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Orifices and the Library

Orifices and the Library

(p.63) 3 Orifices and the Library
Animal Skins and the Reading Self in Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries
Sarah Kay
University of Chicago Press

Ambrose’s account in his Hexameron of the mating habits of the Viper attests his conviction that human bodies functioned in the same way as the bodies of nonhuman animals as regards sex and the senses. Such a resemblance between human and animal continues to challenge and shape the idea of the human in the psychoanalytic theory of the drives. A patristic tag describing man as born “between urine and feces” was cited by Freud, reflecting on maturation as a process of becoming human, and then used by Anzieu as the title of a short story recounting birth as the passage from filth into a library. This chapter explores the tension between bodily orifices and the library as it is activated in bestiaries that provoke anxiety about sexuality as part of their appeal to the reader of a book. It links the notion of involucrum from the previous chapter to Derrida’s concept of invagination, as it follows the continuum between bodily recesses and the bestiary page. The chapter concentrates particularly on the presentation of the Hyena and Beaver, and the Weasel and Asp, especially in manuscripts of the Dicta Chrysostomi and the bestiary of Guillaume le Clerc.

Keywords:   Ambrose, involucrum, Sigmund Freud, Didier Anzieu, hyena, beaver, weasel, Dicta Chrysostomi, Guillaume le Clerc

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