The Poetics of the Encounter: Animals, Ethics, and God

Brandi Estey-Burtt (
Theology and Religious Studies, Atlantic School of Theology,
March, 2014
Full text (external site)
Brandi Estey-Burtt is currently a Ph.D student in English Literature at Dalhousie University. Her research interests include contemporary intersections between religion and literature, ethics, post-colonial literatures, continental philosophy, and critical animal studies.


Despite growing interest in the past two decades, animal ethics remains a relatively minute area of theology. Some writings have emerged in theological circles arguing for animal rights or even for how to conceive of animals in terms of conventional theological notions such as souls and salvation. However, not many examine ideas and ways of living and being with animals in the ordinary, even mundane, situations of daily life. I suggest we need to cultivate ethical imagination in our interaction with animals, and that one way to do this involves coming face-to-face with them and being attentive to our embodiment. I draw on philosopher Emmanuel Levinas
as well as theopoetics to represent the ethical experience of the encounter. Texts such as The Lives of Animals and Disgrace by JM Coetzee provide examples of ethical and theological imagination in day-to-day encounters with animals.

ISSN: 2374-4103