Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226458922 Published May 2017
E-book $10.00 to $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226459080 Published May 2017 Also Available From

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 $10.00 to $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
caa.reviews
“In this book, McCracken demonstrates that she is truly the master of her craft: the narrative is lucid, textual and visual explications are thorough and probing. The entire analysis is firmly grounded in historical context backed with a strong theoretical framework. . . . This book serves as a model for how representations of animals and hybrids provide good catalysts for us to think with.” 
Medium Aevum
“In this excellent book, Peggy McCracken subtly and persuasively argues that the marshalling of the non-human animal to construct human being and behaviour as superior, and human power as unassailable, is particularly powerful in medieval literature, which is normally written on animal skin, for the entertainment and enlightenment of aristocrats who are often depicted wearing animal fur. . . . Throughout her book, McCracken engages rigorously and generously with other scholars writing on medieval animal studies; the result is one of the most comprehensive and most compelling works on the reliance of the human on the animal in recent medieval scholarship.”
Choice
“Animals, whether actual or hybrids such as werewolves and snake women, are a puzzling presence in many medieval narratives. In this thought-provoking study of some dozen and a half predominantly French works from the 12th through the 15th centuries, McCracken (Univ. of Michigan) examines animals as a window on medieval ideas related to the notion of sovereignty. . . . Highly recommended.”
 
H-France Review
“Peggy McCracken’s In the Skin of a Beast . . . demonstrates that the ways in which medieval people thought or dreamed about animals, monsters, and hybrids goes to the heart of their ideas about humanity, subjectivity, gender, power, and society. . . . An important and valuable work of scholarship.”
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.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://www.press.uchicago.edu
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