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Skin, Suture, and Caesura

(p.1) Introduction
Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries
Sarah Kay
University of Chicago Press

This introduces the book’s focus on skin, presenting a series of key concepts including those of Skin Ego (Anzieu), suture (Zizek), caesura and anthropological machine (Agamben), and manuscript matrix (Nichols). It outlines the history of the bestiary tradition in Latin from the original Greek Physiologus through Latin Dicta Chrysostomi and B-Isidore bestiaries to the Second-family redaction and the so-called H bestiary, and the French-language vernacular versions from Philippe de Thaon to the Long Version of the bestiary of Pierre de Beauvais. In all, six bestiary texts in French are distinguished, and six in Latin are identified for discussion, plus the Aviarium of Hugh of Fouilloy. The relation of these various versions to learned or school culture is discussed, along with what can be inferred about their readerships. The Introduction ends with a close reading of a page of the B-Isidore bestiary in Bodleian Laud Misc. 247, which features the chapter on the Sirens and Onocentaur, in order to show how text, image, and parchment insinuate conflicting contours of identity as between human and nonhuman animal, between internal caesura and the outlines of the Skin Ego.

Keywords:   suture, anthropological machine, Skin Ego, Latin bestiary tradition, French bestiary tradition, Siren and Onocentaur, Laud Misc 247

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