This paper assesses structures of power through the medieval practice of falconry, offering two considerations about how feminist studies and animal studies fruitfully converge: first, assessing a human-animal relationship helps dismantle patriarchal control when human handler stands for patriarch and subjugated animal stands for domesticated woman. Second, this particular human-animal relationship represents a feminist poetics. In addition to overturning misogynous comparisons between falcons and women, something more pointedly self-representational occurred when women were themselves depicted as falconers. Rather than a human-animal relationship standing in for a man-woman relationship, men seem to be out of the foreground, or even out of the picture altogether. Instead, women are represented in both positions— as human handler and as animal. Material history also supports these representations, as many medieval women participated in falconry directly and used the image on personal objects, such as seals. Examining the figure of the female falconer on women’s seals, in conduct manuals, and in narrative poems, the essay argues that the result of this self-representation is a kind of sovereignty through reading practice.
falconry, feminism, conduct manuals, animal studies, misogyny
Copyright © 2018 Sara Petrosillo
Petrosillo, Sara "Flying, Hunting, Reading: Rethinking Falcon-Woman Comparisons." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 54, No. 1 (2018) : 9-33.