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Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture

By Karen Raber

Publication Year: 2013

Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture examines how the shared embodied existence of early modern human and nonhuman animals challenged the establishment of species distinctions. The material conditions of the early modern world brought humans and animals into complex interspecies relationships that have not been fully accounted for in critical readings of the period's philosophical, scientific, or literary representations of animals. Where such prior readings have focused on the role of reason in debates about human exceptionalism, this book turns instead to a series of cultural sites in which we find animal and human bodies sharing environments, mutually transforming and defining one another's lives.

To uncover the animal body's role in anatomy, eroticism, architecture, labor, and consumption, Karen Raber analyzes canonical works including More's Utopia, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, and Sidney's poetry, situating them among readings of human and equine anatomical texts, medical recipes, theories of architecture and urban design, husbandry manuals, and horsemanship treatises. Raber reconsiders interactions between environment, body, and consciousness that we find in early modern human-animal relations. Scholars of the Renaissance period recognized animals' fundamental role in fashioning what we call "culture," she demonstrates, providing historical narratives about embodiment and the cultural constructions of species difference that are often overlooked in ecocritical and posthumanist theory that attempts to address the "question of the animal."

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Haney Foundation Series


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Absent Bodies

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pp. 1-30

Giovanni Battista Gelli’s Circe of 1549 recounts Ulysses’ efforts to convince a variety of beasts, transformed from men by Circe, that they should return to their human form and leave her island with him. Ulysses begins with the humblest of creatures, the oyster and the mole (also the simplest and humblest of humans, a fisherman and a ploughman respectively), ...

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Chapter 1. Resisting Bodies: Renaissance Animal Anatomies

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pp. 31-74

If we are going to talk of bodies, there is no more fitting place to begin than with early modern medicine’s advances in, and continuing obsession with, anatomy. Andreas Vesalius’s monumental De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), published with dozens of carefully created illustrations, inspired decades, even centuries of imitators ...

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Chapter 2. Erotic Bodies: Loving Horses

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pp. 75-102

The myth of Chiron, the rational hybrid horse-human, haunts Renaissance anatomy texts, as we saw in Chapter 1, but that is not the creature’s sole domain. In examples like Philip Sidney’s Musidorus, the more generalized image of the rider-as- centaur shows up in chivalric romance, ...

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Chapter 3. Mutual Consumption: The Animal Within

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pp. 103-126

To eat “strange flesh” and drink the “stale of horses” is, in Octavius’s estimation, more consistent with Antony’s martial identity than the hero’s present consumption of delicate fare in Egypt. What marked the hero Antony was that he survived a synaesthetic threat—eating meat that others died merely to look on— ...

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Chapter 4. Animal Architectures: Urban Beasts

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pp. 127-150

The body that Hamlet explores, the body that horrifies and perplexes Hamlet, is so thoroughly colonized by vermin that it loses its individuality to the throngs of creatures sharing its internal architectures. But this should not come as much of a surprise: in the ghost’s account of Claudius’s murderous assault on Hamlet Senior, ...

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Chapter 5. Working Bodies: Laboring Moles and Cannibal Sheep

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pp. 151-178

Among all those creeping, gnawing, devouring pests we encountered in Chapter 3 is Hamlet’s mole, the below-stage manifestation of Hamlet’s father’s ghost, who bumps and knocks and cries out while Hamlet swears Horatio and Marcellus to silence: “Well said, old mole! Canst work i’th’earth so fast? ...

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Conclusion: Knowing Animals

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pp. 179-188

In the sixteenth century, Thomas More tried to invent a new society, complete with cultural attributes and values and an economic system that rectified the failures of European societies. To do so, More mobilized examples of embodied human-animal relationships that ultimately demonstrated the impossibility of establishing a bright line between the two categories. ...


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pp. 189-218


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pp. 219-230


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pp. 231-234

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pp. 235-244

My thanks to Ivo Kamps, who read and commented on an early version of this manuscript, and to the three readers for the University of Pennsylvania Press, who gave invaluable advice for revision. For help with translation of Ruini’s text from Italian, I thank Isabella Watt, and for providing a variety of Latin translations of Melchior Lorck’s engraving couplet, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812208597
E-ISBN-10: 0812208595
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245363
Print-ISBN-10: 0812245369

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 27 illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Haney Foundation Series
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OCLC Number: 867741619
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture

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Subject Headings

  • Animals (Philosophy) -- Europe -- History -- 16th century.
  • Animals (Philosophy) -- Europe -- History -- 17th century.
  • Animal intelligence -- Philosophy -- History -- 16th century.
  • Animal intelligence -- Philosophy -- History -- 17th century.
  • Human-animal relationships -- Europe -- History -- 16th century.
  • Human-animal relationships -- Europe -- History -- 17th century.
  • Human beings -- Animal nature -- History -- 16th century.
  • Human beings -- Animal nature -- History -- 17th century.
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