Medieval Dog Love: Grieving Hounds and Frames of War Robert Mills, History of Art, University College London

Medieval art and literature are densely populated with images of grieving hounds. Dogs rest at the feet of countless tomb effigies. They attend the funerals of selected saints and kings. Or, in a widely-disseminated story with multiple variants, they remain with their murdered masters’ corpses for days on end, lamenting their fate and setting in motion a chain of events that brings the perpetrators to justice. A thread of feeling runs through these various depictions of canine mourning: invariably, the creatures’ sorrow is treated as an index of 'love' for the persons whose lives they grieve. But imagery of lamenting, loving dogs was also harnessed in the service of moral or political arguments, linked to questions of who or what gets to count as fully human. Focusing on the motif’s associations with acts of war and violence, this paper assesses the role of medieval dog love in articulating a politics of loss. By drawing out previously unnoticed connections between the Bayeux Tapestry and a cycle of imagery depicting the martyrdom of St Edmund of East Anglia, I show how dogs and other canids could be used to 'frame' medieval responses to war and violence.

Bob Mills is Professor of Medieval Studies and Head of the History of Art Department at UCL. He specialises in the visual and literary cultures of late medieval Europe, with a particular focus on questions of gender, sexuality and embodiment. He is currently working on representations of animals in medieval art, and he also has developing interests in film and in putting ideas of the ‘medieval’ into dialogue with the modern and contemporary. Bob’s books include Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure and Punishment in Medieval Culture (2005), Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages (2015) and Derek Jarman’s Medieval Modern (2018).

Image: Detail from bestiary, c.1226–50. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 764, fol. 31v. Photo: © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. Source: digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk

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BBC Medieval Life and Death History Festival

From the BBC: Get the lowdown on everyday life in the medieval era, with a series of FREE talks from leading historians. We'll be hosting this virtual event over a week, beginning on 18 May 2020. We'll host a lecture each day, and you'll have a chance to put your questions to our panel at […]

The Cairo Geniza in the Digital Age: A Webinar with Marina Rustow

Event Details:
The Cairo Geniza is one of the largest and most coherent caches of fragmentary manuscripts ever discovered: 400,000 items discarded by the Egyptian Jewish community over a period of 900 years. Digitization efforts began at Princeton as early as 1985, with Penn, Cambridge and a privately funded foundation entering the fray over the decades. The geniza is an excellent case-study in what digitization can and cannot accomplish. This illustrated lecture will present the main digital partners and their databases, take stock of what is transferrable to other caches, and brainstorm ideas for the future.

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