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"Taming the Beast: Images of Trained Bears in Twelfth-Century English Manuscripts"
Laura Cleaver
IKON (Brepols Publishers), 2:2, 2009, 243-252
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"Amongst the surviving representations of bears from the twelfth century are two images from southern England in which the creature is being taught to speak. These depictions resonate with the contemporary use of animal fables to teach children both Latin and correct behaviour. The bears serve as parallels for human beings and appear to achieve impossible skills. In the Middle Ages bears were famed for being both fierce and stupid. However, captive bears, which were frequently represented in twelfth-century images, could also provide entertainment. This study considers images of bears being taught to speak in the context of written and visual accounts of education. It argues that these images of bears echoed current debates about the nature of children. According to some writers, young pupils were like wild animals who needed to be reformed through the process of learning Latin in the schoolroom. Whilst such images of bears seemingly achieving the impossible were entertaining, they could thus also be didactic." - abstract

Language: English

ISSN: 1846-8551; DOI: 10.1484/J.IKON.3.46
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