Animals and Ecology: The Middle Ages

Living Bibliography

Try to sort additions into useful categories. If we were doing this in Evernote (for example), we’d just tag everything, but.

Medieval Animal Studies in General

Look for forthcoming work by Bob Mills, who has lately been working on “the animal and interspecies desire in medieval culture.” Further work on this topic can be found in Craig A. Williams, "When A Dolphin Loves A Boy: Narratives of Animals and Eros," //Classical Antiquity// 32.1 (2013): 200-42.

Emma Campbell, "Political Animals: Human/Animal Life in Bisclavret and Yonec," Exemplaria 25.2 (2013): 95-109.
"Bisclavret and Yonec — two lais by Marie de France — feature instances of human/animal metamorphosis that are linked to their interrogation of what constitutes humanity and courtliness. Drawing on Agamben’s discussion of the human/animal distinction in The Open, this article examines these lais together, exploring how each seems to question the definition of what might be described as human identity while, at the same time, suggesting that humanity is not restricted to those in possession of a stable, human shape. I suggest that, in each case, there seems to be a human cost to this exploration of humanity: as the courtliness of transforming characters is gradually unveiled, other characters’ claim to full humanity is revealed to be open to revision. Both stories, I argue, link definitions of animality and humanity to interpretative and narrative processes in ways that treat humanity as a matter of judgment rather than essence, and both suggest that defining what counts as human has consequences for how lives may become subject to supposedly legitimate forms of violence and political power."

J. Allan Mitchell’s Becoming Human: The Matter of the Medieval Child (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014) is also a project to watch out for.

E.P. Evans. The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals.
While this text is super old and creaky (1906), it does discuss animals being treated as humans before the law. The only other discussion we have is really of animal flesh (the thirteenth century English hunting law). The punishment and putting to trial of animals operates on two sides of the animal/human border. It is easier to scapegoat a non-human animal, and on that count the difference is affirmed, and yet the fact that it is being put under human conditions of culpability challenges our notion of that border, and how that border existed. Also, these animals were punished for their crimes in the same ways, and were even put to confessions, again challenging the definitions of reaction/response. What does the putting to trial of a pig mean for the other pigs?

Talking animals in medieval drama! article here.

Here's a great article on the biological principals underlying the study of developments of medieval helmet design.

Hall, Alaric. Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity. Boydell Press: Rochester, 2007.

Hall provides here a linguistic analysis of the Anglo-Saxon concept of ælfe (Modern English: elf) by examining Old English texts to determine what exactly the word meant in various contexts. His overview of his chapters’ focuses suggests that the ælfe were gendered male and simultaneously effeminate. In addition to discussing the gendered connotations of ælfe and how that relates to changing constructions of gender in Anglo-Saxon society, he discusses their role in healing practices and magical beliefs.
You can download a free ebook of this on, among others.

Medieval Animals in Art
The 1510 ‘Geese Book’ manuscript features several singing animals.

Baudouin Van den Abeele, TEXTE ET IMAGE DANS LES MANUSCRITS DE CHASSE MÉDIÉVAUX (2013, Bibliothèque nationale de France),
"Ce livre étudie la centaine de témoins illustrés connus dans toutes les langues de l’Occident médiéval. Majoritairement, il est vrai, il s’agit de textes français, dont les Livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio d’Henri de Ferrières et le Livre de chasse de Gaston Fébus constituent des modèles par le dialogue subtil qu’ils développent entre texte et image. Une large attention est accordée également à la tradition italienne de fauconnerie, moins défrichée et dans laquelle on découvre des manuscrits célèbres ou confidentiels, parfois issus de collections privées."

See Ittai Weinryb, below.

Various Medieval Animal Literature
Anglo-Saxon Riddles, with works on, for example, Oysters and Bookworms.
Pastourelles on shepherdesses and sheep
Beast Epics - Ysingrimus, Ecbasis captivi, Speculum Stultorum aka the story of Don Brunel the Ass, The Reynard Cycles

The Middle English "Owl and Nightingale." Best edition is here, although rather expensive for a short poem.

Lydgate’s ‘The Churl and the Bird

Farid Attar's Conference of the Birds, a Persian epic poem from the 12th Century, is a great example of animals in Medieval Literature outside of the European realm. There are many translations available. Penguin has an inexpensive paperback version.

Medieval Ecocriticism and Ecostudies
Aberth, John. An Environmental History of the Middle Ages: The Crucible of Nature (Routledge, 2013)
"Exploring the entire medieval period from 500 to 1500, and ranging across the whole of Europe, from England and Spain to the Baltic and Eastern Europe, John Aberth focuses his study on three key areas: the natural elements of air, water, and earth; the forest; and wild and domestic animals"

Alf Siewers, "The Green Otherworlds of Early Medieval Literature," in The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment (2013): this may be available online through the library.

Tom White on Medieval Trees.

"In certain literary works and iconographic traditions from the Middle Ages, trees and wood pass between brute matter and living object. In doing so, they attest to nonhuman timespans, disturb stable and stabilising boundaries between human and nonhuman, life and nonlife, and implicitly question the social construction of nature. This article approaches these trees in combination with contemporary ecological theory and criticism, in order to examine how they prompt stories, becoming actants in narratives in which human protagonists are recast as but one player in the rich and complex tangle of what Isabelle Stengers calls the 'worldly world'. Evoking the fragmented, even non-holistic form of the medieval florilegium (a collection of short written extracts around a particular theme), this essay argues that the Middle Ages can prompt us not simply to apply ecocritical concepts to an archive of texts and artefacts, but rather to think anew about past, present, and future. Far from irrelevant to the ecological concerns of the twenty-first century, these texts have the power to intervene in ecological theories, encouraging a self-reflexivity that is essential to the continuing project of ecocriticism."

Brenda Deen Schildgen "Reception, Elegy, and Eco-Awareness: Trees in Statius, Boccaccio, and Chaucer" //Comparative Literature// 65.1 (2013): 85-100
"The essay examines a specific case of “wood-stripping” that occurs in three related texts: one ancient, Statius's Thebaid, and two medieval romance versions of Statius's poem, Giovanni Boccaccio's La Teseida and Geoffrey Chaucer's The Knight's Tale. It argues that all three writers are gazers at nature (in the sense that they situate action in a natural environment that they make visible), by adopting an “affective fallacy” (traditionally called the “pathetic fallacy”) they also convey the “feelings” of the natural world (in this case, its sorrow, suffering, and mourning). In doing so, they become co-partners, even “co-sufferers” or mourners, in the feelings of natural phenomena. The elegy for the trees in Statius, Boccaccio, and Chaucer provides a pointed example of how the intertwining of thinking and feeling that poetry makes possible allows the authors to enter into an eco-critical space that reveals an affective environmental understanding even without the discursive tradition for writing about nature that modern environmentalism has made possible. In contrast to Ernst Robert Curtius's assumption that medieval literary notions of nature follow standard tropes, medieval literary texts in fact reveal a keen awareness and dedicated study of natural phenomenon. Comparing how the three authors discussed here describe the trees, forest, and defoliation in their elegies highlights their knowledge of the natural environment and their affective response to deforestation. Recognizing this eco-consciousness in medieval texts can enhance our understanding of the period while at the same time contributing to a working history of environmentalism."

Lesley Kordecki, Ecofeminist Subjectivities: Chaucer's Talking Birds (2011).
We mentioned this on the first day of class, but CUNY does have web access. In the chapter on House of Fame, Kordecki proposes that animal voice plays a specific role in forcing questions on human subjectivity, one that is even more notable because of the importance of voice and authority in the poem.

VonKriesler, Nicolai A. "Bird Lore and the Valentine's Day Tradition in Chaucer's Parlement of Foules." Chaucer Review: A Journal of Medieval Studies and Literary Criticism 3.1 (1968): 60-64. JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.
This is an old article about what medieval science said about birds and how that idea, if not the specific work mentioned, may have influenced Chaucer.

Medieval Materiality
The two key thinkers in this field are Kellie Robertson and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. See, for example,
Robertson, Kellie. "Medieval Materialism: A Manifesto." Exemplaria 22.2 (2010): 99-118.
Robertson, Kellie. "Medieval Things: Materiality, Historicism, and the Premodern Object." Literature Compass 5.6 (2008): 1060-1080
and also her essay in the AVMEO anthology (which you should definitely get).

Harris, Anne. Anne Harris, a medieval art historian at DePauw University, has a blog whose many posts often consider animals and materiality. You should be reading her.

Weinryb, Ittai. “Living Matter: Materiality, Maker, and Ornament in the Middle Ages” //Gesta// 52.2 (2013): 113-32, “The essay argues that in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the term silva used in Calcidius’s fourth-century Latin translation of the Timaeus led to a linking of primordial matter with woods, forests, and, by extension, foliate decoration and ideas of organic growth and change.”

See also his "Beyond Representation: Things, Human and Nonhuman," also available online.



Classical Studies

Bakker, Egbert J. __The Meaning of Meat and the Structure of the Odyssey__ (Cambridge UP, 2013).
“This comprehensive study of the Odyssey sees in meat and meat consumption a centre of gravitation for the interpretation of the poem.”

Early Modern and Long Eighteenth Century
Fudge, Erica. "Two Ethics: Killing Animals in the Past and the Present." Killing Animals, The Animal Studies Group, ed. (University of Illinois Press: Urbana and Chicago, 2006), pp.99-119.

Fudge counters Keith Thomas's claim that the treatment of animals in the early modern period was mostly categorized by "cruelty and indifference" (1) by offering a more complex ethical view of killing animals in early modern England (1-2). While an ethic of "inward government" did prevail during the period, which focuses on a Thomist conception of the human subject and God in human/animal relations (3-10), a second ethic existed, centered around Montaigne's essays, in which animals were treated as sentient, feeling beings, existing in a community "of all creatures" with humans (10-16). These two strands were indicative of a more abstract ethical discussion occurring at the time in England: the importance of cultivating a good "self" versus living a good life (16-22). Using bears in the English legal system as an example, Fudge shows how animals were indeed treated as property and perceived as incapable of criminal intent, evincing a Thomist ethic, yet also that bears who killed humans were often "punished" by death, suggesting that the human punishers perceived the bear as an actant in a larger community (22-30). In closing, Fudge uses this history to illuminate 20th century theoretical/philosophical discussions of animals, and suggests that Derrida's empirical account of animals out of Descartes's metaphysical account is still one we need to make, for animals tend to be regarded as an idea first and real second (33-35).

Further notes coming on Holly Dugan’s ongoing work on apes; Laurie Shannon

Karl Appuhn at NYU does Northern Italian early modern Forest History. His work looks GREAT.

Andreas Höfele, Stage, Stake, and Scaffold: Humans and Animals in Shakespeare's Theatre (Oxford UP, 2011)
"The powerful exchanges between stage, stake, and scaffold - the theatre, the bear garden and the spectacle of public execution - crucially informed Shakespeare's explorations into the construction and workings of 'the human'. The theatre's family resemblance to animal baiting and the spectacle of punishment, its sharing of the same basic type of performance space - a theatre-in-the-round, a scaffold, stake or platform surrounded by spectators - bred an ever-ready potential for a transfer of images and meanings. The staging of one of these kinds of performance is always framed asdby an awareness of the other two, whose presence is never quite erased and often, indeed, emphatically foregrounded."

Juliana Schiesari, Beasts and Beauties: Animals, Gender, and Domestication in the Italian Renaissance (Univ. of Toronto Press, 2010)
Reviewed here, and I KNOW I'm going to use this in my work on the Prioress and her pets.

Kevin de Ornellas, //The Horse in Early Modern English Culture: Bridled, Curbed, Tamed// (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013).

Kevin De Ornellas argues that in Renaissance England the relationship between horse and rider works as an unambiguous symbol of domination by the strong over the weak. There was little sentimental concern for animal welfare, leading to the routine abuse of the material animal. This unproblematic, practical exploitation of the horse led to the currency of the horse/rider relationship as a trope or symbol of exploitation in the literature of the period. Engaging with fiction, plays, poems, and non-fictional prose works of late Tudor and early Stuart England, De Ornellas demonstrates that the horse – a bridled, unwilling slave – becomes a yardstick against which the oppression of England’s poor, women, increasingly uninfluential clergyman, and deluded gamblers is measured. The status of the bitted, harnessed horse was a low one in early modern England – to be compared to such a beast is a demonstration of inferiority and subjugation. To think anything else is to be naïve about the realities of horse management in the period – and is to be naïve about the realities of the exploitation of horses and other mammals in the present-day world.

Menely, Tobias. "Zoöphilpsychosis: Why Animals Are What's Wrong with Sentimentality." symploke 15.1 (2007): 244-267
“These anecdotes suggest that in order to understand the decline of literary sentimentality, we must attend to the fraught position of nonhuman animals in modern Anglo-American society, particularly to the emergence of animal rights advocacy and to the anxieties that such advocacy has generated. A genealogical account of sentimentality, in other words, requires us to consider how its particular technologies of identification have disrupted the “sacrificial” discourse of “carno phallogocentrism,” Jacques Derrida’s appellation for the hegemonic constellation of ideas, values, and practices that justify our absolute sovereignty over nonhuman creatures.”

Alan Mikhail, //The Animal in Ottoman Egypt// (New York: Oxford UP, 2013).

Mikhail uses the history of the empire's most important province, Egypt, to explain how human interactions with livestock, dogs, and charismatic megafauna changed more in a few centuries than they had for millennia. The human world became one in which animals' social and economic functions were diminished. Without animals, humans had to remake the societies they had built around intimate and cooperative interactions between species. The political and even evolutionary consequences of this separation of people and animals were wrenching and often violent.

Oerlemans, Onno. Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002) “By juxtaposing travel literature and vegetarianism, the horse paintings of George Stubbs and the animal poetry of John Clare, the material particularity of Wordsworth and the taxonomic theories of Foucault, Cuvier and Darwin, he creates a fertile mix of historical analysis, cultural commentary, and close reading. Through this, we discover that the Romantics understood how they perceived the physical world, and how they distorted and abused it. Oerlemans' wide-ranging study adds much to our understanding of Romantic-period thinkers and their relationship to the natural world.”

Medieval Iceland

Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir. "The Werewolf in Medieval Icelandic Literature." The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 106.3 (2007): 277-303. JSTOR. Web.
A thorough discussion of the werewolf motif throughout Medieval Icelandic literature, including its eventual interaction with Celtic influences, and what it could have meant to a people who had no direct experience with wolves (as the species is not native to Iceland). is the blog site of Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried who teaches Norse Mythology in Chicago. He writes articles and answers questions related to Norse Mythology and current scholarship in the field on the site.

North America

Barrow, Mark V. Nature's Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology. University of Chicago Press, 2009.
“ From Thomas Jefferson’s day—when the fossil remains of such fantastic lost animals as the mastodon and the woolly mammoth were first reconstructed—through the pioneering conservation efforts of early naturalists like John James Audubon and John Muir, Barrow shows how Americans came to understand that it was not only possible for entire species to die out, but that humans themselves could be responsible for their extinction.”

Nicole Shukin, Animal Capital


Juliana Schiesari, Polymorphous Domesticities: Pets, Bodies and Desire in Four Modern Writers (University of California Press, 2011)

What these four writers have in common is a defiance of patriarchal paradigms in their lives as well as in their works. Not only did they live outside the norms of the heterosexual family unit, they also pursued and wrote about alternative lifestyles that prominently involved animals. Through close readings from a feminist perspective, Juliana Schiesari reconfigures the ways in which interspecies relationships inflect domestic spheres, reading the “Other” through the lens of gender, home, and family.



Matthew Calarco, Cora Diamond, Kelly Oliver, Tom Tyler, Cary Wolfe

Chen, Mel Y. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham: Duke UP, 2012)
“In Animacies, Mel Y. Chen draws on recent debates about sexuality, race, and affect to examine how matter that is considered insensate, immobile, or deathly animates cultural lives. Toward that end, Chen investigates the blurry division between the living and the dead, or that which is beyond the human or animal….Chen's book is the first to bring the concept of animacy together with queer of color scholarship, critical animal studies, and disability theory.”

Tyler, Tom. //Ciferae: A Bestiary in Five Fingers// (University of Minnesota Press, 2012).
Tyler is one of the most exciting young scholars currently working in critical animal theory and ecostudies. Definitely click through to his webpage and dig around.

On solidarity in suffering with the nonhuman, a talk by Katerina Kolozova, as part of D.U.S.T. (Dublin Unit in Speculative Thought).

Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory.
Kind of a self-explanatory title. Adams' text looks at the ways in which animal identity is created within and next to the identities of other humans by racist and sexist frameworks in such a way as to organize a larger, white male identity.

Cora Diamond, "Eating Meat and Eating People."

Columbia University Press has aimed to make a name for its in Critical Animal Studies, as The University of Minnesota’s Press has, under Cary Wolfe’s guidance, sought to establish itself as the name in Posthumanism.

Some of Columbia UP’s animals books are:

David A. Nibert, Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict (New York: Columbia UP, 2013).

Nibert seems good for reconsidering the notion of the human break from animality: “Nibert connects the domesecration of animals to violence, invasion, extermination, displacement, enslavement, repression, pandemic chronic disease, and hunger. In his view, conquest and subjugation were the results of the need to appropriate land and water to maintain large groups of animals, and the gross amassing of military power has its roots in the economic benefits of the exploitation, exchange, and sale of animals. Deadly zoonotic diseases, Nibert shows, have accompanied violent developments throughout history, laying waste to whole cities, societies, and civilizations. His most powerful insight situates the domesecration of animals as a precondition for the oppression of human populations, particularly indigenous peoples, an injustice impossible to rectify while the material interests of the elite are inextricably linked to the exploitation of animals”

Mary Kosut and one of her several articles about bees. Great for the 'insect turn' in critical animal studies.

Margo DeMello, Animals and Society: And Introduction to Human-Animal Studies
"The first book to provide a full overview of human–animal studies, this volume focuses on the conceptual construction of animals in American culture and the way in which it reinforces and perpetuates hierarchical human relationships rooted in racism, sexism, and class privilege."

From the section I read, this book seems like a very approachable text on some popular threads on animal studies and discussing some more visible interactions between human and non-human animals, like lolcats.


A fine sense of the history of "ecocriticism," from ASLE, nearly 20 years (!) ago.

On the Apocalypse

Samuel Scheffler, //Death and the Afterlife//
"We normally take it for granted that other people will live on after we ourselves have died. Even if we do not believe in a personal afterlife in which we survive our own deaths, we assume that there will be a "collective afterlife" in which humanity survives long after we are gone. Samuel Scheffler maintains that this assumption plays a surprising — indeed astonishing — role in our lives. In certain important respects, the future existence of people who are as yet unborn matters more to us than our own continued existence and the continued existence of those we love. Without the expectation that humanity has a future, many of the things that now matter to us would cease to do so. By contrast, the prospect of our own deaths does little to undermine our confidence in the value of our activities. Despite the terror we may feel when contemplating our deaths, then, the prospect of humanity's imminent extinction would pose a far greater threat to our ability to lead value-laden lives: lives structured by wholehearted engagement in valued activities and pursuits. This conclusion complicates widespread assumptions about human egoism and individualism. And it has striking implications for the way we think about climate change, nuclear proliferation, and other urgent threats to humanity's survival. "

Douglas A. Vakoch, ed, Feminist Ecocriticism: Environment, Women, and Literature
Generally concentrates on the 19th and 20th centuries, but the final, synthetic review of ecofeminism might be useful.

Murali Balaji, ed. //Thinking Dead: What the Zombie Apocalypse Means// (Lexington Books, 2013)
This may be the only book on the topic? So, if you're interested in zombies, which are definitely an ecocritical topic, maybe start here?

Nicola Masciandaro, The One with a Hand: An Essay on Embodiment, Labor, and Alienation
A kind of loosely related essay on a created humanity regarding hands. Attached to our relation to our hands is our creation of a biologically based difference which we then spiritualize and mystify in the labor of the hands. The hands as tools (an animal sense) must be made to extend past their utility in order for us to define a human function.

Mick Smith, //Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World// (University of Minnesota Press, 2011)
"Against Ecological Sovereignty is the first book to turn Agamben’s analysis of sovereignty and biopolitics toward an investigation of ecological concerns. In doing so it exposes limits to that thought, maintaining that the increasingly widespread biopolitical management of human populations has an unrecognized ecological analogue—reducing nature to a “resource” for human projects. Smith contends that a radical ecological politics must resist both the depoliticizing exercise of sovereign power and the pervasive spread of biopolitics in order to reveal new possibilities for creating healthy human and nonhuman communities."


From the, on the inadequacy of mouse models for understanding human disease:
"An obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed in cancer research is that mouse models do not mimic human disease well and are essentially worthless for drug development."

On Animal Mourning: "Take the case of Thomas, a nine-year-old chimpanzee who died in 2010 at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in Zambia, home to more than one hundred chimps. Research scientists filmed the reactions of one community of forty-three chimpanzees to Thomas’ corpse; thirty-eight of them gathered around and stayed by his side for almost twenty minutes. During that time, some of the chimps gently touched his body, smelled and studied him closely. One of those visitors was Masya, a mother carrying her dead infant (at the time, there was an outbreak of a respiratory illness among the chimps). A few days earlier, Masya had been seen placing her dead child in a grassy, sunlit patch and retreating to the shade, where she sat watching, her eyes rarely straying from her infant. Every few minutes, she strode back to the clearing to inspect her baby’s body. "

Nicholas Wade, "The Sloth's Busy Inner Life."
"The sloth is not so much an animal as a walking ecosystem. This tightly fitting assemblage consists of a) the sloth, b) a species of moth that lives nowhere but in the sloth’s fleece and c) a dedicated species of algae that grows in special channels in the sloth’s grooved hairs. Groom a three-toed sloth and more than a hundred moths may fly out. When the sloth grooms itself, its fingersmove so slowly that the moths have no difficulty keeping ahead of them."
compare this to Adam Roberts' science-fiction novel By Light Alone

On the Anthropocene

The end of saltwater fish: 2048.


Alaimo, Barad, Bennett, Bogost, Braidotti, Bryant, Harman, Morton, Shaviro, Woodard

Speculate This! Manifesto, from Duke UP 2013
A general praise of speculation, arguing for (of course) an open and non-profit oriented model of speculation opposed to the dominant, capitalist model of financial speculation. Not sure if it's any good, but the book is cheap.

Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things
"Bennett examines the political and theoretical implications of vital materialism through extended discussions of commonplace things and physical phenomena including stem cells, fish oils, electricity, metal, and trash. She reflects on the vital power of material formations such as landfills, which generate lively streams of chemicals, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can transform brain chemistry and mood."
Bennett works with much of the same philosophical material as Wolfe in Before the Law with a more ecological application. She also discusses the anthropomorphism that we apply to things and animals in chapter 7. She also discusses a medieval Chinese handbook for musicians in which playing positions are described by animal motion

CUNY Digital Labor Working Group's New Materialism List.

O-Zone Journal

Speculative Medievalisms: Discography. Ed. Eileen A. Joy, Anna Klosowska, Nicola Masciandaro, and Michael O'Rourke.
A collection of essays about various topics in Medieval studies with a speculative realist twist. Seems quite enlightening and the e-book version is open access.

Interview with Kieran Suckling, former member of Earth First, and “a founding director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD),” at the Earth Island Journal.
The DoDo, where some of you might try to place your writing.



Jan 27
General Approaches

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Inventing with Animals in the Middle Ages,” in Engaging with Nature, ed. Kiser and Hanawalt

Some modern day ‘wild children’:
Oxana Oleksandrivna Malaya.

Feb 3

See "Critical Animal Studies," above. Also Susan Crane, “For the Birds,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer

Feb 10
Animal Communities/Talking Animals

Feb 20 (Thurs)
Animals, Violence, and Sympathy
Judith Butler, Frames of War and Precarious Life
Slavoj Zizek, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections

on Henryson, especially Jill Mann, From Aesop to Reynard

About how animals function in fables, specifically in Henryson:
Rudd, Gillian. "Making Mention of Aesop: Henryson's Fables of the Two Mice." The Yearbook of English Studies. 36.1: (2006), 39-49.
Murtaugh, Daniel M. "Henryson's Animals." Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 14.3: (1972), 405-421.

For other fables, see here for Marie de France manuscripts, which include manuscripts of her fables.

Feb 24
Animals and Lineage
Boria Sax. The Serpent and the Swan: The Animal Bride in Folklore and Literature. Blacksburg, Va.: McDonald & Woodward, 1998.

Middle English Romance of the Swan Knight.

Jean d’Arras, Melusine (new translation)

Colwell, Talia. “Melusine: Ideal Mother or Inimitable Monster?” Love, Marriage, and Family Ties in the Later Middle Ages. Ed. Isabel Davis, Miriam Müller and Sarah Rees Jones. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2003. 181-203. Print.
An article about the tension between Melusine (Romans version--see below) as a Christian mother and an inhuman mother. Talks a bit about the medieval models of genealogy and how that works in the story.

Florscheutz, Angela. “A Mooder He Hath, but Fader Hath He Noon”: Constructions
of Genealogy in the Clerk’s Tale and the Man of Law’s Tale.” The Chaucer Review 44.1 (2009): 25-60. Project Muse. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.
Not related to animal studies, but it explains the Aristotelian and Galenic models of genealogy.

Miller, Eleanor Beatrice. “The Gesta Romanorum.” Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Zott. Vol. 55. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Web. 20 February 2014.
Some background on the Gesta Romanorum.

The Romans of Partenay, or of Lusignen. Ed. Walter W. Skeat. New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1969. Print.
An English translation of the Melusine story, with an introduction containing background information.

Swan, Charles and Wynnard Hooper. Gesta Romanorum. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1959. Print.
An English translation of the Gesta Romanorum. The Androcles and the Lion story is very different from our version.

March 3
Talking Back
René Descartes, Letter to the Duchess of Newcastle, excerpted here in a weird font.

In these two letters (one of which to William Cavendish, husband to Margaret Cavendish, author of the poem "The Hunting of the Hare"), Descrates distinguishes humans from animals by citing the latter's lack of speech (despite having all the necessary speech organs) and their seemingly instinctual, mechanistic existence in the world, thus proving they are incapable of thought. Descartes's first letter has a few instances that may serve to complicate his argument: parrot speech, apes who may bury their dead, and a strange assertion that no animal has been known to make a "sign" that expressed to another animal anything other than a passion. Descartes's second letter is interesting because it speaks to a growing notion at the time, born out of scientific analysis of animal organs, that animals may be able to think. Nevertheless, Descartes stands by his earlier asset ions, claiming that the movement of animals is never purposeful but is informed by a "natural automata."

March 17
Other European Traditions
Kristoffersen, Siv. "Half beast-half man: hybrid figures in animal art." World Archeology Vol. 42(2): 261-272, 2010.
Pretty interesting article by a Swedish archeologist. She draws parallels between kennings in Skald poetry and hybrid images in Nordic animal art. She talks about human-animal hybridity, AND animal-object hybridity, which I found particularly interesting. is the blog site of Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried who teaches Norse Mythology in Chicago. He writes articles and answers questions related to Norse Mythology and current scholarship in the field on the site.

March 31
Into the Wild?
Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought
Raymond Williams, “Ideas of Nature

April 7
Settlement, Food, and The Origins of Culture

Kiessling, Nicolas. The Incubus in English Literature: Provenance and Progeny. Washington State University Press, 1997. Print.
For anyone who wants to know more about incubuses (incubi?), this book will be useful. It doesn't have the Albina story, which is unfortunate, but it does talk about the Genesis passage and Enoch.

"Sir Gowther." The Middle English Breton Lays. Ed. Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 2001. 263-308. Print.
One of many stories about a "fiend-fathered" child (he's Merlin's brother, by the way), this is what we were discussing in class. It's available for free by TEAMS here: It's interesting on a few levels; the demon is only part of it.

April 28
Death and Waste
Animals and Dying
"Aside from the ick factor, a carcass is a very active scene. It’s not so much about death as life. The carcass provides a huge amount of concentrated food for the animals who are recyclers. So you get competition and all kinds of interesting animal behavior as they try to get access to it. If the food is being defended, that’s interesting. And if all kinds of animals want it, that’s even more interesting.
Some of the recyclers I enjoyed more than others. Ravens are very appealing. I’ve never met a raven I didn’t like. I can’t find maggots appealing, but after a while I did get used to them. Today I can watch maggots and find them quite interesting. Just this summer, I put out a raccoon carcass and it was almost consumed by maggots and there was nothing left, no meat whatsoever, in three days. And then, I saw a whole cohort leave, thousands of them, and they left the raccoon as a group, all in one direction."

May 5
Plant Thought
For the Columbia UP site on Marder’s book, see here.

Eduardo Kohn, //How Forests Think: Towards an Anthropology Beyond the Human// (University of California Press, 2013).
"Can forests think? Do dogs dream? In this astonishing book, Eduardo Kohn challenges the very foundations of anthropology, calling into question our central assumptions about what it means to be human—and thus distinct from all other life forms. Based on four years of fieldwork among the Runa of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon, Eduardo Kohn draws on his rich ethnography to explore how Amazonians interact with the many creatures that inhabit one of the world’s most complex ecosystems."
Excerpt from first chapter, available on the Press's website, not quite about this, but rather about Charles Sanders Peirce and semiology. Still, has come highly recommended.

May 12
The Nonhuman in/with the Familiar

Woods, William F. "Nature and the Inner Man in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." The Chaucer Review 36.3 (2002): 209-227.
An often-cited article (at least in student papers) that suggests an ecocritical reading of SGGK.

Jeffrey Cohen's 'Inventing with Nature in the Middle Ages' has excellent material on SGGK.