Figures in the Landscape: Encounters and Entanglements in the Medieval Wilderness

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Across a range of medieval French texts – from the genres of romance, lai and hagiography – scenes are found involving the discovery and scrutiny a puzzling, hairy entity that cannot speak for itself, existing outside the confines of human civilization. These figures might turn out to be a beast, a nobleman, a saint, a murderer, or – more unsettlingly – many of these at once. These scenes, Griffin argues, are susceptible to a reading which calls upon a theoretical model drawn from the works of Bruno Latour and Karen Barad, for whom nature, culture, humanity, animality, the organic, and the inorganic are all different understandings of entanglements of matter and agency, expressed across a range of beings and becomings. From this perspective, these ambiguous creatures are read as figures which represent extremes of humanity and inhumanity, posing questions about that dichotomy and its relation to nature, and revealing the contingency of nature as an artificially constructed category.

47 Language, Communication and Culture, 4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology
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Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
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Duke University Press