Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Pets, Pain, & Pigs


Photo shows exterior of the restaurant Foreign & Domestic, which features a pig with wings.

Image credit: Foreign & Domestic, by Aimee Wenske

As Deb noted in the last viz. post, recently many social media users have taken to posting photos of animals, usually puppies and kittens, as a means to demonstrate empathy in times of (both personal and public) trauma and tragedy. Animals may help us deal with our pain even in their visual form. (In person, they certainly benefit us!) I’m interested in how this use of animal visuals as an antidote to pain relates to the popular use of animal figures to sell the food we eat, such as the currently hip image of the pig. 

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Browsing Between Cute Baby Animals and Tragedy

Image Credit: klaynexas 3, 

          A post that links to images of cute animals is a common sight on Facebook these days. We share articles such as “13 Pictures of Humans Hugging Animals That Will Make You Feel Better” and “27 Baby Animals That Will Instantly Make Your Day Better.” Within the articles, these images are framed in terms of how they make the reader feel, how they will comfort us and raise us from whatever mental state (by implication, a negative one) we were in when we found them.

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The Serpent Was a Creeper: Religious Representations of Animals and Humanity in Children's Literature

First Serpent

Image Credit: The Little Picture Bible, by Isabella Child

When I was a child, I liked to imagine Adam in the Garden of Eden, surrounded by docile beasts as he handed out names like candy. "Elephant," he'd say--and I liked wondering whether Elephant was a proper noun, the name “Elephant," or simply a category. Elephant would smile gratefully and lumber to the back of the group so that Adam could see and name his next subject.

“Rueful Reluctance:” An Unwitting Cat Owner’s Search for Meaning Among Memes

Image Credit: "Nyan Cat-Pop Tart Cat," by Chris Torres

Last week, my neighbor stopped by to tell me that he was moving, and that pets were not allowed at his new residence.  With all due histrionics, he lamented the fact that he was going to take her to the shelter, and that “unless anybody here wants to adopt her, [insert overly dramatic sigh] I guess she’ll probably be put down.”


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