Autumn 2021 CMRS Symposium - "Animals and Humans in the Medieval and Renaissance Worlds"


Friday, December 3 - Saturday, December 4, 2021

Please join us for the Autumn 2021 CMRS Symposium: "Animals and Humans in the Medieval and Renaissance Worlds: A Symposium."

All in-person events will take place in 202 Thompson Library (**note room correction**) and all events will be livestreamed via Zoom. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we will not be serving refreshments on-site but the Thompson Library Berry Cafe (1st floor, by west entrance) will be open all day Friday (open at 11 a.m. Saturday). Nearby parking for visitors is available at the Tuttle Garage and Ohio Union South Garage.

**Please register to receive the Zoom meeting room links.**

12/3 Symposium:

12/4 Roundtable: 

3:15-4:30 Keynote

Keynote AddressKathleen Walker-Meikle (UCL) - "Rabies, scabies, beast and man: Animals and disease in medieval and early modern period" (ZOOM LIVESTREAM)

Abstract: This lecture will discuss how two ailments, rabies and scabies, were ascribed to both animals and humans and are prime examples of diagnosis and treatment working across the species divide. Animals and humans, by sharing the same humoral framework, were not constructed as a separate category. Visual differences such as thick shaggy fur or skin colour were explained by internal humoral workings, but the basic framework stayed the same. I argue that it is essential to consider disease across species when studying premodern medical history, as ignoring its manifestations in animals greatly diminishes how people observed and understood disease that they encountered, whether on their own bodies or their livestock or pet dog. Both scabies and rabies were considered to be highly contagious, and I will also discuss how medical and veterinary authors, writing in different genres, understood the nature of contagion and how it might cross the species divide. The issue of human-animal interactions and resulting diseases could not be more timely or impactful, and this lecture hopes to centre historical zoonotic encounters as an essential part of the history of premodern medicine.

Schedule of Events

Friday, December 3, 2021

8:30 Registration

9:00 Director’s welcome

9:15-10:45 Session 1

Laura Nüffer (Colby College) - "The Virtuous Ant and the Voluptuous Jewel Beetle: Telling Stories with Insects in Medieval Japan" (IN-PERSON IN 202 THOMPSON + ZOOM LIVESTREAM)

John Block Friedman (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and CMRS, OSU) - "Dogs of Loyalty and Lust in the Early Modern Manuscript Painting of Robinet Testard" (IN-PERSON IN 202 THOMPSON + ZOOM LIVESTREAM)

10:45-11:00 break

11:00-11:45 Session 2

Marcy Norton (University of Pennsylvania) - "Love and Terror: Parrots, Monkeys and Cross-Cultural Entanglements, 1492 - 1700" (ZOOM LIVESTREAM)

11:45-1:30PM Lunch

1:30-3:00 Session 3

Ian MacInnes (Albion College) - "The Murrain Flock: Animals and Disaster in Early Modern England" (IN-PERSON IN 202 THOMPSON + ZOOM LIVESTREAM)

Ido Ben-Ami (Tel Aviv University) - "Animal Agency in Early Modern Ottoman History" (ZOOM LIVESTREAM)

3:00-3:15 Break

Saturday, December 4, 2021

9:00-11:00AM  Roundtable Discussion (IN-PERSON IN 202 THOMPSON + ZOOM LIVESTREAM)

Speakers' Abstracts:

Laura Nüffer (Colby College) - "The Virtuous Ant and the Voluptuous Jewel Beetle: Telling Stories with Insects in Medieval Japan"

Abstract: Insects held a prominent place as seasonal signifiers in the poetry of classical Japan; crying crickets evoked autumn melancholy, while flickering fireflies suggested smoldering summer passions. Although the literature of Japan’s medieval era inherited the entomological symbolism of past centuries, it also gave rise to a new breed of literary insect. Illustrated scrolls such as The Poetry Contest of the Insects (Mushi no utaawase) and The Tale of the Jewel Beetle (Tamamushi no sōshi) imagined insects not as living features of an aestheticized landscape, but rather as anthropomorphic figures inhabiting a human-like society. Depictions of insects as poets held particular appeal: for instance, in The Tale of the Jewel Beetle, characters such as Chancellor Grasshopper and Minister Pine Cricket compose verses to win the heart of the beautiful Lady Jewel Beetle. However, the late medieval era also witnessed the arrival of a very different sort of anthropomorphic insect, one that instructed as well as entertained; these didactic insects were brought to Japan’s shores by the  Jesuit missionaries who produced a Japanese translation of Aesop’s Fables. I suggest that, although Aesop’s Fables soon came to circulate in Japan independent of missionary promotion, the Aesopian use of singing insects to signify sloth and frivolity stood in contradiction to the Japanese vision of singing insects as being both the raw stuff of poetry and poets themselves, and this cultural disconnect influenced the reception of tales such as “The Ant and the Grasshopper.”

John Block Friedman (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and CMRS, OSU) - "Dogs of Loyalty and Lust in the Early Modern Manuscript Painting of Robinet Testard"

Abstract: Robinet Testard was an illuminator from 1484 to about 1531 for Charles of Angoulême and Louise of Savoie at their court in Cognac. The couple were much interested in books mixing manuscript techniques with graphic media. In a book of hours made for Charles, for example, Testard pasted twelve Large Passion cycle engravings of Israhel van Meckenem (d.1503) onto the parchment leaves, then colored them with a thin layer of pigment to make a “miniature,” while changing many details of the originals.  

Testard typically added dogs to his manuscript miniatures where there was no reason for them to be there, and he modified van Meckenem’s existing dogs to make moral comments about sexual license, and religious ingratitude. These “moral” dogs are added to a calendar miniature and developed in the horae’s Interrogation of Jesus before Annas, and the Crowning with Thorns scenes, where the animals—with their polyvalent connotations of both lust and fidelity--serve as foils with two powerful examples of human ingratitude, Saint Peter in his denial of Jesus, and Malchus, the servant of Caiaphas in his failure to acknowledge the miraculous healing of his ear by Jesus after Peter cut it off. For example, in the Interrogation, Testard gave the existing dog a glint of teeth, and a facial expression, adding a long red leash. By this means he visually links Peter to Malchus standing across the room in the group of Christ’s tormentors in the composition, where the dog now snarls at Peter for his denial. Thus, Testard allows his dogs to have and state opinions about human actions.  

Marcy Norton (University of Pennsylvania) - "Love and Terror: Parrots, Monkeys and Cross-Cultural Entanglements, 1492 - 1700"

Abstract: In Greater Amazonia and the Caribbean familiarization was the process by which kin was made, exemplified by the nurturing – above all – feeding. Among the kin were wild animals who were tamed to become companion species (or, to use, more appropriately, an indigenous Carib term iegue). This paper will explore what happened when iegue crossed the Atlantic and became incorporated into European communities in the early modern period. 

Ian MacInnes (Albion College) - "The Murrain Flock: Animals and Disaster in Early Modern England" 

Abstract: The rural landscape of early modern England offered contemporaries a study in contrast. On the one hand, rural spaces were traditionally emblematic of enduring and unchanging spatial and social distinctions. On the other hand, the actual rural world was on the verge of radical change through incipient agricultural innovation, population pressure, and rising prices. Traditional rural spaces were also threatened by natural disasters that pamphlets made especially visible to the public. Domestic animals played a key role in many of the economic changes that were occurring, a rapidly increasing role as England became ever more animal focused.  During the first half of the seventeenth century, for example, livestock density in England doubled. It is therefore not surprising that narratives of natural disaster from the period focus so often on animals. Today, natural disasters are seen primarily as human tragedies, indexed by the number of human dead and displaced. For the early modern English, however, disasters were seen in terms of their destruction of the rural landscape in general and in particular of the animals that formed the basis of human livelihood. The trauma of such events, both collective and individual, is figured primarily as the dismantling of the distinctions, spatial and conceptual, that underpin the traditional rural world. Disasters overturned the careful delineation of arable, pasture, meadow, and waste. They laid waste to flocks. They mixed and confused humans and other animals, domestic and wild.  Drawing on early modern pamphlets, maps, parish records, memorial plaques, and on literary texts by Drayton, Shakespeare, and others, I analyze the animal-centric language of early modern natural disaster narratives. I argue that this language gives us a window into the ecology of rural spaces and into the interdependence such spaces created between humans and other animals.

Ido Ben-Ami (Tel Aviv University) - "Animal Agency in Early Modern Ottoman History" 

Abstract: Over the course of the last decade, historians of the Ottoman Empire have fostered innovative ways of thinking about their sources and have asked questions relating to varied environmental issues. Naturally, questions on human-animal relations are also included within this research field. However, innovative as these questions may be, most of them still reflect a broader viewpoint according to which animals are considered secondary to human agency. The aim of this paper is to link early modern Ottoman historiography with the expanding concept of the ‘Animal Turn’. Recently conceived byhistorians, this term has been used to highlight the extent to which humans and animals were not simply cohabiting in their natural environment, but rather the latter played a significant role in the formation of human history, and served as agents on their own terms.