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Audio: Elizabeth Morrison's Lecture on Fantastic Beasts

Audio is now available of a recent lecture by Elizabeth Morrison, curator of the exhibition Medieval Beasts, on the fantastic beasts found in manuscripts.

Why are so many beasts to be found in manuscripts? In Europe of the Middle Ages, said Morrison, most people never ventured further than the countryside around their own towns. Their only knowledge of the lands beyond Europe came from books—books often illustrated with amazing and fantastic creatures. The art of the Middle Ages abounds in imagery of unbelievable animals, from unicorns to dragons, and with tales of the creatures of hell and encounters with the most incredible and fiendish monsters.

In her lecture, Morrison focused on the different types of fantastic creatures found in manuscripts, exploring their origins, their use in a Christian European context, their role in perceptions of the afterlife, and their appearance in romances and travelogues. She considered why medieval Europeans regarded beasts as symbols of God's divine plan, of the unknown, and of the regions beyond Europe, and why fantastic animals continue to capture our imagination.

Hear the Full Lecture
Get all the beasts! Download the full lecture (mp3, 51:59, 47.8 MB) .

Choose an Excerpt
Hear about the fantastic elephant that Morrison discussed in her post on exotic beasts.
Download this excerpt (mp3, 2:33, 2.4 MB).

Hear about the roots of the medieval belief in fantastic beasts and meet some of the stars of the medieval bestiary.
Download this excerpt (mp3, 8:51, 8.3 MB).

Hear about the horrible hybrid creature known as the platypus and our continuing need to create the fantastic "other."
Download this excerpt (mp3 5:08, 4.8 MB).


Re: Audio: Elizabeth Morrison's Lecture on Fantastic Beasts

fantastic beasts found in manuscripts - I think this is Unbelievable

Re: Audio: Elizabeth Morrison's Lecture on Fantastic Beasts

I thought the transhistorical and dialogic discussion by Morrison very interesting. The connection between Aristotle's obsessive compulsion to catalog every living thing-past&present- as a road to knowlegde is reflected with the 800 page Bestiary. I suppose in those times- paintings and drawings would be to what we have to computers and video. Plus, the drawing, books and painting were only accessible to the very elite(or priveleged) whereas, video and the internet is public and easily accessible to all. So, I wonder if the Greek dreeam of reason& knowledge is reached today with the Internet? Also, when you were researching the 1.5 (plus or minus) species...you forgot to tell the cheeky youngster who said "Of course dragons did not exist!" and remind him - well, shorty- have you heard of the Komodo dragons in Indonesia?

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