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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 Fox: Laying Bare Deceit

The Fox: Laying Bare Deceit

(p.56) chapter three The Fox: Laying Bare Deceit
The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature


Oxford University Press

If birds are of the air, foxes are of the earth: earthy, associated with deceit, with a foul smell, with underground regions, and with Judas, the arch-betrayer. This chapter explores the sort of ‘body’ that is assigned to the fox, and how it is used in various imaginative constructions. It offers readings of some of Henryson's fables, such as ‘The Fox, the Wolf, and the Husbandman’ and ‘The Fox, the Wolf, and the Cadger’, and of Caxton's translation of the Roman de Renart, Reynard the Fox. In the end, the medieval fox is seen to have far more agency than his despised status might suggest. He is allowed to play across the categories, engineering a Bakhtinian process of continuous change and revivification.

Keywords:   fox, fables, Robert Henryson, William Caxton, Reynard the Fox, Mikhail Bakhtin

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