Laura D Gelfand

2 March 2019, 3.00–5.00pm
Jessop Building Ensemble Room

ShARC were delighted to host Laura D. Gelfand (Fulbright Research Fellow 2018-19, Department of the History of Art, University of York / Professor of Art History, Utah State University) for a talk entitled ‘From she-wolf to hoary heathstepper and beyond: Inventing and representing the big bad wolf.’

In Scotland, plans for the controlled release of wolves into a fenced-off private estate still face strong resistance, while in the US, the Trump administration is attempting to strip protections from endangered grey wolves to facilitate trophy hunting. Today’s antipathy toward wolves has a long history, but the animal hasn’t always been hated. Many ancient cultures both feared and admired the wolf, associating it with their most important deities. However, by the Early Middle Ages the wolf was transformed into a palimpsest onto which a dense network of terrifying signs was inscribed. Anglo-Saxon poems describe the wolf as a hoary heathstepper, a monstrous creature embodying the worst aspects of humankind, and exiled outlaws were condemned to bear a wolf’s-head (caput lupinum), indicating that both man and beast could be killed on sight. Analysing medieval and Early Modern visual and textual representations, this paper explores how, when, and why the wolf has been demonized so effectively.