Animal Entanglements in the Middle Ages: From Meat to Metaphor

Course Description: 

Animals are woven almost unnoticed into the complex web of human exis­tence. They permeate every part of our social lives, from mundane subsistence ques­tions to attitudes about the world around us.

Animals could be regarded as sources of wealth but were also seen as being de­structive. They were por­trayed as both familiar com­pan­ions and dangerous crea­tures at odds with humans.  They were considered sources of sustenance but could also be represented as harmful beings. They were used to express and mirror human relationships. Animals, both wild and domestic, present as having both profane and sa­cred elements. Animals functioned as symbols and metaphors as well as tangible part of daily life. 

The attitudes towards animals seem to be surrounded by in­triguing am­biguities of perception and meaning, cross­ing numerous cultural boundaries in the way they were con­ceived by medieval people. The course aims to have students explore the complex interdependences inherent to human-animal relationships int he medieval world.

Learning Outcomes: 

Ability to employ higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Assessment: class participation.

Ability to synthesize and to contextualize a variety of information.


Oral presentation and its written version.

All seminar members are expected to be active participants in the course. In the first half of the term  discussion groups will be formed to present specific topics based on the assigned readings. Credits and marks are given on the basis of class participation (30%), an oral presentation in the second half of the term to be agreed on with the instructors (30%), and a c. five-page written version of the latter (40%).