Information in the Degree Programme Tables may still be subject to change in response to Covid-19

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: Animal Bodies in the Art and Visual Culture of Seventeenth-Century Europe (HIAR10177)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course considers the role of the animal body as a motif, idea, problem and opportunity in the art and visual culture of seventeenth-century Europe. The classes will examine images of living animals in contexts such as the hunt and the menagerie, and depictions of (and objects made from) dead and 'processed' animal bodies, which appear as meat, fur, leather and bone and as subjects of anatomical investigation. The theoretical approaches of ecocriticism and animal studies, as well as primary texts (e.g. hunting treatises, natural history books, dietaries), will help us to explore the appeal of these images and objects for period beholders. The focus will be on material from the Netherlands, Britain and France. The course is structured as a series of two-hour seminars, of which at least one will be a gallery or museum visit.
Course description Towards the end of the seventeenth century, investigators involved in vivisection (the anatomising of living bodies) began to complain of feeling troubled at the suffering of the animals used in their research. Such qualms are extremely rare before this historical moment, even though animal vivisection had been practiced - and extensively written about - since classical times. The early modern period thus witnesses the gradual onset of a new awareness of animal pain. It also sees the expansion of the practice of keeping companion animals, an interest (usually theoretical) in vegetarianism, and contentious debates about the sentience and moral status of animals. The latter were provoked in part by the 'Cartesian' idea (which Descartes himself may finally have rejected) that animals are complex automata unable to feel pain: the so-called the 'beast-machine hypothesis'. This idea conflicted with a long tradition of western thought that upheld the intellectual and moral abilities of animals.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( History of Art 2 (HIAR08012) OR Architectural History 2a: Order & the City (ARHI08006) AND Architectural History 2b: Culture & the City (ARHI08007)) AND
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Museum or gallery visit (these costs may be covered by the department).
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of some of the main varieties of seventeenth-century imagery depicting animals, and of decorative objects fashioned from animal bodies.
  2. Discuss the major religious and philosophical debates relating to animals that took place in the period, with a view to thinking about how these might be brought into dialogue with the visual material covered in the course.
  3. Assess critically the applicability of modern theoretical approaches (e.g. ecocriticism, animal studies) to premodern visual material.
  4. Present their views effectively, both orally (in seminar and museum presentations or discussion) and in writing.
  5. Conduct independent research using relevant secondary literature and primary texts, either in the original language or in English translation.
Reading List
Erica Fudge, 'A left-handed blow: writing the history of animals', in Representing animals ed. Nigel Rothfels (Bloomington, 2002), pp. 3-18 [ECA Library - (STANDARD LOAN) - Level 0 QL85 Rep.]

Keith Thomas, 'Men and animals', Man and the natural world: changing attitudes in England 1500-1800 (London, 1983; reprinted 1996), pp. 92-142 [ECA Library - (STANDARD LOAN) - Level 0 GF75 Tho. | other copies available]

Nathaniel Wolloch, 'Dead animals and the beast-machine: seventeenth-century Netherlandish paintings of dead animals as anti-Cartesian statements', Art history 22:5 (1999), pp. 705-727 [JSTOR]

Peter Sahlins, 'The royal menageries of Louis XIV and the civilizing process revisited', French historical studies 35:2 (2012), pp. 226-246 [JSTOR]

Susan Koslow, 'Law and order in Rubens's Wolf and Fox Hunt', Art bulletin 78:4 (1996), pp. 680-706 [JSTOR]
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Visual and critical analysis;
Clear thinking and the development of an argument;
Independent research;
Presentation and communication skills;
Organisation and planning.
KeywordsAnimal,dissection,vivisection,hunting,meat,fur,ivory,ecocriticism,animal studies
Course organiserDr Thomas Balfe
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information