WiSe 14/15: S-Modernity and Alterity in the Literatures of Medieval Britain II: Transfer of Knowledge in Medieval Animal Lore
Modern-day animal imagery is strongly dependent on ancient and medieval animal conventions. Thus, writers such as James Joyce and J. K. Rowling are drawing on medieval bestiaries, and Disney ... read more
Modern-day animal imagery is strongly dependent on ancient and medieval animal conventions. Thus, writers such as James Joyce and J. K. Rowling are drawing on medieval bestiaries, and Disney productions are strongly indebted to the ancient animal fable and the medieval beast epic tradition. In a similar way as medieval animal imagery influenced and still influences modern culture, the knowledge on animals in the Middle Ages was strongly indebted to ancient natural history, travel literature, and early Christian texts. Frequently, the faulty transfer of early animal lore was reponsible for the creation of fictitious animals, such as the basilisk, dragon, manticore ('man eater'), or unicorn. This transfer of knowledge served anthropocentric purposes which will be explored in class. Furthermore, the course aims at studying medieval man's attitude to and use of animals as revealed in Old English, Middle English and Middle Scots literature. Particular attention will be paid to the animal as an educational tool for all levels of medieval society. We shall study entries in John Trevisa's natural encyclopedia On the Property of Things, read the Old and Middle English Physiologus versions, the debate poem The Owl and the Nightingale, fables, tales of the beast epic, and the Scottish bird allegory The Buke of the Howlat.
A reader of the relevant primary texts will be made available to students at the beginning of the semester.
Language of instruction: English. Required language level: C1-C2.
Procedure and assessment: Each week passages will be earmarked for study at home and discussion in class. The final mark will be based on participation in class, a presentation, and a 4000-word final essay.