Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries. By Sarah Kay.

Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries. By Sarah Kay. Medieval bestiaries present readers with allegorical interpretations of non-human animals, written on animal skins. The relationship between animal skin and animal tale is the starting point for this detailed and illuminating study of bestiaries written in French and Latin during the Middle Ages. For Sarah Kay, bestiaries are texts that both consciously and subconsciously invite a reading of the parchment page itself as well as what is written or drawn upon it. Taking as many of her main sources manuscript pages featuring tears, punctures, or holes in the parchment page, Kay provides a persuasive account of a long tradition of medieval scribes and artists who were intensely aware of the implications of writing on skin for the stories that they were transmitting. The bestiary is a space that constantly redefines the relationship between humans and animals, suspending the distinction between content and medium through a feedback loop described by Kay as ‘suture’. Positioning the representation of bestiary creatures in relation to language and the book, this study engages with texts from across the genre, including the ‘second-family’ Latin bestiary and the Bestiaire d’amours by Richard de Fournival. The first chapters consider the material form of bestiary manuscripts in relation to moments in the texts that draw attention to the fleshy nature of embodiment, such as the serpent and the hydrus shedding or tearing through skins. Kay demonstrates how the representation of animals through etymology and allegory, and the visual instruction on the parchment page, point towards the Sacra Pagina as a source for the revelation of history and of the future in Christian eschatological terms. Further chapters highlight questions raised by bestiary narratives of garments in and of skin, death and resurrection, sexuality and the senses, orifices, and kinship between humans and non-human animals. Kay’s approach to the texts draws on work from contemporary and twentieth-century philosophy, most especially Giorgio Agamben’s notion of the ‘anthropological machine’ and Didier Anzieu’s ‘Moi-peau’. These theoretical concepts are carefully balanced with insightful close readings of bestiary narratives and a keen eye for the development of the bestiary tradition over time, in particular the influence of twelfth-century neo-Platonism on the genre. These discussions culminate in some revealing arguments about how bestiaries may have been used by different types of readers, including women and teachers. This study, although based on close readings of individual manuscripts, is the product of extensive archival and theoretical study of the bestiary tradition as a whole. The Appendix offers a revised version of the chronology of Latin and French bestiary versions proposed by Florence McCulloch in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962). A delightful addition to the book are the twenty-eight colour plates that convey the pleasure of the aesthetic experience of encountering bestiary manuscripts. This monograph will be of interest to students and scholars of medieval literature, and will surely reshape the ways that bestiaries are brought into current discussions of medieval literature and culture more generally. In the same vein, the scholarship here will appeal to a wider audience interested in animals and textual materiality. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png French Studies Oxford University Press

Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries. By Sarah Kay.

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/animal-skins-and-the-reading-self-in-medieval-latin-and-french-wFnq0UxKDI
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0016-1128
eISSN
1468-2931
D.O.I.
10.1093/fs/knx247
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Medieval bestiaries present readers with allegorical interpretations of non-human animals, written on animal skins. The relationship between animal skin and animal tale is the starting point for this detailed and illuminating study of bestiaries written in French and Latin during the Middle Ages. For Sarah Kay, bestiaries are texts that both consciously and subconsciously invite a reading of the parchment page itself as well as what is written or drawn upon it. Taking as many of her main sources manuscript pages featuring tears, punctures, or holes in the parchment page, Kay provides a persuasive account of a long tradition of medieval scribes and artists who were intensely aware of the implications of writing on skin for the stories that they were transmitting. The bestiary is a space that constantly redefines the relationship between humans and animals, suspending the distinction between content and medium through a feedback loop described by Kay as ‘suture’. Positioning the representation of bestiary creatures in relation to language and the book, this study engages with texts from across the genre, including the ‘second-family’ Latin bestiary and the Bestiaire d’amours by Richard de Fournival. The first chapters consider the material form of bestiary manuscripts in relation to moments in the texts that draw attention to the fleshy nature of embodiment, such as the serpent and the hydrus shedding or tearing through skins. Kay demonstrates how the representation of animals through etymology and allegory, and the visual instruction on the parchment page, point towards the Sacra Pagina as a source for the revelation of history and of the future in Christian eschatological terms. Further chapters highlight questions raised by bestiary narratives of garments in and of skin, death and resurrection, sexuality and the senses, orifices, and kinship between humans and non-human animals. Kay’s approach to the texts draws on work from contemporary and twentieth-century philosophy, most especially Giorgio Agamben’s notion of the ‘anthropological machine’ and Didier Anzieu’s ‘Moi-peau’. These theoretical concepts are carefully balanced with insightful close readings of bestiary narratives and a keen eye for the development of the bestiary tradition over time, in particular the influence of twelfth-century neo-Platonism on the genre. These discussions culminate in some revealing arguments about how bestiaries may have been used by different types of readers, including women and teachers. This study, although based on close readings of individual manuscripts, is the product of extensive archival and theoretical study of the bestiary tradition as a whole. The Appendix offers a revised version of the chronology of Latin and French bestiary versions proposed by Florence McCulloch in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962). A delightful addition to the book are the twenty-eight colour plates that convey the pleasure of the aesthetic experience of encountering bestiary manuscripts. This monograph will be of interest to students and scholars of medieval literature, and will surely reshape the ways that bestiaries are brought into current discussions of medieval literature and culture more generally. In the same vein, the scholarship here will appeal to a wider audience interested in animals and textual materiality. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

French StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off