Ecoculture: Studies of Animals and Nature in Folklore, Literature and Culture


Comparative Studies of Ideas and Cultures (3rd level)

Slovene Studies – tradition and modernity

Course code: 67 

Year of study: Brez letnika 

Course principal:
Assoc. Prof. Marjetka Golež Kaučič, Ph.D.


Workload: lectures 60 hours, seminar 30 hours

Course type: general elective 

Languages: Slovene, English

Learning and teaching methods: lectures, discussion classes 


Course syllabus


Due to the new ecological and ethical (bioethical) findings within the wider social and cultural context and the changed conditions around the world, which ultimately caused the focus to shift from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism, the Slovenian research environment also requires the studies of both animals (zoofolklore, ethnozoology, ecocriticism) and nature (ecofolklore, ecopoetics, ethnobotany, cultural botany), and the human relationships to them as represented in folklore, literature, and culture.


Zoofolkloristics is a new discipline inside the classical folklore studies based on the view of the animals as a real creature and not as a symbol or metaphor. This discipline tries to expand the critical view to traditional knowledge about relationship between human and other animals with exceptional messages about cohabitation of humans and non-humans on one side, and some relationships and cultural practices, which are not acceptable today, on the other side. Zoofolkloristics introduces the new theoretical and analytical discourse by giving the insight into changes and redefintions of human attitudes towards animals both in folklore and within traditional and contemporary ritual practices, and at the same time exerts influence upon the legal safety of non-human subjects.


Ecofolkloristics studies the world of plants and nature as thematized in folklore texts, as well as in different cultural practices and in traditions.


Ecocriticism is a special form of literary criticism, which studies the non-human nature and comprehends it in the sense of autonomous power, giving it a status of a subject.


Cultural animal studies researches animal as a motif, a symbol, a historical abstraction, which can be objectivized and alegorised, mostly without critical political reflection, but with some doubts about anthropocentric relationship of human towards other animals.


Critical animal studies enable the possibility of a subjectivity of an animal, surpassing structural hierarchies in the human-animal relationship .


Students will be introduced to different paradigm studies of the relationship between human, other animals, and nature, on the basis of interdisciplinary network of ecoculture through the following four topical sections:


Zoofolkloristics and ekofolkloristics

  • theoretical and methodological fundamentals of zoofolkloristics and ekofolkloristics (ideas, concepts and discourses; in Slovenian and international scope)
  • anthropomorphism, zoomorphism, synanthropic and anthropophilic aspects
  • characteristics of zoo- and eco- folklore through folk song and narrative
  • imagery depictions of animals in folklore – from symbol to object and subject (individuum)
  • plants and nature in folklore: ethno- and cultural botany (knowledge about flora), images of nature in folklore
  • positive and negative cultural ritual practices (customs and habits, beliefs) in relations toward animal and nature – redefinition



  • theoretical and methodological introduction to ecocriticism (anthropocentrism, ecocentrism, biocentrism, the defence of nature, literary ecology, green literature, literary animal studies)
  • teoretical concepts of the animals/nature/environment in Slovenian and in international literary works,
  • ecocritical echoes from 19th and 20th century prose (Cankar, Kosovel, Geister)
  • Detela, Komelj, Coetzee and question of vegetarianism and veganism, as well as relationships between species


Cultural animal studies

  • theoretical and methodological introduction into cultural animal studies
  • constructions of animals, dichotomy human/animal, culture/nature
  • humananimalia (humananimal)
  • language and animals
  • domestication
  • cultural heritage and animals (e.g. Lipizzaner horses)
  • animals and nature in film
  • ethic and legal protection of animals


Critical animal studies

  • definition, theoretical and methodological insights into discipline
  • speciesism (Ryder and Dunayer)
  • about animal question as a political question
  • philosophical and anthropological discourse and activism
  • conceptualization of animals and discussion of their moral status in various discourses
  • effects of representation of animality inside anthropocentric culture
  • animal abolitionism and Garrry Francione’s animal-ethical model
  • critical approach towards ecological holism
  • transformation of the traditional relationship between human and animal, and animal as an individual and not species


Links to other courses

  • The course is multidisciplinary oriented and falls under the folklore studies, but in scope relates to literary science, ethnology, cultural and social anthropology, philosophy, ethics, law and ecology.



  • Armstrong, Suzane J. in Richard Botzler: The Animal Ethics Reader. London, New York: Routledge, 2003.
  • Berlin, Brent: Ethnobiological Classification: Principles of categorization of plants and animls in traditional societes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
  • Calarco, Matthew (ur.): Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
  • Cavell, Stanley, Cora Diamond, John McDowell, Ian Hacking in Cary Wolfe: Philosophy & Animal Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
  • Clutton-Brock, Juliet: The Unnatural World: Behavioural Aspects of Humans and Animals in the Process of Domestication. V: Aubrey Manning in James Serpell (ur.), Animals and Human Society. Changing perspective. London, New York: Routledge, 2006: 23‒36.
  • Čeh Steger, Jožica. Ekokritika in literarne upodobitve narave. Maribor: Založba Litera, 2015. 349 str. ISBN 978-961-6949-63-7.
  • Derrida, Jacques: ‘ Eating Well’ or the Calculation of the Subject: An Interview with Jacques Derrida. V: Connor and Nancy Cadava (ur.), Who Comes After the Subject? New York, London: Routledge, 1991, 96–119.
  • Derrida, Jaques: The Animal That Therefore I am. (prev. David Willis). Critical inquiry 28, 2002, 369–418.
  • Detela, Jure, Ekologija, ekonomija preživetja in živalske pravice. Nova revija 77. 1473─1484, Ljubljana, 1984.
  • Dunayer, Joan (2009): Specizam. Diskriminacija na osnovi vrste. Zagreb, Čakovac, Institut za etnologiju i folkloristiku & Dvostruka duga.
  • Donaldson, Sue in Will Kymlicka: Zoopolis. A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Oxford: Oxford: University Press, 2011.
  • Fairclough, Norman: Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. Harlow etc.: Longman, 2010.
  • Ferry, Luc: Novi ekološki red. Drevo, žival in človek. (Le nouvel ordre écologique). Ljubljana: Založba Krtina (Zbirka Krt 21), 1998.
  • Finke, Peter: Kulturökologie. V: Nünning, Vera in Ansgar Nünning (ur.), Konzepte der Kulturwissenschaften. Theoretische Grundlagen – Ansätze – Perspektiven. Stuttgart, Weimar: Metzler V., 2003, 248–279.
  • Francione, Gary L.: Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
  • Glotfelty, Cheryll: Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Evironmental Crisis. V: Cheryll Glotfelty in Harold Fromm (ur.), The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens in London: The University of Georgia Press, 1996, XV–XXXVII.
  • Golež Kaučič, Marjetka. Thematization of nonhuman subjectivity in folklore, philosophical, and literary texts. Cosmos 27, 2011, 121‒154.
  • —-,: “A bunny is a beautiful thing” or Animals as machines (!?): the perception of the animal world in Slovenian folk songs. Traditiones, 42/1, 2013, 42, 71‒88.
  • —-,: Zoofolkloristics: first insights towards the new discipline. Narodna umjetnost, ISSN 0547-2504, 2015, vol. 52, no. 1, str. 7-30.
  • —-,: Zoopoetika u poeziji Tomaža Šalamuna. V: Kovač, Zvonko (ur.), Kozak, Krištof Jacek (ur.), Pregelj, Barbara (ur.). Obzorja jezika – obnebja jezika: poezija Tomaža Šalamuna. Zagreb: FF Press, 2014, str. 145-163, ilustr.
  • Haviland, William A.: Kulturna antropologija. Jastrebarsko: Naklada Slap, 2004 (1975).
  • Hochman, Jhan: Green Studies: Nature in Film, Novel, and Theory. Moscow. Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 1998.
  • Hofer, Stefan: Die Ökologie der Literatur. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2007.
  • Hösle, Vittorio: Filozofija ekološke krize. Moskovska predavanja. Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska, 1996 (1991).
  • Ingold, Tim (ur.): What is an Animal? One World Archeology 1. London in New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • Lockwood, Randall: Anthropomorphism is not a four-letter word. V: R. J. Hoage (ur.), Perceptions of Animals in American Culture . Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1989, 41‒56.
  • Marjanić, Suzana in Antonija Zaradija Kiš (ur.), Kulturni bestijarij I. Zagreb: Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada in Institut za etnologiju i folkloristiku 2007.
  • Marjanić, Suzana in Antonija Zaradija Kiš (ur.), Književna životinja, Kulturni bestijarij II. Zagreb: Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada in Institut za etnologiju i folkloristiku, 2012.
  • Meeker, Joseph W.: The comedy of survival: studies in literary ecology. New York: Scribner’s, 1974.
  • Möderndorfer, Vinko (1948). Verovanja, uvere in običaji Slovencev. Narodopisno gradivo. Celje: Družba Sv. Mohorja.
  • Noske, Barbara (1993). Humans and Other Animals: Beyond the Boundaries of Anthropology. London: Pluto.
  • Ryder, Richard D.: Animal revolution: changing attitudes towards specieciesism. London in New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2000.
  • Rueckert, William: Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism. Iowa Review 9/ 1, 1978, 71–86.
  • Sax, Boria: Animals as tradition . V: Linda Kalof in Amy Fitzgerald (ur.), The animals reader. The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings. Oxford in New York: Berg, 2007, 270‒278.
  • Serpell, James: In the Company of Animals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Shepard, Paul: Thinking Animals: Animals and the Development of Human Intelligence. New York: Viking, 1978.
  • Steeves, H. Peter (ur.): Animal Others. On Ethics, Ontology, and Animal Life. New York: Albany State University of New York Press, 1999. 93‒117.
  • Vičar, Branka: Si kdaj videl svobodnega konja. Filozofski kontekst animalistične etike v poeziji Jureta Detele in Miklavža Komelja. V: Etika v slovenskem jeziku, literaturi in kulturi. Center za slovenščino kot drugi tuji jezik. Ljubljana: FF. 2013, 35-45.
  • Visković, Nikola: Životinja i čovjek: prilog kulturnoj zoologiji. Split: Književni krug, 1996
  • —-: Stablo i čovjek: prilog kulturnoj botanici. Zagreb: Antibarbarus d.o.o., 2001.
  • —–: Kulturna zoologija. Zagreb: Naklada Jesenski in Turk, 2009.
  • Zapf, Hubert: (ur.): Kulturökologie und Literatur. Beiträge zu einem transdisziplinären Paradigma der Literaturwissenschaft. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2008.
  • Willis, Roy (ur.): Signifying Animals. Human Meaning in the Natural World. New York: Routledge, 1990.


Objectives and competences

This course introduces students to the new academic disciplines based on studies of animals and nature in folklore, literature and culture. With help of new theoretical discourses and complex methodological paradigms to enable insight into human relations towards animals and nature through different historical periods, and to emphasizes changes of that relationship. Students will be acquainted with relevant Slovenian and international scientific literature and by lectures and seminars forming the research ground for student’s individual research. The studying process should contribute to knowledge about human relations towards animals in folklore, literature and culture. The multidisciplinary findings of these studies might redefine the relationships between people, animals, nature, and the environment on a new ecological and ethical basis. Emphasis is on the relationship between species in folklore and literature.


Intended learning outcomes

Students use the knowledge acquired in the course to write a piece of academic writing that can serve as a draft of a dissertation chapter or a research article.



Long written assignment (60 %), presentation (20 %), final examination (written/oral) (20 %).


Ecoculture: Studies of Animals and Nature in Folklore, Literature and Culture

Assoc. Prof. Marjetka Golež Kaučič, Ph.D.,


Folk and Literary: Folklore and Intertextual Aspects

Assoc. Prof. Marjetka Golež Kaučič, Ph.D.,


Intertextuality and Cultural Memory

Prof. Marko Juvan, Ph. D.,



Assoc. Prof. Marjetka Golež Kaučič, Ph.D.,


Short folklore forms in culture and society

Asist. prof. Saša Babič, Ph. D.,


Slovenian Emigrants between Tradition and the Present

Prof. Marina Lukšič Hacin, Ph.D.,


The etics of Drama

Prof. Krištof Jacek Kozak, Ph. D.,


The Language of Objects: Topics in Slovenian Material Culture

Prof. Maja Godina Golija, Ph.D.,


The Linguistic Identity of Slovenian Regions

Prof. Jožica Škofic, Ph.D.,


The Role of Woman in Slovenian Society and Culture

Assoc. Prof. Mirjam Milharčič Hladnik, Ph.D.,


Tradition and Ethics

Prof. Edvard Kovač, Ph.D.,


Tragedy in Theater, Culture, and Society

Prof. Krištof Jacek Kozak, Ph. D.,


Word – Music – Ritual

Assist. Prof. Katarina Šter, Ph. D. ,