Polysemic Animal Names in Medieval Texts and Iconography - p. 97

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Arnaud Zucker, Jacqueline Leclercq-Marx, Polysemic Animal Names in Medieval Texts and Iconography - p. 97

This paper deals with the iconographic representation, mainly in medieval encyclopaedias, of marine animals whose names refer to a terrestrial pattern (sea dog, sea horse, etc.). Its aim is to assess the impact of “hybrid” or “analogic” names in hybrid figurations in the pairs formed by animal textual descriptions and corresponding vignettes. This onomastic motivation is supported by the ancient and underlying idea in the medieval world that marine space offers a fauna symmetrical to that of the earth. However, this general conception cannot by itself account for the abundance in the texts of marine counterparts of quadrupeds or humanoids. These hybrid marine forms (labelled with a hybrid name) are only an extreme and spectacular type of a more general programme of analogical figuration in medieval iconography. Beyond the problems posed by the complex and sometimes discordant relationship between image and text in illustrated manuscripts, it appears that these images, often labelled and regarded as 'monstrous', require a different interpretation and use an iconographic code that we have partly lost: marine monsters are not the direct product of the imagination, but of semiological constructions.

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