CFP: Animal Husbandry: Bestiality in Medieval Culture

Jacqueline Stuhmiller's picture

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Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
July 31, 2016
Location: 
Wisconsin, United States
Subject Fields: 
Law and Legal History, Medieval and Byzantine History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, Sexuality Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Second Call for Papers

Animal Husbandry: Bestiality in Medieval Culture

The boundaries between human and non-human animals were in some ways very clearly defined in the Middle Ages.  God commanded Adam and Eve, in no uncertain terms, to multiply and subdue the lower creatures.  Both Augustine and Aquinas agreed that animals were created solely for the use of man and had no immortal souls.  An affection for pets was often considered to be a sign of decadence or even devilishness.  Sexual contact between humans and animals was the most forbidden transgression of all: witches were thought to copulate with the devil while he was in animal form, and accusations of bestiality were often followed by harsh punishments.  Cross-species unions could produce hybrid monsters such as the Ox Man of Wicklow, described by Gerald of Wales.

Yet these seemingly strict boundaries between humans and non-humans became far more porous in the medieval imagination.  Humans had a variety of romantic and sexual encounters with members of other species (or gods, fairies, or humans disguised as other species): theriomorphic deities such as Jupiter or the Serpent; shapeshifters such as Melusine, Bisclavret, and Yonec; the bear wives of northern legend and the animal bridegrooms of folklore; the lecherous sirens of the bestiaries; and the demonic fathers of Robert the Devil and Merlin, to name but a few.

We are looking for essays that explore the ways that medieval people came into sexual contact with non-human creatures, whether in practice or representation, temporarily or permanently, deliberately or accidentally.  Where did the medievals locate the boundaries between human and non-human, and what were the penalties (and the rewards) of crossing those boundaries?  We are especially interested in interdisciplinary and transcultural studies, as well as those that incorporate the disciplines of law, history, sociology, archaeology, folklore, theology, and art history. 

Abstracts of 250-500 words for proposed articles of 7,000 to 10,000 words, including references, should be sent to Jacqueline Stuhmiller at stuhmill@uwm.edu for consideration by 31 July 2016. This volume is under consideration for the series Explorations in Medieval Culture (Brill).

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Categories: CFP