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The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature$
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Dorothy Yamamoto

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186748

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186748.001.0001

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The Bestiary: Establishing Ground Rules

The Bestiary: Establishing Ground Rules

(p.12) chapter One The Bestiary: Establishing Ground Rules
The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature


Oxford University Press

We still debate what it means to be ‘human’, often invoking markers such as language. Yet our search for articulacy in the animal world mirrors its salience in our own culture. Similarly, the dividing lines we draw between differently valued groups of creatures (e.g. ‘vermin’) are socially generated. The medieval Bestiary is often seen simply as a catalogue, but it is really a work that enacts the relationship between animals and humans. It is concerned with boundaries, with marginal creatures such as speckled frogs and hybrid leopards, and it also reflects man's inborn orientation with animals associated with the virtues gazing up into the sky while vicious beasts are condemned to live underground.

Keywords:   human, Bestiary, animals, vermin, virtues, vices

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