Mary Trachsel

University of Iowa
Rhetoric

Mary Trachsel is an associate professor in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of Iowa. She is a native Iowan, having grown up on a family farm near Sumner in Bremer County, Northeast Iowa, where she developed a lifelong interest in the natural environment and in human-animal relationships. Now, as a rhetoric scholar, she studies human-nonhuman animal communication and the rhetoric of environmental advocacy. Her current project is called Reviving Biophilia, a book that explores the historical development of human-animal relations in academic settings and considers academic responsibilities for raising ecological consciousness. In particular, the study asks how the interdisciplinary academic project of Animal Studies might help to cultivate what biologist Edward O. Wilson describes as "biophilia," an innate affective and aesthetic responses to the rest of the natural world. As environmental advocate Bill McKibben has often observed, if people don't care about the environment in these nonrational ways, they will not be moved to action on behalf of the environment, regardless of the scientific evidence that action is required. Mary teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in rhetoric, composition, and animal studies and is the faculty advisor to the University of Iowa animal-interest Student Organization, PAWS. She is an associate editor of the Journal of Critical Animal Studies. She lives in Iowa City with her husband, two dogs, and three cats.