-draw books. You can probably find the former in the Literature or Science Fiction/Fantasy sections of bookstores, and the latter in the Animation or Art sections.

51NXqOETpYLLITERATURE. The s-f & fantasy selection at bookstores is constantly changing. You can usually find such classics as: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll (1865 and 1871); The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (1908); Animal Farm, by George Orwell (1945); and Watership Down, by Richard Adams (1972), in Classics or Literature.

There have been so many s-f novels over the years that I won’t try to list them all. One that many furry fans have cited as particularly inspiring them is The Pride of Chanur, by C. J. Cherryh (1981). It and its sequels have been reprinted many times, and are likely to be easily available. A more Young Adult fantasy, usually in Children’s Books, is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien (1971), which will probably always be in print because it won the Newbery Medal.

The only non-furry anthology of furry short stories is Furry!: The World’s Best Anthropomorphic Fiction!, edited by Fred Patten (2006), still in print despite belief in furry fandom that it is out of print today.

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Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

maddy-kettle-100dpi_lgMaddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch, by Eric Orchard. Illustrated.

Marietta, GA, Top Shelf Productions, August 2014, softcover $14.95 (89 [+ 2] pages).

This is a softcover children’s fantasy in the tradition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: a young girl has adventures in a magic world full of talking animals. It is in the publisher’s “Kids Club” series, but like all the best children’s fantasies, it is really for all ages.

Eleven-year-old Maddy Kettle was happy, living in her parents’ bookstore/house in the Western-looking town of Dustcloud Gap. Her pet musical floating spadefoot toad, Ralph (she tethered him on a string, like a balloon), made her popular with all of the other schoolkids. But one night Maddy woke up and saw the Thimblewitch flying away from their home, and when she went downstairs to investigate, she found her parents turned into talking kangaroo rats. Her father refused to let her chase after the witch to cure them, insisting that it was too dangerous. But after the witch’s spider goblins kidnap the kangaroo rats and Ralph, there is nothing to keep her from going after them.

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