Ratatǫskr Research Group for Literary Animal Studies

Ratatoskr/Wikimedia Commons

Ratatǫskr is from Nordic mythology and is a squirrel that runs up and down the tree of life, Yggdrasil, carrying messages between the dragon in its roots and the eagle in its crown. It is thus both a representation of a ‘real’ animal species and a carrier of meaning in human mythology. This, as well as its agency and conveyance of knowledge about the world itself, makes Ratatǫskr an illustrative symbol of the research group’s interests.

The Ratatǫskr Research Group for Literary Animal Studies was founded in 2018, and gathers people working in Comparative Literature at Södertörn University who have an interest in literary animal studies. The study of the relationship between animals and humans is an interdisciplinary field that is currently thriving, and which is represented in several subjects at Södertörn.

In Comparative Literature, we offer a supplementary level course and a Master’s course that focus on the relationship between animals and literature, and now have more researchers, senior lecturers and doctoral students orienting us within the field. The motivation for establishing the Ratatǫskr Research Group for Literary Animal Studies is to read and discuss each other’s texts, plan conference travel, apply for research funding, develop courses and benefit from each other’s networks. We also want to develop cooperation with people who are active in this field in Comparative Literature and in other subjects, both inside and outside Södertörn University. In the long run, our aim is that the group will find a place in the international arena for literary animal studies.

We are particularly interested in questions such as: How is the animal–human relationship depicted in literature? How can various literary forms (such as zoopoetics) and different types of reading contribute to problematising anthropocentric paradigms in comparative literature? How can we understand the relationship between matter, metaphor and agency in literary depictions of non-human animals? What is the relationship between the hierarchically organised animal/human dichotomy and ideas about categories such as sex, sexuality, ‘race’ and disability? What ontologies regarding the human-animal relationship are possible to imagine? And how are these questions linked to ethical issues and dilemmas in the wider humanistic field and in ongoing social interactions between species?

Ratatǫskr Research Group for Literary Animal Studies meets four times per semester. Information about our activities is updated on this page on an ongoing basis. Members Amelie Björck (senior lecturer), Camilla Flodin (researcher), Emma Kihl (doctoral student), Claudia Lindén (senior lecturer), Ann-Sofie Lönngren (senior lecturer) and Oscar von Seth (doctoral student). If you wish to contact us you are welcome to email ratatoskr@sh.se


On December 5-6, 2019, there was a northern-European symposium with invited speakers from Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Sápmi. The symposium attracted around 50 persons and resulted in the formation of the Ratatǫskr Network for Literary and Cultural Animal Studies. Contact person in each of the countries that are part of the network is:

  • Sune Borkfelt, research assistant, School of communication and culture, Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Gunnar Eggertsson, researcher, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Karoliina Lummaa, ass. prof., University of Turku, Turku, Finland
  • Michael Lundblad, prof., University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • Hanna Mattila, doctoral student, lecturer, Sámi University of Applied Sciences, Norway
  • Malgorzata Poks, PhD, lecturer, University of Silesia, Sosnowiec, Poland