The ‘animal turn’ is one of the newest and most exciting developments in medieval scholarship. The ‘animal turn’ is one of the newest and most exciting developments in medieval scholarship. Researchers are increasingly interrogating the role of animals in society and culture, the interaction between human and beast, and the formation of human and non-human identities. Animal studies is a young yet fast-growing field within medievalism, and one in which the study of romances can play a vital role. Animals populate the romance landscape as friends, foes and food, and are a ripe subject for investigation.
The Medieval Romance Society is hosting two inter-related sessions on the role of animals in romances at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies 2018, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo. We welcome papers which draw on a broad range of methodologies and address a variety of themes relating to animals. How does the genre construct and also problematise the boundary between the animal and the human? Are romance animals more than just passive objects, or can they be subjects in their own right? We aim to promote a vibrant discussion of the place of animals within medieval literary culture.
Session I: The Animal in Medieval Romance I: The Animal as Friend
This session invites papers examining the co-dependent relationships between animals and humans in romances. To what extent do romance societies accommodate the off-spring of cross-species couplings? Can they threaten, destabilise and unsettle hierarchies? In presenting these animal-human relations, do the texts blur the boundaries between man and beast? Can a human and an animal be equals? We encourage a broad interpretation of this theme, including cross-species friendships, sexual and romantic couplings, domestication and farmyard animals, and animals as parental surrogates.
Session II: The Animal in Medieval Romance II: The Animal as Product
This session welcomes papers which examine how animal bodies are exploited in medieval romances. Even after death, animals continue to exert their presence in romance narrative through their earthly remains. The genre’s commodification of bestial bodies also extends beyond texts to the physical product of vellum upon which they are transmitted. In consuming animals, do the heroes (and readers) of romance begin to lose their own identity? Can audiences make the link between the manuscript and the animals from which they are made? Papers might explore themes of butchery, the wearing of skins and furs, the use of bone and ivory, and the production of parchment and manuscript-binding.