18 March 2010
Venue: Arts Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS
'Legible Skins. Animals, Ethics, and Reading in the Middle Ages'
Sarah Kay, Professor of French and Italian, Princeton University
Posthumanist interest in human specificity acquires particular leverage in the Middle Ages, where schoolboys are educated on fables and animals are put on trial, where the nobility wear furs and the clergy write books on parchment. Rational entities seem to inhabit animal bodies, while human skins, the envelopes of social existence or cultural thought, become inseperable from animal ones. The definition of man as a rational animal is impaired by the very circumstances that render it intelligible, as both humans and (other) animals are conjoined through reading.
Sarah Kay is Professor of French and a specialist in medieval French and Occitan literature at Princeton University. Trained at the University of Oxford, she taught at the Universities of Liverpool and Cambridge, where she was head of the department of French (1996-2001). Elected a Fellow of the British Academy 2004, she was awarded the degree of Litt.D (Cambridge) in 2005, and admitted as Chevalier dans l'Ordre des palmes académicques in 2006. Her major publications are an edition of Raoul de Cambrai and four monographs on various aspects of medieval literature. With Malcolm Bowie and Terence Cave she co-wrote A Short History of French Literature (Oxford, 2003).