CFP - Special Session ICMS Kalamazoo 2020: “The beast epic – forgotten by the animal turn?”

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Robert Forke
contact email: 

Despite a growing body of exciting research on medieval animality, the beast epic, which should loom large in this area of interest, has largely remained on its side lines.

Excellent recent studies on medieval animality, for instance by Sarah Kay and Peggy McCracken, have explored the human-animal boundary and human-animal encounters in a broad array of genres such as the bestiary, lay, chanson de geste and various kinds of romance. The beast epic, with its animal protagonists such as Reynard the fox and Burnellus the ass and its satirically transposed portrayal of human society, may seem as too obvious a choice. However, the genre, with its huge spectrum of figurative engagements with contemporary societal issues such as monastic or royal abuse of power and ranging from biting satire to playful humor, remains in many respects poorly understood and awaits a thorough engagement through the lens of the animal turn.

How does our understanding of this often enigmatic genre change when moving away from a human-centered perspective? Where does the boundary between ‘animal’ and ‘human’ behavior lie in these texts? How does the ubiquitous physical and verbal violence in this tradition pierce through or stabilize such boundaries? What happens if non-human animals sound out the limits of human meaning-making through irony, parody and dissimulation?

Seeking to draw the beast epic and animality studies together more fully, this panel invites 15-20 minute papers pertaining to medieval beast epics in their various Latin and vernacular manifestations, but also the long modern reception history of the genre and comparisons with traditions beyond the Latin West.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words together with a completed Participant Information Form to Robert Forke ( by September 15.

Key words:

beast epic, animality, satire, irony, parody, post-human