Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226458922 Published May 2017
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In the Skin of a Beast

Sovereignty and Animality in Medieval France

Peggy McCracken

In the Skin of a Beast

Peggy McCracken

240 pages | 16 color plates | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226458922 Published May 2017
E-book $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226459080 Published May 2017

In medieval literature, when humans and animals meet—whether as friends or foes—issues of mastery and submission are often at stake. In the Skin of a Beast shows how the concept of sovereignty comes to the fore in such narratives, reflecting larger concerns about relations of authority and dominion at play in both human-animal and human-human interactions.

Peggy McCracken discusses a range of literary texts and images from medieval France, including romances in which animal skins appear in symbolic displays of power, fictional explorations of the wolf’s desire for human domestication, and tales of women and snakes converging in a representation of territorial claims and noble status. These works reveal that the qualities traditionally used to define sovereignty—lineage and gender among them—are in fact mobile and contingent. In medieval literary texts, as McCracken demonstrates, human dominion over animals is a disputed model for sovereign relations among people: it justifies exploitation even as it mandates protection and care, and it depends on reiterations of human-animal difference that paradoxically expose the tenuous nature of human exceptionalism.

Contents
List of Color Plates
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Wearing Animals: Skin, Survival, and Sovereignty
2. The Social Wolf: Domestication, Affect, and Social Contract
3. Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Sovereign: Skin, Heraldry, and the Beast
4. Snakes and Women: Recognition, Knowledge, and Sovereignty
5. Becoming-Human, Becoming-Sovereign: Gender, Genealogy, and the Wild Man
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Review Quotes
William Burgwinkle, University of Cambridge
“McCracken is one of the foremost scholars in the field, so it comes as no surprise that In the Skin of a Beast represents an insightful, polished, and original piece of committed scholarship. This book is a major accomplishment, a first-class example of expert political and literary analysis.”
Simon Gaunt, King’s College London
In the Skin of a Beast is more sophisticated and goes further than any previous discussion in demonstrating the centrality of animals to the medieval polity. McCracken offers elegant close readings of texts while presenting theoretical ideas with precision, great clarity, and above all considerable brio.”
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