Animal emotions expert to talk at Albany campus


Dr Jeffrey Masson, speaking at Massey’s
Albany campus, Wednesday, 2 May, 12-1pm.

Best-selling author on human and animal psychology Dr Jeffrey Masson give a talk at Massey University’s Albany campus on May 2.

American-born Dr Masson, who lives in Auckland, will read from his forthcoming book Apex Predator, about human beings and orcas, as part of the University’s Writers Read Series.

His first book on animal emotions, When Elephants Weep, published in 1995, became an international bestseller and was translated into 20 languages. It was followed by the equally popular Dogs Never Lie About Love, and a further seven books about animal emotions and what humans can learn from them, including The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats. Writing about farm animals in The Pig Who Sang to the Moon (2003) prompted him to become a vegan.

Dr Masson has a PhD in Sanskrit and was a Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto during the 1970s. While there, he trained as a Freudian psychologist, and in 1980 became the Project Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives.

He was given access to Freud’s papers, and his research led him to believe that Freud made a mistake when he abandoned his seduction theory and stopped believing that the source of much human misery resulted from sexual abuse. His views were so controversial that he was fired from the project and had his membership with the International Psycho-Analytical Association revoked. The saga is the topic of a book called In the Freud Archives by journalist Janet Malcolm – the subject of libel suit by Dr Masson.

Skeptical that humans could be understood (at least by psychologists), he turned to animals in his research and writing, and once explained the reason for his radical change in direction.

“I’d written a whole series of books about psychiatry, and nobody bought them. Nobody liked them. Nobody. Psychiatrists hated them, and they were much too abstruse for the general public. It was very hard to make a living, and I thought, ‘As long as I’m not making a living, I may as well write about something I really love: animals’”.

English lecturer Dr Jack Ross, who is coordinating the event, says Dr Masson has wide appeal because of his unique subject matter. “A lot of people read his books. He has a very interesting intellectual history spanning the disciplines of literature, psychology and the animal kingdom.”

Dr Masson’s reading is the first of three this year at the Albany campus, hosted by the School of English and Media Studies. Coming up are Family Court judge and poet John Adams (Thursday, August 9), and poet, critic and children’s fiction writer Paula Green (Thursday, September 13).

All talks are at the Study Centre Staff Lounge, 12-1pm.


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