Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture

Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture
    Book Description:

    Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture examines how the shared embodied existence of early modern human and nonhuman animals challenged the establishment of species distinctions. The material conditions of the early modern world brought humans and animals into complex interspecies relationships that have not been fully accounted for in critical readings of the period's philosophical, scientific, or literary representations of animals. Where such prior readings have focused on the role of reason in debates about human exceptionalism, this book turns instead to a series of cultural sites in which we find animal and human bodies sharing environments, mutually transforming and defining one another's lives. To uncover the animal body's role in anatomy, eroticism, architecture, labor, and consumption, Karen Raber analyzes canonical works including More's Utopia, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, and Sidney's poetry, situating them among readings of human and equine anatomical texts, medical recipes, theories of architecture and urban design, husbandry manuals, and horsemanship treatises. Raber reconsiders interactions between environment, body, and consciousness that we find in early modern human-animal relations. Scholars of the Renaissance period recognized animals' fundamental role in fashioning what we call "culture," she demonstrates, providing historical narratives about embodiment and the cultural constructions of species difference that are often overlooked in ecocritical and posthumanist theory that attempts to address the "question of the animal."

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0859-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Absent Bodies
    (pp. 1-30)

    Giovanni Battista Gelli’s Circe of 1549 recounts Ulysses’ efforts to convince a variety of beasts, transformed from men by Circe, that they should return to their human form and leave her island with him. Ulysses begins with the humblest of creatures, the oyster and the mole (also the simplest and humblest of humans, a fisherman and a ploughman respectively), but upon being soundly rejected, decides to move on to other creatures more likely to understand his appeal to reason: “Thou shalt find some [men] of such knowledge and wit,” he remarks to Circe, “that they are almost lyke unto the...

  4. Chapter 1 Resisting Bodies: Renaissance Animal Anatomies
    (pp. 31-74)

    If we are going to talk of bodies, there is no more fitting place to begin than with early modern medicine’s advances in, and continuing obsession with, anatomy. Andreas Vesalius’s monumental De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), published with dozens of carefully created illustrations, inspired decades, even centuries of imitators whose volumes joined Vesalius’s in revealing the secrets of the human body. Jonathan Sawday calls the post-Vesalian period of 1540–1640 “the age of dissection” and the “period of the discovery of the Vesalian body,” a period that can be distinguished by its aura of wonder, as well as it analogical...

  5. Chapter 2 Erotic Bodies: Loving Horses
    (pp. 75-102)

    The myth of Chiron, the rational hybrid horse-human, haunts Renaissance anatomy texts, as we saw in Chapter 1, but that is not the creature’s sole domain. In examples like Philip Sidney’s Musidorus, the more generalized image of the rider-as-centaur shows up in chivalric romance, where the centaur’s hybrid nature expresses human triumph in appropriating and exploiting animal power and grace through the aristocratic arts of horsemanship. But other uses of the centaur myth in Renaissance literature register the fragility of the supremacy of human reason, most often undermined by the bodily assaults of lust, gluttony, and rage. The centaurs of...

  6. Chapter 3 Mutual Consumption: The Animal Within
    (pp. 103-126)

    In Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Octavius tells the tale of Antony’s desperate foraging during the retreat from Modena to Gaul:

    When thou once

    Wast beaten from Modena, where thou slew’st

    Hirtius and Pansa, consuls, at thy heel

    Did famine follow; whom thou fought’st against,

    Though daintily brought up, with patience more

    Than savages could suffer: thou didst drink

    The stale of horses, and the gilded puddle

    Which beasts would cough at: thy palate then did deign

    The roughest berry on the rudest hedge;

    Yea, like the stag, when snow the pasture sheets,

    The barks of trees thou browsed’st; on the...

  7. Chapter 4 Animal Architectures: Urban Beasts
    (pp. 127-150)

    The body that Hamlet explores, the body that horrifies and perplexes Hamlet, is so thoroughly colonized by vermin that it loses its individuality to the throngs of creatures sharing its internal architectures. But this should not come as much of a surprise: in the ghost’s account of Claudius’s murderous assault on Hamlet Senior, we learn at the outset that the play’s absent core—the body of the old king, Hamlet’s father—is already a corpse, thus inhabited by multitudes of worms and other feeders in the earth. Because Hamlet Senior’s corpse is also the corpus politicum, it further has to...

  8. Chapter 5 Working Bodies: Laboring Moles and Cannibal Sheep
    (pp. 151-178)

    Among all those creeping, gnawing, devouring pests we encountered in Chapter 3 is Hamlet’s mole, the below-stage manifestation of Hamlet’s father’s ghost, who bumps and knocks and cries out while Hamlet swears Horatio and Marcellus to silence: “Well said, old mole! Canst work i’th’earth so fast? A worthy pioneer!”¹ This fortunate mole has had an unusually rich afterlife, popping up in some unexpected places. For instance, Hegel’s conclusion in Lectures on the Philosophy of History turns on this “antic” line²: “Spirit often seems to have forgotten and lost itself, but inwardly opposed to itself, it is inwardly working ever forward...

  9. Conclusion: Knowing Animals
    (pp. 179-188)

    In the sixteenth century, Thomas More tried to invent a new society, complete with cultural attributes and values and an economic system that rectified the failures of European societies. To do so, More mobilized examples of embodied human-animal relationships that ultimately demonstrated the impossibility of establishing a bright line between the two categories. While Utopia is “nowhere” in sixteenth-century Europe, it has been this project’s goal to insist that the implications of its paradoxical efforts to represent animals are everywhere in early modern culture. The same complex ironies and contradictions that shaped More’s efforts also shaped much early modern art,...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 189-218)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-230)
  12. Index
    (pp. 231-234)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 235-235)