From a Renaissance Radical to Talking Pigs: Dr. Erica Fudge’s Take on History and Culture

Bear baiting. Public domain image from Wikipedia.

We often look back on previous eras with moral righteousness, but how far have we really come in our treatment of animals? How complete is any history that fails to acknowledge the enormous role animals have played in shaping human culture, and our self-identity?

Historians have rarely regarded animals as a serious topic of study. Yet animals have their own histories and have signficantly shaped human history. In this interview Dr. Fudge, Reader in Literary and Cultural Studies at Middlesex University, shows the importance of studying animals in history, specifically those in the early modern period in Europe. From “bear-baiting” to “pet-keeping”, Fudge discusses how understandings of animals are intimately — and complexly — tied to various powerful ideas, including those associated with progress and civility.

In the midst of dominant historical accounts, too, are competing voices and alternative visions. For example, Montaigne’s (1533-1592) views on animals were radical for his time, and remain radical today. Tune in to hear about how he challenged the ethical orthodoxy of his era, and continues to influence contemporary writers. Also, in the second half of the program, Fudge talks about how animals are used to tell stories (often about ourselves), so much so that sometimes the animals themselves get lost. From BabeBlack Beauty, and Lassie Come Home, Fudge offers some useful ways to engage with contemporary cultural images and texts.

Those who subscribe to the axiom “those who fail to understand history are bound to repeat it” will likely enjoy this engaging interview with Dr. Erica Fudge.

Fudge is the author of many books, including Brutal Reasoning: Animals, Rationality and Humanity in Early Modern England (2006), Animal (2002), Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern English Culture (2000), and various articles. She is also the director of the British Animal Studies Network.

Listen right now:

or download an mp3 of the interview.

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