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Wearing Animals: Skin, Survival, and Sovereignty

Wearing Animals: Skin, Survival, and Sovereignty

(p.12) Chapter One Wearing Animals: Skin, Survival, and Sovereignty
In the Skin of a Beast
Peggy McCracken
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the use of animals, and particularly the use of their skins, as a technology of sovereignty. Moving among medieval bibles and biblical commentary, the fourteenth-century Conte du papegau (Tale of the Parrot), and a presentation image from a book prepared for a king, it traces representations of animals killed and flayed in displays of human sovereignty that reinstate human dominion over animals as well as over land and other human subjects. It suggests that a consideration of nonhuman actors reveals the biopolitical structure of premodern sovereignty’s management of lives, and a turn to the twelfth-century moralizing poem Le roman des romans motivates an argument that the imagined protests of animals used by humans articulate an ethical demand.

Keywords:   Bible, biopolitics, clothing, Le conte du papegau, manuscript, Le roman des romans, Le roman d'Alexandre, survival, skin, sovereignty

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