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Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries$
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Sarah Kay

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226436739

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226436876.001.0001

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Garments of Skin

Garments of Skin

(p.41) 2 Garments of Skin
Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries

Sarah Kay

University of Chicago Press

Citing the same passage of Confessions as chapter 1, this chapter begins with the connection which Augustine draws between reading as second skin and the tunics of skin which Adam and Eve wore when they were driven from Eden. The tunics indicated that sin, in making them mortal, had also animalized them, a process that could only be reversed when Jesus assumed this same skin in the incarnation. Texts too are compared with garments or skins where one covering overlaid and could be stripped away from another, metaphors captured in the terms involucrum or integumentum. Bestiary allegories thematize these metaphors of skins as wrappings that can be unwrapped; and, because they are written on parchment, they also materialize them in their physical makeup. But they resist and twist them too, laicizing or eroticizing the themes of dressing and undressing, or using pages whose animal origins are so insistent that they give the lie to textual insistence on immortality. The chapter explores these ideas with reference to bestiary treatment of the Serpent and related creatures, and of the Hydrus and Crocodile, in a range of Latin and French bestiaries, particularly Second-family bestiaries and the bestiary of Philippe de Thaon.

Keywords:   Augustine, mortality, second skin, integumentum, involucrum, Serpent, Hydrus, Second-family bestiary, Philippe de Thaon, immortality

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