What is an animal? How should animals be treated? The Animal Studies Constellation explores these two interrelated questions and seemingly incompatible ways of representing animals. Exploring cultural representations of animals along with philosophical and historical accounts of their changing status, this Constellation will allow students to address these questions as well as consider more generally the aesthetic, intellectual, ethical, and political implications of our inevitable anthropocentrism.


Mario Ortiz-Robles is a Mellon-Morgridge Professor of the Humanities and leader in the emerging field of animal studies. His home department is English, but his wide-ranging intellectual interests have allowed him to forge strong connections across the UW-Madison campus. His Constellation aspires to build off the success of his Borghesi-Mellon workshop in Animal Studies and create a hub for scholarship and research focused on representation, rights, and animal-human relations. Prof. Ortiz-Robles has an extensive publication record that includes his book Literature and Animal Studies, which asks “Why do animals talk in literature?”

The Constellation: Connected Classes

ENGLISH 532: Literature and Animal Studies This course anchors the Animal Studies Constellation through its exploration how literature—as well other cultural representations, such as zoos, Broadway musicals, television shows, and animal films—help us understand animals and the human relationship to them.





+ BIOLOGY/BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 152: Introductory Biology 152 This foundational biology course addresses evolution and diversity of organisms and is one of the most in-demand options for fulfilling introductory biology requirements. 

+ PBS 370: Addressing Controversy: The Science, Ethics, and Public Discussion of Animal Research This new class examines the clash of conflicting ideologies and conflicting interpretations of fact in the of animals in research and setting of scientific policy for our society.