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Becoming-Human, Becoming-Sovereign: Gender, Genealogy, and the Wild Man

Becoming-Human, Becoming-Sovereign: Gender, Genealogy, and the Wild Man

Chapter:
(p.126) Chapter Five Becoming-Human, Becoming-Sovereign: Gender, Genealogy, and the Wild Man
Source:
In the Skin of a Beast
Author(s):
Peggy McCracken
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226459080.003.0006

This chapter argues that the notion of a symbolic milk kinship with animals puts into question the purely human, noble identity that grounds notions of aristocratic privilege and rule. The chapter focuses on two chansons de geste: the account of the swan knight ancestor of Godefroy de Bouillon in the thirteenth-century Old French Crusade Cycle and the fourteenth-century Tristan de Nanteuil (Tristan of Nanteuil). Both epics recount the story of a wild boy, raised by an animal in the forest, who must become fully human in order to assume his place in a noble genealogy. These stories assume that their animal-like wild man protagonists retain an essential humanity, even as they represent an intimacy with animals that disrupts the reintegration of the human men into a securely human, noble lineage.

Keywords:   genealogy, milk kinship, Godefroy de Bouillon, Tristan de Nanteuil, wild man, Old French Crusade Cycle

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