Human cultures, including our own, are inter-species systems. Medieval hunters, householders, and herders relied on the labor, devotion, and mental abilities of domestic dogs. The new academic field of animal studies emphasizes the daily, material, and cognitive interactions of humans and animals. For example, the hunting treatise of Gaston Phébus resists the medieval scientific distinction between human cognition and animal instinct. Narrating the conversion of a wolf into a livestock guarding dog, the Life of St. Modwenna ponders how domestication came about and how it participates in culture making. These medieval reflections on inter-species relationships demonstrate the inadequacy of defining “the human” as an autonomous, privileged, and securely defined category.
Susan Crane, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, specializes in English and French medieval literature and culture. The consequences of the Norman conquest for Britain's linguistic, literary, and social history are the focus of Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle English Literature and subsequent articles on insular bilingualism. Gender and Romance in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales argues for interrelations between literary genres and ideologies of sexuality. The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity During the Hundred Years War investigates pre-modern identity as it is expressed in secular rituals such as tournaments, weddings, and mummings. Current projects explore medieval interspecies relationships and the contributions of animal studies to environmental studies. Animal Encounters: Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2012.