The distance between human and non-human across medieval culture could be populated by a plethora of hybrid beings whose identity lingered between the two categories, creating a space of indeterminacy, of life in-between species. Humanoid monsters with animal features, or animals with disturbing resemblances to humans, traced a constellation of possibilities of life in the continuum. While scientific and theological texts tended to present this variety of beings as a sheer demonstration of the variety of God’s creation, the hybrid could not but channel also fear and fascination. Wherever these monsters appeared in art, literature and science, the possibility for the human body to merge with the animal brought along reflections concerning ethnic identity, cultural norms, relation with the environment, social and political order.
This session aims to highlight the role of human/animal hybrids of medieval imagination in a centuries-long meditation around an open and fluid concept of human. To this purpose, we encourage medievalists to interrogate pre-modern examples of indeterminacy in the human/animal continuum by interrogating chronicles, scientific and fictional texts produced in Europe across the Middle Ages. The papers of this session should address one or more of the following questions: how do these hybrids substantiate the concept of human? how do human/animal hybrids establish a connection with humans or animals and what do they mean for them? where does the epistemological and cultural framework of the author or the audience/user stand in relation with the hybrid? how does the use of the hybrid change across time and languages?
We invite paper proposals from scholars at all levels and from all fields of medieval studies. If interested, please submit a 250-words abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15, 2017.