Session Title

Writing the Human/Animal Continuum in the Middle Ages

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Antonella Sciancalepore

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. catholique de Louvain

Presider Name

Antonella Sciancalepore

Paper Title 1

Assembling Masculinity with Nonhuman Parts: The Making of the Man through Yvain ou le chevalier au lion

Presenter 1 Name

Anthony Revelle

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Paper Title 2

Becoming and "Un-Becoming" Man: Gowther as Dog in Sir Gowther

Presenter 2 Name

Kara M. Stone

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Pennsylvania State Univ.

Paper Title 3

From Animal to Human in Shota Rustaveli's The Man in the Panther Skin

Presenter 3 Name

Bert Beynen

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Temple Univ.

Start Date

10-5-2018 7:30 PM

Session Location

Fetzer 1060

Description

In medieval scientific and fictional writing, although we find an abundance of definitions that oppose the human and the animal, the distance between human and non-human could be populated by a plethora of hybrid beings whose identity lingered between the two. Humanoid monsters with animal features or animals with disturbing resemblances to humans traced a constellation of possibilities of life in the human-animal continuum. While scientific and theological texts tended to present this variety of beings as a simple demonstration of the variety of God’s creation, in literature, the possibility for the human body to merge with the animal was charged with anxieties and desires concerning ethnic identity, cultural norms, social and political order.

This session aims to highlight these pre-modern spaces of indeterminacy in the human/animal continuum, by interrogating texts produced in Europe and beyond across the Middle Ages. Through the three papers of the session, we will explore how medieval literary texts define this in-between identity and how they use animal hybridism to substantiates concepts of human identity.

Anthony Revelle will propose a reading of Chrétien de Troyes’ Chevalier au lion as a hybridization tale. This reflection, inspired by the current interrogations about the human and the nonhuman raised by posthumanism and the critical animal studies, will consider the role of animals with human features and humans on the edge of animality that crowd the romance and aims to demonstrate that the the hero’s body is a crucible, where nonhuman entities and animal symbolisms are put at the service of a technology of masculinity.

The construction of male identity in romance will be also the focus of Kara Stone’s paper, which will tackle the Middle English romance Sir Gowther. The examination of the protagonist’s path of becoming dog and becoming man again, will be used to argue that this romance uses hybridity as a literary technique of juxtaposition, in order to offer a stronger definition of humanity and male chivalric identity; moreover, by comparison with coeval tales of transformation, Dr Stone will explore why romance authors make their protagonists conduct themselves as animals in order for their audience to give them reverence.

Also the final speaker, Bert Beynen, will deal with the relationship between animal hybridism and definitions of humanity, although within a different literary context: Shota Rustaveli’s The Man in the Panther Skin, written in Georgia in early 12th century. This text, by contrasting Indians and Arabians, actually illustrates the Aristotelian difference between human and animal cognition; through this paper, Mr Beynen will demonstrate how the text stages cases of movement from one category to the other as a way to deal with the management of emotionality in human identity.

(Antonella Sciancalepore, session organizer)

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May 10th, 7:30 PM

Writing the Human/Animal Continuum in the Middle Ages

Fetzer 1060

In medieval scientific and fictional writing, although we find an abundance of definitions that oppose the human and the animal, the distance between human and non-human could be populated by a plethora of hybrid beings whose identity lingered between the two. Humanoid monsters with animal features or animals with disturbing resemblances to humans traced a constellation of possibilities of life in the human-animal continuum. While scientific and theological texts tended to present this variety of beings as a simple demonstration of the variety of God’s creation, in literature, the possibility for the human body to merge with the animal was charged with anxieties and desires concerning ethnic identity, cultural norms, social and political order.

This session aims to highlight these pre-modern spaces of indeterminacy in the human/animal continuum, by interrogating texts produced in Europe and beyond across the Middle Ages. Through the three papers of the session, we will explore how medieval literary texts define this in-between identity and how they use animal hybridism to substantiates concepts of human identity.

Anthony Revelle will propose a reading of Chrétien de Troyes’ Chevalier au lion as a hybridization tale. This reflection, inspired by the current interrogations about the human and the nonhuman raised by posthumanism and the critical animal studies, will consider the role of animals with human features and humans on the edge of animality that crowd the romance and aims to demonstrate that the the hero’s body is a crucible, where nonhuman entities and animal symbolisms are put at the service of a technology of masculinity.

The construction of male identity in romance will be also the focus of Kara Stone’s paper, which will tackle the Middle English romance Sir Gowther. The examination of the protagonist’s path of becoming dog and becoming man again, will be used to argue that this romance uses hybridity as a literary technique of juxtaposition, in order to offer a stronger definition of humanity and male chivalric identity; moreover, by comparison with coeval tales of transformation, Dr Stone will explore why romance authors make their protagonists conduct themselves as animals in order for their audience to give them reverence.

Also the final speaker, Bert Beynen, will deal with the relationship between animal hybridism and definitions of humanity, although within a different literary context: Shota Rustaveli’s The Man in the Panther Skin, written in Georgia in early 12th century. This text, by contrasting Indians and Arabians, actually illustrates the Aristotelian difference between human and animal cognition; through this paper, Mr Beynen will demonstrate how the text stages cases of movement from one category to the other as a way to deal with the management of emotionality in human identity.

(Antonella Sciancalepore, session organizer)