Across a range of medieval French texts—from the genres of romance, lai, and hagiography—scenes are found involving the discovery and scrutiny of a puzzling, hairy entity that cannot speak for itself, existing outside the confines of human civilization. These figures might turn out to be a beast, a nobleman, a saint, a murderer, or—more unsettlingly—many of these at once. These scenes are susceptible to a reading which calls upon a theoretical model drawn from the works of Bruno Latour and Karen Barad, for whom nature, culture, humanity, animality, the organic, and the inorganic are all different understandings of entanglements of matter and agency, expressed across a range of beings and becomings. From this perspective, these ambiguous creatures are read as figures which represent extremes of humanity and inhumanity, posing questions about that dichotomy and its relation to nature, and revealing the contingency of nature as an artificially constructed category.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.