Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Final Thoughts

I suppose my final observations about the material of the class really must pertain to those things that stuck with me the most. Those would be the things that left me feeling very confused. We spent a great deal of time trying to understand what it was that medieval people believed or thought about animals, but I feel like we spent even more time trying to figure out what we think or feel about animals. I’m sure we all enjoyed the process of sharing our favorite literary and true to life analogies that helped us understand what it was that we were reading. However, this strikes me as being particularly problematic. We could barely agree on our own conceptualizations of animals as a class. There were so many different points of view and ranges of experience at play that most of the categorizing that we tried to do became very problematic. 

I still don’t understand how animal trials work. I don’t know that anyone will be able to provide me with a satisfactory answer at this point. How can people who understand and believe that animals cannot talk or reason put an animal on trial and expect it to defend itself from prosecution? It still boggles my mind. So many aspects of the animal trials were within the range of explanation. Some of them even made sense to us as modern historians, but I think that the easiest thing for us to do with this was to gloss over it and move on to those points that made sense to us.

I guess my two cents on the whole thing is that there is a lot we still don’t know or understand about how medieval people thought about anything, let alone something so clearly problematic as animals. There is clearly a lot of room for continued scholarship in this area, and in fact even a need for it. So many of the things we studied have been neglected by the community in large part and definitely need to be explored further.


1 comment:

  1. I hope very much that you feel like you have learned more from our discussions than that we don't know what we think about animals ourselves! For myself, our discussions helped me see much more clearly why our contemporary conversations about animals can be so fraught (both emotionally and with meaning): there is, indeed, little agreement either in our present culture or in the longer tradition about "the" place of animals in human understanding and society. This is one of the reasons that I hoped you all would be interested in taking this course! Animals are "good to think". If our study of animals has troubled rather than calmed our understanding either of ourselves or of the medieval tradition, so be it! It is a good thing to be taken out of our comfort zone where we think more about our human selves than about the other animals with whom we share our planet.