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Aspects of Medieval English Language and Literature

Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics


Edited By Michiko Ogura and Hans Sauer

This volume is a collection of papers read at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2017, in two sessions organized by the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and four sessions organized by the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics. Contributions consist of poetry, prose, interlinear glosses, syntax, semantics, lexicology, and medievalism. The contributors employ a wealth of different approaches. The general theme of the IMC 2017 was ‘otherness’, and some papers fit this theme very well. Even when two researchers deal with a similar topic and arrive at different conclusions, the editors do not try to harmonize them but present them as they are for further discussion.

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7 The magical human-animal or the monstrous female in Le Roman de Melusine



Abstract The medieval fascination with natura mirante is a well attested fact in contemporary scholarship and so is the presence of animals in medieval literature and manuscript illustrations. Placed on the margins of medieval life, fantastic animals nevertheless demonstrate the fusion of the human and the animal, as well as the confluence of the fabulous and the ordinary. Shape-shifters and changelings are the creatures occupying the liminal space between the godly and the un-godly discourse and testify to the permeability of the human and the animal world. Using the ideas of contemporary ecocriticism, the present paper discusses the medieval romance of Melusine through the contemporary ecocritical tools as they aid in our understanding of the use of the supernatural and the idea of nature in medieval thought.

In the Middle Ages it was believed that man was given dominion over the Earth and, by proxy, the animal kingdom. Medieval Man, however, was not part of the world – that would be a contemporary ecocritical approach – instead, he ‘had’ the world, to use Heidegger's expression quoted by Derrida (2008: 153). Man alone among creatures possessed a rational soul,1 which elevated him from his base, earthly origins, for homo meant ‘mud’, to an awareness of God.2 Such uniqueness marks the origin of the juxtaposition of reason and animality and the contemporary severance of the bond with nature, characterized by Félix Guattari as “the deterioration of the human relations with the socius” (2000: 27).3 Nature was to...

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