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Introducing the Medieval Ass

Introducing the Medieval Ass presents a lucid, accessible, and comprehensive picture of the enormous socioeconomic and cultural significance of the ass, or donkey, in the Middle Ages and beyond. In medieval times, the ass was a vital, utilitarian beast of burden, rather like ubiquitous white delivery vans today. At the same time, however, the ass had a rich, paradoxical reputation. Its hard work was praised but its obstinacy condemned. It exemplified the good Christian, humbly bearing Christ to Jerusalem, but also represented sloth, a mortal sin. It had a potent sexual reputation—in one literary work, an ass had sex with a woman—even as it was simultaneously linked to sterility. Over time, the ass also became synonymous with human idiocy, a comic figure representing foolish peasants, students too dull to learn, and their asinine teachers. This trope of foolishness was so prevalent that by the eighteenth century the word “ass” began to be replaced by “donkey.” Introducing the Medieval Ass offers a wide-ranging account of the importance, and often surprising cultural prevalence, of this common domesticated animal.

128 pages | 7 halftones | 5 x 7 3/4

Medieval Animals

Medieval Studies

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A must read for anyone with an interest in medieval history and/or asses!

The Birdbooker Report

"Reliably-researched and well-written presentations of iconic animals as they were understood – both as creatures in and of themselves, and as metaphors, characters, and in other representative forms – by the people of the Middle Ages."

The Well-Read Naturalist

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Origins – Nature, Holy, Scholastic and Literary
The Chapters
Chapter 1: The Natural World of the Ass
Chapter 2: The Religious Ass
Chapter 3: The Scholastic Ass
Chapter 4: The Ass in Literature
Post-script: The Medieval Ass in the Post-Medieval Era.

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