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Emma Campbell (2013)

Political animals: human/animal life in "Bisclaveret" and "Yonec"

Exemplaria. A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 25(2):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. (Source: )

by Bibuser last modified 2015-08-11 14:28
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