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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages (HIST10433)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the relationship between humans and animals in the Middle Ages. The recent "animal turn" in the Humanities and Social Sciences has prompted a re-evaluation of assumptions about the relationship between humans and their ever present animal neighbours. The course will investigate key aspects of that relationship in the Medieval world, investigating and contrasting materials from a range of medieval societies, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and "pagan". How were animals and the natural world interpreted by medieval people? The course will examine various types of medieval sources, visual as well as textual in this exploration of the interface between humans and animals.
Course description In recent years, a number of studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences have re-evaluated the assumptions that have informed understandings of the multi-faceted relationship between animals and human beings. This course makes use of the new approaches generated by this "animal turn" and applies them to an investigation of human-animal relationships in the Middle Ages. The course will examine a range of primary source materials, both textual and non-textual, relating to Christian, Muslim, Jewish and "pagan" societies. The chronological focus will be from Late Antiquity to c. 1300, although there will be references to ancient Greek and Roman texts.

The course will cover themes including, but not necessarily restricted to: The "animal turn"; the medieval Bestiary; working and domesticated animals; thinking with animals; animals and religion; the commercial exploitation of animals and animal products; animals and medieval sport, spectacle, and entertainment; animal symbolism; animals and social status; animals and medieval social satire.

Students will be taught through a series of seminars each of which will discuss one or more of the themes outlined above. The intended learning outcomes for the course include the expectation that students will attain a more informed understanding of the place of animals in medieval human societies.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: the mass killing of non-human species in the Middle Ages. The course discusses human uses of animal bodies and products and thereby confronts the evisceration of animals for sport, the eating of animal flesh and products, the skinning of animals and the wearing and other use of their furs and skins. Animal imagery was also used to other human beings, especially non Christians and other non Western ethnic groups. Some may find the discussion of the probability and implications of animal cognition and emotion disturbing. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students must have 3 History courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Enrolments for this course are managed by the CAHSS Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department. All enquiries to enrol must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
4,000 word Essay (60%)
1,000 word Academic Poster (40%)
Feedback Formative assessment will be the one-to-one discussion of an essay plan with the course organizer in advance of the submission of each essay. Summative feedback will be given in writing for each piece of assessment and the student is welcome to discuss the written feedback in person with the course organizer.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate command of a body of knowledge considered in the course
  2. read, analyse, and reflect critically upon primary sources, both textual and non-textual
  3. read, analyse, and reflect critically upon the relevant scholarship considered in the course
  4. communicate scholarly arguments effectively both orally and in writing, according to the conventions of the historical discipline
  5. work independently
Reading List
Richard Barber, Bestiary (Woodbridge, 1999)

Angela N.H. Creager and William Chester Jordan, The Human/Animal Boundary: Historical Perspectives (Rochester NY, 2002)

Nona C. Flores, ed., Animals in the Middle Ages (New York and London, 2000)

Erica Fudge, Animal (London, 2012)

Gerald of Wales, The Journey through Wales/The Description of Wales, trans., L. Thorpe (Harmondsworth, 1978)

Lenn E. Goodman and Richard McGregor, ed. & trans., The Case of the Animals versus Man before the Court of the Jinn, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009

Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Animals in Translation, Bloomsbury: London, 2005

D.D.R. Owen, trans. The Romance of Reynard the Fox, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1994

Brigitte Resl, ed., A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age, Berg: Oxford, 2007

Joyce E. Salisbury, The Beast Within. Animals in the Middle Ages (New York and London, 1994)

Sarra Tlili, Animals in the Qur¿an, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2012

Paul Waldau and Kimberley Patton,, eds., A Communion of Subjects. Animals in Religion, Science and Ethics, Columbia University Press: New York, 2006

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsMiddle Ages,medieval,animals
Course organiserDr William Aird
Tel: (0131 6)50 9968
Course secretaryMrs Ksenia Gorlatova
Tel: (0131 6)50 8349
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