How Animals Mean

Jill Mann

in From Aesop to Reynard

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199217687
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191712371 | DOI:
How Animals Mean

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This chapter provides a theoretical basis for the discussion of individual works in subsequent chapters. Taking examples from the Latin prose rendition of Phaedran fables known as the Romulus vulgaris, it analyses ‘how animals mean’ in beast fable, emphasizing the deliberate brevity and sparseness of fable narrative, and connecting these features with the mistrust of words that fable characteristically teaches. In contrast, in beast epic (represented here by the Ysengrimus), words proliferate, and the simple moral conclusion in which the action of beast fable culminates is dissolved in a sea of animal moralizing whose effect is comic rather than didactic. Beast fable and beat epic also differ in their relation to historical reality: whereas fable is a‐historical in itself but can be used as a whole to comment on a historical situation, epic can incorporate topical satire into its narrative.

Keywords: beast fable; beast epic; Romulus vulgaris; Ysengrimus; brevity; words; narrative

Chapter.  16404 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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