• The Cultural Representation of the Horse in Late Medieval England: Status and Gender

    Emma Herbert-Davies (see profile)
    Animals--Study and teaching, Art, Medieval, Civilization, Medieval, England, Middle Ages, Manuscripts, Medieval
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    University of Leeds
    Horses, Animal studies, Medieval art, Medieval culture, Medieval England, Medieval manuscripts
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    Throughout the medieval period the equine played a multifunctional role, acting as a form of transport, an agricultural animal and as means of conveying goods. It was a significant attribute in warfare, providing the man-at-arms with vital manoeuvrability and acting as the ‘equivalent of a tank in modern warfare’. The versatility of the horse meant that it featured in the daily lives of the people who lived in the Middle Ages, and its importance is reflected in the equine imagery that appears in many texts throughout the period. Although the horse played a significant role in society little scholarly attention has been paid to its cultural significance in literary and visual images, and how it could provide a figurative representation of status and gender. This dissertation will focus on the late medieval period and examines a variety of manuscript images to explore how the horse acted as a cultural lens. By looking through the equine filter, a range of meanings were conferred onto the people who were portrayed on horseback. Social position, physical attributes and mental qualities could be inferred and gender ideologies could be reinforced or subverted. Equine historiography has focused largely on the practical function of the horse and this dissertation attempts to fill the gap by exploring how equine imagery functioned as a symbolic form of communication.
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