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2 Monkey in the Middle

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Chapter Summary

From the Middle Ages on, the anthropomorphosis of other species troubled Christian convictions concerning humanity's special status. In their oscillating similarity and dissimilarity to mankind, monkeys in particular embodied a persistent concern that haunts the projection of human qualities onto non-human animals: just as beasts may act like people, so too people can appear all too bestial. The complex interweaving of desire, fear, moralizing, and pleasure that encircled the figure of the monkey at the dawn of the Early Modern period can be seen in two depictions of the popular vignette of the Monkeys and the Peddler. Exploiting simians' close association with simulation, these seemingly fanciful explorations of humanity's imperfect doubles engaged their viewers with the problems of sensual delight and mimetic representation in the courtly arts. In handling the Monkey Cup in the manner it seems to require, the viewer in effect mimics the pawing of the pictured monkeys.

Keywords: anthropomorphosis; Christian convictions; monkey cup; pictured monkeys; simulated simians



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