Susan McHugh, Ph.D., professor and chair in the Department of English, recently gave a keynote talk at Animal/Language: An Interdisciplinary Conference at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
The conference examined the relationship between animals and language in human understanding.
McHugh’s talk, titled “The Language of Swarms in Theory and Fiction,” explored connections between new entomological and humanities research that reconceptualizes honeybee swarms as being of similar character to neural networks.
By aligning the research to changing representations of swarming honeybees in literary fiction, McHugh made the case that literature is opening spaces for thinking through the practical and material consequences of recognizing how nonhuman superorganisms use language in collective deliberations.
Her talk was based on research for a chapter on contemporary bird and bee narratives in her forthcoming book, Love in a Time of Slaughters: Human-Animal Stories Against Extinction and Genocide.
McHugh is also the author of Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines (2011), a volume in the University of Minnesota Press’s Posthumanities series, as well as Dog (2004), a volume in Reaktion Books’ groundbreaking Animal series. With colleagues in the UK, she co-edited The Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies (2014) and Literary Animals Look (2013), a special issue of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture.