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Conventional humanist readings of Bisclavret approach the lai from an anthropocentric perspective, in which animal nature is merely an allegory for human nature. In such a reading, the werewolf protagonist is a foil for his much more beastly if wholly human wife, with the underlying assumption being that animal nature is something to be rejected. That the marker of Lady Bisclavret's bestial nature—her noselessness—is transmitted through the generations of only female descendants seems to echo medieval antifeminist truisms about female perfidy. However, approaching the lai from a critical animal studies perspective can help dismantle conventional assumptions about the privileged status of the human as well as assumptions regarding gender. I argue that Marie's lai resists not only the human/animal binary but also universalizing antifeminist readings of the wife.


Marie de France; Breton lais; critical animal studies; ecofeminism

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Copyright © 2018 Alison Langdon