We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Wisdom of Animals

Creatureliness in Early Modern French Spirituality

Catharine Randall

Publication Year: 2014

Throughout Western civilization, animals have decorated heraldic shields, populated medieval manuscripts, and ornamented baroque pottery. Animals have also been our companions, our correctives, and our ciphers as humanity has represented and addressed issues of authority, cultural strife, and self-awareness as theological, moral, and social beings. In The Wisdom of Animals: Creatureliness in Early Modern French Spirituality, Catharine Randall traces two threads of thought that consistently appear in a number of early modern French texts: how animals are used as a means for humans to explore themselves and the meaning of existence; and how animals can be subjects in their own right. In her accessible, interdisciplinary study, Randall explores the link between philosophical and theological discussions of the nature and status of animals vis-à-vis the rest of existence, particularly humans. In doing so, she provides the early modern backdrop for the more frequently studied modern and postmodern notions of animality. Randall approaches her themes by way of French confessional and devotional literature, especially the works of Michel de Montaigne, Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, St. Francis de Sales, and Guillaume-Hyacinthe Bougeant. From these, she elicits contrasting perspectives of animality: rational vs. mystical, representational vs. sacramental, religious vs. secular, and Protestant vs. Jesuit Catholic perspectives.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (416.7 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (28.1 KB)
pp. vii-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (20.7 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (74.0 KB)
pp. 1-14

Animals have decorated heraldic shields, populated the pages of medieval manuscripts, woven themselves into tapestries, featured as ornamentation on baroque pottery, been formed into the fanciful deformations called gargoyles, farmed our fields, symbolized human weaknesses, lusts, and desires, and insinuated themselves into our...

read more

Chapter One: Sixteenth-Century Animal Avatars in Montaigne and His Contemporaries

pdf iconDownload PDF (115.7 KB)
pp. 15-38

Montaigne’s famous interaction with his cat provides the reader with a ludic spectacle, as well as giving Montaigne himself a philosophical framework from which to approach the nature of animality and the twinned questions of animal consciousness and language. The micronarrative relies on the sense of sight but also uses imagination...

read more

Chapter Two: Job’s Horse and Other Creatures

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.0 KB)
pp. 39-60

In the 1980s feature film The Madness of King George, a physician and former man of the cloth is able temporarily to arrest the slow and frightening descent into madness of England’s monarch by reassuring him that he holds him firmly in his gaze: “I have you in my eye, Sir; I have you in my eye.” This statement, somewhat...

read more

Chapter Three: The Fauna of Faith

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.9 KB)
pp. 61-92

The medieval Dominican preacher Meister Eckhart said that if he were to contemplate the tiniest creature, perhaps an insect, sufficiently, he would never need to write another sermon, for that natural creature would summarize and display the Word of God more fully than any sermon (1986, 234)...

read more

Chapter Four: Le Père Bougeant’s Heresy

pdf iconDownload PDF (141.9 KB)
pp. 93-124

In the film Ridicule, a portrayal of salon culture, the character of the Abbé, “lion” of his salon and virtuoso of verbal improvisation and witty repartee, grandiloquently proves the existence of God before the king and his assembled courtiers through a series of cleverly reasoned plays on words. When the king rises to applaud these punning pyrotechnics...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (73.5 KB)
pp. 125-138

Over a quarter century ago, the British historian Keith Thomas, acknowledged by many as the progenitor of work on animal rights, published Man and the Natural World: A History of the Modern Sensibility. This book documented the mentalité, from the late Middle Ages through the present day, that English men and women evinced...


pdf iconDownload PDF (122.1 KB)
pp. 139-160


pdf iconDownload PDF (56.3 KB)
pp. 161-168


pdf iconDownload PDF (55.5 KB)
pp. 169-180

About the Author, Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (417.4 KB)

E-ISBN-13: 9780268091804
E-ISBN-10: 0268091803
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268040352
Print-ISBN-10: 0268040354

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2014