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The Social Wolf: Domestication, Affect, and Social Contract

The Social Wolf: Domestication, Affect, and Social Contract

Chapter:
(p.37) Chapter Two The Social Wolf: Domestication, Affect, and Social Contract
Source:
In the Skin of a Beast
Author(s):
Peggy McCracken
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226459080.003.0003

This chapter explores literary debates about the contractual nature of sovereign relations in a set of literary texts about wolves: saints’ lives in which wolves submit miraculously to human mastery; Marie de France’s fables, in which wolves contemplate the advantages of domestication; and Marie's Bisclavret, a story about a werewolf. In all these narratives, a wild wolf’s consideration of voluntary domestication structures a representation of consensual subjection to mastery and rule between animals and human masters. Yet in representations of animals as subjects that consider or desire a relationship with humans, medieval literary texts also explore the limits of a social contract that would define human mastery as a response to animal desire.

Keywords:   Bisclavret, fables, saints' lives, contractual sovereignty, domestication, wolf, Marie de France, werewolf

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