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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Events and Outreach

Workshop: The 'Anthropological Machine' in Medieval Art: Cows, Martyrs and Other Animals

17th May 2017, 17:00, A56, Elvet Riverside 1, Robert Mills, (University College London)

This workshop will be jointly hosted by the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the Department of French, Durham University and is open to all Durham colleagues or postgraduates. Please click here to register.

The 'anthropological machine' is taken up by Giorgio Agamben, in his book The Open: Man and Animal, as a figure for the process by which human and animal are isolated within humanity. The machine establishes at its centre a 'zone of indifference,' wherein human and animal are indistinguishable—an 'intimate caesura' in which the line separating human from nonhuman is continually revised.

This paper considers the political dimensions to this mechanism in relation to a series of images in medieval moralized bibles, in which comparisons are made between animal and human sacrifice. Focusing especially on a page from a fourteenth-century Neapolitan manuscript, which illustrates and comments on God’s words to Moses in Leviticus 1 regarding the correct procedures for making sacrificial offerings, I explore—in light of Agamben’s analysis—the different forms and functions of the animal/human distinction in this setting. A draft version of the paper is now available - please sign-up to receive a copy.

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