Animals and wild men are everywhere in medieval culture, but their role in illuminating medieval constructions of humanity has never been properly explored. This book gathers together a large number of themes and subjects (including Bestiary, heraldry, and hunting), and examines them as part of a unified discourse about the body and its creative transformations. Human and animal are terms traditionally opposed to one another, but their relationship must always be characterized by a dynamic instability. Humans scout into the animal zone, manipulating and re-shaping animal bodies in accordance with their own social imaginingDSyet these forays are risky since they lead to questions about what humanity consists in, and whether it can ever be forfeited. Studies of birds, foxes, game animals, the wild man, and shape-shifting women fill out the argument of this book, which sheds new light on works by Chaucer, Gower, the Gawain-poet, and Henryson, as well as showing that many less familiar texts have rewards that an informed reading can reveal.
Yamamoto's individual readings are crisp and clear, and her conclusion that the fox troubles stable definitions of human and non-human is compelling. Years Work in English Studies Dorothy Yamamoto's study is unusually readable, perceptive and interesting ... she avoids the snare of densely theoretical prose to offer insightful and approachable readings ... the analysis is consistently interesting. The Yearbook of English Studies Yamamoto's review of the various topics is thorough, drawing on an encyclopedic range of secondary sources ... The book accomplishes its intent to bring together topics not often juxtaposed. Journal of English and Germanic Philology