Abstract

ABSTRACT:

A new reading of medieval manuscript is being forged by scholars of medieval literature interested in texts that reference and image the animal body. As part of a “post-humanist” project, the parchment book has been interrogated specifically for its place at the intersection of the animal and material “turns.” Medievalists who address questions of animal life and the “parchment ethics” of medieval manuscripts engage primarily with deconstructionist and post-humanist theory and interpretive methodologies of materialist “surface reading.” Yet the literature of the past fifty years on the scientific analysis of parchment and leather manufacture, the conservation treatment and assessment of historical parchment, medieval animal husbandry, and zooarcheology have had little bearing upon these discussions. This essay provides a critique of the “animal turn” as it has addressed the parchment book, by challenging the presumed epistemological identification between the skin of the medieval reader, the animal subject, and the parchment page. A medieval understanding of parchment through texts on pastoral care and allegories of parchment, historical evidence for the animal husbandry of domesticated animals, and nuances in parchment-making based on the investigations of conservators are discussed. And a case study is presented highlighting the Major Laws of Vidal de Canellas, Bishop of Huesca (1237–52), a manuscript in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum containing the Major Laws of the Kingdom of Aragon and dating to c. 1290–1310, after the unification of lands under Jaume I the Conquerer (1213–76), when Merino wool sheep cultivation flourished across the Iberian Peninsula.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6446
Print ISSN
0034-9593
Pages
pp. 39-67
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-31
Open Access
No
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