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Donald Wesling is Professor Emeritus of English Literature at UC San Diego.  He has published on Wordsworth, John Muir, Edward Dorn, and Bakhtin; on rhyme, meter, and avant-garde prosody; and on how voice and emotion get into writing.  His book for Palgrave concerns how humans, evolved from animals, have learned to code perception of movement into sentences and scenes.  


This website is organized at the time of the 2019 publication of his study of Animal Perception and Literary Language, in order to inform interested persons about the book.

Visit the Portfolio page for a complete gallery and information for purchasing books online.


Announcing a Related Book by Donald Wesling, now ready (2019) for submission to a Press:

Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and the Rehabilitation of The Perceived World

This recently-completed book has a singular focus on a figure who is currently coming back into prominence and influence.  Beyond giving a literary scholar’s account of a major thinker, Donald Wesling offers suggestions on how to read for perceptual content using Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about disclosure.  He uses a set of M-P’s terms to interpret three poems (William CarlosWilliams, Ange Mlinko, Robert Burns) and one novel (Henry James), in order to tempt readers to try it on their own.  Preface and seven chapters; 35,000 words.



Latest Book: Animal Perception and Literary Language

Now available here from Palgrave Macmillan
Palgrave Macmillan is an imprint of Springer Nature, whose head office is in Switzerland.
Number of pages: xxiv, 327
Number of illustrations: 1 b/w
Chapter Downloads are available from Palgrave Macmillan’s website: As an example, Chapter I, 40 pages long, costs $29.99 to download.
The book is published in hardcover (ISBN 978-3-030-04968-3) and as an ebook (ISBN 978-3-030-04969-0).
Hardcover cost is $89.99; ebook cost is $69.99.
The book is also available at Amazon.com or at springer.com
or for the Americas call (toll free) 1-800-SPRINGER or email the publisher at: customerservice@springernature.com
For outside the Americas call +49 (0) 6221-345-4301 or email the publisher at: customerservice@springernature.com.


A Short Description of Animal Perception and Literary Language

This book shows that the perceptual content of reading and writing derives from our embodied minds. The being that tracks physical and mental movement in sentences is us, humans evolved from animals. After Chapter I specifies terms and questions in animal philosophy, and Chapter II surveys recent work on perception, the middle Chapters (III, IV) of the book describe attributes of multispecies thinking and define a tradition of writers in this lineage. Finally in Chapter V literature comes into full focus with readings of 12 works of many types. Overall, Donald Wesling’s book offers not a new method of literary criticism, but a reveal of what we all do with perceptual content when we read.


Summaries of the Chapters of the Book: Preface, Chapters I-V, Afterword

Short Descriptions of all the Elements of Donald Wesling’s Palgrave Macmillan book, Animal Perception and Literary Language
Preface   Chapter I   Chapter II   Chapter III   Chapter IV   Chapter V   Afterword

Preface: Animalist Perception and Interpretation
This book asks: how can we re-think the human-animal relationship, in order to rescue the animal inside ourselves from thousands of years of anthropo-centrism? This Preface declares the book’s contents: Donald Wesling offers a critique of our inherited rhetoric about all things human and animal, and defines “animalist perception and interpretation” (phrase from philosopher Jacques Derrida) as a focus for the emergent animal studies field. On the positive side, Wesling invents a tradition of animalist thought in the history of ideas, and then gives a practical plan better to know what we know from our senses, when we read. Wesling ends the Preface with the overall claim that literature is the home territory and performance space of animalist perception, and that literary criticism can be a major contributor to animalist interpretation.

Chapter I: Imbroglios of Humans and Nonhumans
The intent of Chapter I is to rectify the existing, human-centered discourses on the human-animal relation. If we ourselves are nature, as Bruno Latour, Gernot Böhme and some others allow, then we may study the unities and not the oppositions between humans and animals. First Donald Wesling proposes new concepts and terms for an animalist mode of interpretation; then he considers radical multispecies writers in science fiction (K.S. Robinson) and in the prose-poem (László Krasznahorkai). Last in Chapter I he sets up Maurice Merleau-Ponty (d. 1961) as our best guide on the animal and human body as moving agent of perceiving and thinking. With terms from this phenomenological framework, literary readers may better attend to attention and may read more successfully for perceptual content.

Chapter II: Perception, Cognition, Writing
Chapter II threads an intellectual story about hearing as a sense through a line of examples, both scholarly (example: Michel Serres) and literary (Gerard Manley Hopkins). Perception-into-writing is the focus. The point is that in language, we replace and re-enact an enormous range of movements within the material surround that perception has needed in order to perform. That is how we bring the instinctual, which is invisible, up into the visible, which is the legible. In this book the sentence, and the stringing of sentences called scene, are the carriers of animalist perception. Art sentences, in a novel by Louise Erdrich or in a poem by Ted Hughes, make us more conscious of our positions in time, space, hierarchy, society, the planet.

Chapter III: Attributes of Animalist Thinking
In Chapter III, Donald Wesling explains four modes of thought that are shared by all eight of the example-figures, that he brings forward in Chapter IV. These attributes of animalist thinking are: Creativity, or the idea that the senses continually bring in new materials for cognizing, feeling, and saying; Embodied Mind, or the idea that the body, as part of nature, participates in the showing of things; Dialogism, or the idea that ordinary thinking is a continual performance of the many betweens, including me-other, perceiver-perceived, feedback-calibration; and Amplification of Affect, or the premise that in living beings change is everything, and involves a series of interruptions, which are discontinuities in perceiving. Wesling concludes Chapter III by analyzing Annie Dillard’s essay on being startled by a wild weasel.

Chapter IV: Animalist Thinking From Lucretius to Temple Grandin
Chapter IV is long because each of eight major thinkers receives his or her own exposé, and each of the essays is preceded by pages that survey one work or many works, combing through to find how each animalist thinker shows the four attributes of Creativity, Embodied Mind, Dialogism, and Amplification of Affect. In the first instance, those attributes taken as a set are what identify the thinkers Donald Wesling puts forward as animalists. This is to invent a tradition where, apparently, no tradition existed. Wesling shows that Lucretius (ancient world), Michel de Montaigne (renaissance), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (romanticism), John Muir (the 19th century), Alphonso Lingis (with the next three, contemporary), Laurie Shannon, Brian Massumi, and Temple Grandin were always there with the attributes of membership.

Chapter V: Perception and Expectation in Literature
In Chapter V the keynote is movement, which has been a theme in every Chapter but is now essential to analysis of texts that show how the embodied mind is alive in time. The point is that changes of posture and changes of mind are changes in the division of our acts of attention. The array of a dozen works analyzed has a range of eras, types, lengths, structures, languages, including a best-seller hard-boiled novel, a classic French lyric about art-speech, and a mid-length meditation in Romantic blank-verse. (Here the book’s only Diagram is a grid showing focus-changes in perception and emotion in the array.) Donald Wesling concludes the whole book with a rationale, unfashionable but unapologetic, for taking every opportunity to name the prosodic and linguistic forms in these twelve items.

Afterword: Alphabet For Animalists
The Afterword and Bibliography are “For Animalists,” using a term defined in the Preface and in Chapters III-IV, because of the author’s wish to recruit the reader of this book to the ranks of a new kind of person. The Afterword extends and concludes the book in a space closer to political action, by these means: mini-stories on topics from alphabets to zoos; direct argument with friends and antagonists; striking statements on the animal question from a careful selection of recent writings by scholars who push further the theme of the book.


Three Comments on the Book

“Animalist perception: it’s a radically new topic, carved out of existing theoretical literature. Donald Wesling has chosen to write on difficult philosophers, and he gives to them clever and understandable readings. He brings together a tradition out of scattered writings. He synthesizes an array of perspectives. Last not least, his titles and subtitles are always witty.” (Enikö Bollobás, Professor of American Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest)

“The most challenging companion animals are microbes (by billions inside us) and (symbolically) the truly wild animals: tapeworms, wolverines, head lice, krill, rattlesnakes. The idea that the megafauna are our animal companions, when the biomass is practically entirely bacteria, seems spent. What I want to read is a radical animal argument bound to perception and feeling—Donald Wesling’s project. Is ‘animal’ better than Wesling’s ‘animalist’ as either/both adjective/noun? It felt good to use two sentences back. What would Derrida say? For then the human being wouldn’t have to be a human being, if it ever could, although it is an animal.” (John Granger, Lecturer in Literature, University of California, San Diego, USA)

“The book puts perception at the heart of thinking the trio: animality, reading, writing. It extends animal studies by focusing on the phenomenology of perception as event and process in literary and philosophical texts. It discovers and develops a notion of ‘animalist’ thinking and gives examples and demonstrations of how one might read in that tradition. It insists on and clarifies links between motion, sense, feeling, thought and writing…. It’s [also] nicely-written, zingy but serious…. This will be of interest for years to come as a substantial work of thinking.” (Sarah Wood, author of Without Mastery: Reading and Other Forces (2014))


Donald Wesling: Curriculum Vitae 2019

Born May 1939, Buffalo, New York, United States
San Diego, CA. 92109 USA. email: dwesling@ucsd.edu

B.A. in English Literature, Harvard College, 1960
B.A. in English Tripos, Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, England, 1962
Ph.D. in English Literature, Harvard University, 1965

Teaching Assistant, Harvard College, 1962-1965
Assistant Professor of English, University of California, San Diego, 1965-1967
Lecturer, American Literature, University of Essex, England, 1967-1970
Professor of English, University of California, San Diego, 1970 to the present
Chair, Department of Literature, University of California, San Diego, 1985-1988
Otto Salgo Professor of American Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, 1997-1998
Director of Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, 2007-2010

Harvard College National Scholarship, 1956-1960
Marshall Scholarship for Study in England, Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, 1960-1962
National Endowment for the Humanities Younger Humanist Fellowship for study in London, 1973-1974
American Council of Learned Societies Travel Grant for travel to Poland, 1987
University of California Research Exchange with Leningrad State University, Russia, from September to November 1988
Mountjoy Fellowship at the Basil Bunting Poetry Archive, Durham University, England, from April to June 1993
Humanities Center (UC San Diego) Faculty Fellowship, Spring Quarter 2002
Salgo Fellowship at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, 1997-1998
Honorary Doctorate degree awarded by Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, May 2004. Citation: Doctor Et Professor Honoris Causa
Fulbright Országh László Chair in American Studies, Distinguished Lecturing Award, at the North American Department, Institute of English and American Studies, Debrecen University, Hungary: January-June 2007.
Publications of Donald Wesling
Book Publications: Criticism and Literary History

Joys and Sorrows of Imaginary Persons (On Literary Emotions) (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi Editions BV, 2008)

Bakhtin and the Social Moorings of Poetry (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2003)

Bakhtin and the Nation (Special Issue of The Bucknell Review 43.2 [2000]: member of Editorial collective for hard-cover Issue)

The Scissors of Meter: Grammetrics and Reading (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996)

Literary Voice: The Calling of Jonah, written in collaboration with Tadeusz Sławek of the University of Silesia, Poland (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995)

The New Poetries: Poetic Form Since Wordsworth and Coleridge (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1985)

Internal Resistances: The Poetry of Edward Dorn, edited and with a chapter by Donald Wesling (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985)

John Muir: To Yosemite and Beyond, Writings from the Yosemite Years, 1863-1875, co- editor with Robert Engberg (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980; reprint, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998)

The Chances of Rhyme: Device and Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980)

Wordsworth and the Adequacy of Landscape (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970)

Articles (Recent)

“On Companion Animals in Krasznahorkai,” in Hungarian Review: a bi-monthly journal from Central Europe, V,1 (Budapest: November 2014), pp. 96-107.

“Placing the Work of Timothy Morton in Material Ecocriticism,” in Zoophilologica: Polish Journal of Animal Studies, I,1, ejournal in Polish, Russian, and English (Katowice: University of Silesia Publishing House, 2016), pp. 60-68.

“Bakhtin, Pushkin, and the Co-Creation of Those Who Understand,” in Bakhtiniana: Revista do Estudios do Discurso,11, 3, ejournal in Portugese and English (São Paolo: September/December, 2016), pp. 202-215.

Selected Articles [partial list]

*“Scholarly Writing and Emotional Knowledege,” in Papers on Language & Literature 43,4 (Edwardsville, Illinois, Fall 2007): 363-389.
*”Emotion Deriving from Sequence in William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All,” in William Carlos Williams Review 24,2 (Fall 2004): 41-47.
*”The Representational Moment in the Discourse of the Nation: Jean Baudrillard’s America,” in Hungarian Journal of English and American Literature 4,1-2 (Debrecen, Hungary, 1998; actually published in October 2001): 9-19.
“Scottish Narrative Since 1979: Monologism and the Contradictions of a Stateless Nation,” in Scotlands 4,2 (Edinburgh University Press, 1997): 81-98.
“Moral Sentiment from Adam Smith to Robert Burns,” in Studies in Scottish Literature 30 (1997): 147-155.
*”Constructivist Theory and the Literary Canon,” in Hungarian Journal of English and American Literature 3,1 (1997): 139-148.
“Michel Serres, Bruno Latour, and the Edges of Historical Periods,” in Clio: A Journal of Literature and History 26,2 (Spring 1997): 189-204.
“The Matter of Scotland,” in Writing Places and Mapping Words: Readings in British Cultural Studies, edited by David Jarrett, Tadeusz Rachwal, and Tadeusz Slawek (Katowice: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Slawkiego [University of Silesia Press], 1996): 117-134.
*”Free Verse,” an encyclopedia entry written in collaboration with Dr. Enikö Bollobás, ELTE, Budapest (co-author), in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, edited by Alex Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan (Princeton University Press, 1993): 425- 427.
Collaborative translation from the Russian, done with Molly W. Wesling [daughter], of Mikhail Ryklin’s essay, “Bodies of Terror: Theses Toward a Logic of Violence,” with an Introduction by Caryl Emerson, in New Literary History 24,1 (Winter 1993): 45-74, including Emerson’s Introduction.
Translation from the Russian of “Statement” and of four poems by Vladimir Aristov, in Third Wave: The New Russian Poetry, edited by Kent Johnson and Stephen M. Ashby (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992): 179-185. “The Speaking Subject in Russian Poetry and poetics Since 1917,” New Literary History 23,1 (Winter 1992): 93-112.
“Writing Leningrad/Leningrad Writing,” in PN Review 76, edited by Michael Schmidt (Manchester, UK: November-December 1990): 45-49 (double-column pages).
“Notes from the Middleground” [account of a literary trip to Leningrad], in Rolling Stock, edited by Ed and Jenny Dorn (Boulder, Colorado: 1989): 21.
*“Late Capitalist Lyric: Politics in American Poetry (and Poetics) Since 1945,” in Cross-Cultural Studies: American, Canadian, and European Literatures: 1945-1985, Edited by Mirko Jurak (Ljubljana: Edvard Kardelj University, 1988): 25-30.
*”Writing as Power in the Slave Narratives of the Early Republic,” Michigan Quarterly Review 26,3 (Summer 1987).
*”Przestrzen amerykanska” [“American Space”], published in Polish: Studio 8 (Warsaw, Poland: Fall 1986): 11 pages.
“Translating Sung Tz’u: Contemporary English Renditions of the Chinese Lyrical,” Tamkang Review 25 (Taipei, R.O.C.: Autumn 1984-Summer 1985): 39 pages. *”Rewriting the History of Poetic Form Since Wordsworth,” in Tak-Wai Wong and M.A. Abbas, editors, Rewriting Literary History (Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press, 1984).
*”Coleridge’s ‘Essay on Method’ and the Romantic Foundations of Modern Poetics,” in Continental Drifter 1,1 (Boulder, Colorado: 1984): 21-37.
*”Verse Form: Recent Studies” [a review article], written in collaboration with Dr. Enikö Bollobás, then of Seged University, Hungary: reviewing books by T. V. F. Brogan and Charles Hartman in Modern Philology 81,1 (August 1983): 53-60.
*”For a Materialist Poetics,” PN Review 30 (Manchester, England: December 1982): 30-34.
*”What the Canon Excludes: Lindsay and the American Bardic,” Michigan Quarterly Review 31,3 (Summer 1982): 479-485.
*”Difficulties of the Bardic: Literature and the Human Voice,” Critical Inquiry 8,1 (Fall 1981): 69-81.
“Methodological Implications of the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida for Comparative Literature: The Opposition East-West and Several Other Oppositions,” in Chinese-Western Comparative Literature: Theory and Strategy, edited by John J. Deeney (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1980): 79-111.
“Rhetoric and Poetic in an Avant-Garde Era,” Tamkang Review (Taipei, R. O. C.) 6,2 and 7.1 (October 1975-April 1976): 403-427.
*”The Prosodies of Free Verse,” Harvard English Studies 2 (Cambridge, MA: 1971): 155- 187.
*”The Inevitable Ear: Freedom and Necessity in Lyric Form, Wordsworth and After,” ELH: A Journal of English Literary History 36,3 (September 1969): 544-556.
“Eschatology and the Language of Satire in Piers Plowman,” Criticism 10,4 (Detroit: Fall 1968): 277-289.
*”Free Speech and Free Verse,” an account of the Berkeley Poetry Conference of Summer 1965 in The Nation (November 1965): 338-340.
“An Ideal of Greatness: Ethical Implications in Dr. Johnson’s Critical Vocabulary,” in University of Toronto Quarterly 34,2 (January 1965): 133-145.


Work in Fiction and in Poetry

1. Resistances (poems). Printed in Ireland by The Kerryman, Limited, Tralee: 1964.
2. Mayday (poems). Privately Printed in London: 1974.
3. The History of West Seneca, New York (prose poems). Black Mesa Press, Tucson, Arizona: 1981.
4. The Search of Appearance (poems). Ajtósi Dürer Editions: 2009.
5. Women in Charge: Stories. Amazon Kindle: 2012.



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