Homo animal est, homo animal non est: Text and Image in Medieval English Bestiaries

Debra Hassig

Columbia University, 1993

PhD dissertation, Columbia University

"The first portion of the study is an analysis of text and image in twenty-eight English bestiaries, based on the comparative renderings of a selection of creatures that are well represented across the group. The weasel, stag, bee, fox, phoenix, beaver, hoopoe, siren, fire rocks, elephant, hyena, and panther are each discussed in separate chapters. In addition to exploring how texts and images correspond, contradict, or augment each other, semiotic analysis is used to uncover meaning generated by the images independent of the texts. Such meaning is normally ideological in nature and related to specific contemporary theological tenets or social constructs which are identified and discussed. The value of the aesthetic code, comprised of color, line, composition, spatial arrangement, size, framing elements and other non-mimetic devices is given particular attention in an attempt to contribute to the formulation of a semiotics of purely visual elements. An attempt is also made to position the bestiary texts and images within the social history of art by exploring connections between the bestiaries and important forces in medieval society. These include specific aspects of political, social, religious, and economic life that are buttressed or condemned through the bestiary words and pictures as they would have been perceived by contemporary patrons. It is argued that the bestiaries played an active role in shaping ideologies that are codified elsewhere in the medieval written and pictorial record. The study concludes with a diachronic analysis of bestiary transformations, applicable to the twenty-eight English manuscripts under consideration. In accordance with the contention that the bestiaries developed over time in form and content as patronage and social interests shifted, new texts and images added to the bestiaries from the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries are identified and described. Particular influences include interest in monsters and marvels, the rise of the mendicant orders, and courtly love. A pattern from sacred to secular interests is traced that may be applicable to the broader analysis of the bestiary as a genre." - abstract

592 pp.

Language: English

PQDD: ATT9318245


Last update December 6, 2021