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21 October - 17 November
FoSS and ESRC logos

Curious Critters: Human-Animal Relations in Medieval Culture

Medieval mural showing fantastic creatures

What’s on offer?

Exhibition of 10 wall panels that explore medieval human-animal relations. The panels will be displayed to the public in the Shankill's Spectrum Centre with a view to promoting eco-critical thinking and medieval culture to the general public.

What’s it about?

People are not going to care about animal conservation unless they think that animals are worthwhile --David Attenborough

This exhibition explores medieval human-animal relations (c. 1000-1500). It considers how and why our relationship with animals has changed over the centuries.

Animals permeate medieval culture; the paintings of the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) feature cats, pigs, owls and goats, while the Italian writer, Giovanni Boccaccio (c. 1313-75), describes a dazzling array of talking wolves and crows in his famous book The Decameron. Animals also permeate medieval 'bestiaries' or ‘books of beasts’; these were early encyclopaedias that describe the various characteristics of certain animals. One such book is the twelfth century Aberdeen Bestiary, which remarks on the sweet smell of whales’ breath and the excellent eyesight of lascivious goats. Animals even feature in medieval court cases, where they are put on trial and prosecuted for committing crimes! Such accounts are both bizarre and fascinating. They nevertheless provide an opportunity to learn more about how medieval people understood the world around them. Such texts encourage us to think more carefully about how we interact with our own surroundings.

Combining medieval animal texts with recent animal theory, viewers will learn how past cultures present new opportunities to develop a positive environmental outlook. By looking to the past, it aims to reframe how we understand our place in the world and relate to the curious critters that populate it.

Key questions will include:

• How and why were animals represented in medieval culture?
• To what extent have attitudes to animals changed and what does this shift reveal about human-animal relations today?
• What do medieval animals reveal about past and present society?
• How can medieval animal texts lead to a more ecological outlook?

Who’s leading the event?

Dr Aisling Reid, Lecturer in Late Medieval Literature, AEL

Open to

Anyone is welcome

Event Booking details

No registration is required

Scheduling information

 10am to 6pm, Monday to Sunday