Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Mamoun Fansa (ed.), ALSO SEEN: Tierisch moralisch. Die Welt der Fabel in Orient und Okzident. Begleitschrift zur Sonderausstellung des Landesmuseums Natur und Mensch Oldenburg vom 22. Februar bis zum 01. Juni 2009. (Schriftenreihe des Landesmuseums Natur und Mensch, Heft 63). Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2009. Pp. 315. ISBN 9783895006630. €24.90.
Reviewed by Victoria Jennings, Visiting Research Fellow (Classics), University of Adelaide

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This gorgeous book accompanies an exhibition in Oldenburg on animal fables and other didactic narratives. Tierisch moralisch is more than a catalogue. The book begins with sixteen very brief but copiously illustrated chapters examining animal fable from antiquity to the twenty-first century in European and Near Eastern culture (17-131); two sections follow, contextualizing the 'Geisteswelt' of the exhibition's areas of special interest in terms of their writing cultures, music, and built environment. These areas are the Near East from the tenth to fifteenth centuries (132-165) and Europe from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries (168-225). Finally, there is an illustrated catalogue of the exhibition (226-300) and a bibliography (301-316).

Fable--and particularly animal fable--is remarkable for its longevity and universal appeal. This volume is predominantly aimed at a general audience desirous of finding out a little more about fables and the worlds which produced them. It is hardly surprising that it is not a theory-heavy celebration of difference but rather pushes what one contributor terms the 'Transkulturalität der Fabel', its 'Weltsprache Moral' (214) -- a sort of 'globalization' of fundamental wisdom, constantly renewed and relevant. Nevertheless, the student of reception will appreciate the wealth of riches brought together in one volume, and for the classicist there are several chapters of interest, particularly with regard to comparative fable traditions.

In one of the longer chapters, Wolfgang Achnitz offers an overview of the characteristics of the 'polygenetisch' fable in eastern and western contexts; for instance, a shared characteristic is fable's timeless/placeless nature (facilitated by having animal protagonists1). Joachim Marzahn notes parallels between the Mesopotamian and Aesopic traditions. Christian E. Loeben offers a delightfully illustrated overview of Egyptian animal narratives. Niklas Holzberg briefly summarizes the Aesopic tradition. These overviews certainly whet the appetite for more.

It is welcome to find Kalilah and Dimnah, poster child for the complexities of east/west transmission, getting a good deal of attention (directly in four chapters and indirectly in a number of others; there are also some exceptional plates). It is well represented in the catalogue, along with the Pañcatantra. I would also recommend Carsten Ritzau's chapter -- a richly illustrated and fact-filled zoological exploration of the animals of fable.

In the catalogue, classical antiquity (represented by casts, writing implements and a fox on a lamp) receives less attention than Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and the Near East. The real gems are in the sections on reception: the eleventh century Limoges MS of Ademar's Aesop, a selection of Steinhöwel Aesops, Martin Luther's Fabeln, and much more. All items in the catalogue are illustrated in colour and have an explanatory paragraph or two.

By the time this notice appears, the 'Tierisch moralisch' exhibition will likely have closed. Judging by this beautifully produced (and well-priced) volume, this exhibition was a visually and educationally satisfying introduction to the texts and objects of the fable-producing lands.2


Mamoun Fansa and Eckhard Grunewald: Vorwort


Wolfgang Achnitz: Die Fabel--Merkmale einer Gattung in Orient und Okzident (17-28)
Joachim Marzahn: Fabeln--Altorientalische Vorläufer (29-32)
Christian E. Loeben: Tiergeschichten und Fabeln im alten Ägypten (33-40)
Niklas Holzberg: Äsop und die griechisch-römische Fabeltradition (41-3)
Birgit Middendorp: Ibn al-Muqaffa' und die orientalische Fabeltradition (44-7)
Görge K. Hasselhoff: Die hebräischen Übertragungen von Kalila wa-Dimna (48-50)
Görge K. Hasselhoff: Die lateinischen Übertragungen von Kalila wa-Dimna (51-3)
Sabine Obermaier: Das Buch der Beispiele der alten Weisen Antons von Pforr (54-6)
Wolfgang Achnitz: Kurze Geschichte der Fabel im deutschsprachigen Mittelalter (57-64)
Eckhard Grunewald: Jean de La Fontaine (65-8)
Eckhard Grunewald: Die Fabel der Aufklärungszeit (69-72)
Eckhard Grunewald: Die Fabel im 19. Jahrhundert (73-7)
Eckhard Grunewald and Birgit Middendorp: Die Fabel im 20./21. Jahrhundert (78-82)


Carsten Ritzau: Tierische Darsteller--Die Akteure in Fabeln aus zoologischer Sicht (85-108)


Karen Aydin and Birgit Middendorp: Ibn al-Muqaffa's Kalila wa-Dimna und der Codex arabicus 616 der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München (111-15)
Detlev Quintern: Miniaturmalerei und Malschulen im Orient (116-31)


Birgit Middendorp: Das vornehmste aller Gewerbe: Die Schreibkunst (134-42)
Regula Forster: Arabische Prosa--Literatur und Lebenskunst (143-51)
Gisela Helmecke: Wohnkultur im Orient (152-8)
Andrea Wörner and Gerhard Apfelauer: Arabische Musik (159-65)


Kristina Nowak: Bewegte Zeiten--Krisen, Krankheiten und Entdeckungen des 14. bis 16. Jahrhunderts (168-74)
Kristina Nowak: Vom Kloster in die Stadt--Literatur und Bildung im Mittelalter (175-82)
Michael Oberweis: Die drucktechnischen Erfindungen Johannes Gutenbergs und ihre Verbreitung bis zur Reformationszeit (183-95)
Kristina Nowak: Stadtluft macht frei binnen Jahr und Tag--Städtische Wohnkultur im Spätmittelalter (196-204)
Annette Otterstedt: Von Kühen und Katzen--Tier und Musikinstrument (205-12)


Detlev Quintern: Weltsprache Moral--Transkulturalität der Fabel (214-25)


Quellen- und Literaturverzeichnis


1.   Celia del Moral questions the complacency with which we regard similar animals in different cultures. See "La fábula de animales en la literatura árabe clásica" 185-207 in Peréz Jiménez, A. and Cruz Andreotti, G. edd. "Y así dijo la zorra". La Tradición Fabulística en los Pueblos del Mediterráneo. Madrid-Mlaga: Ediciones Clásicas & Charta Antiqua, 2002.
2.   Exhibition website: Tierisch moralisch. Die Welt der Fabel in Orient und Okzident. Another publication (not seen) is associated with the exhibition: Mamoun Fansa and Eckhard Grunewald (edd.). Von listigen Schakalen und törichten Kamelen: die Fabel in Orient und Okzident: wissenschaftliches Kolloquium im Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg zur Vorbereitung der Ausstellung "Tierisch moralisch. Die Welt der Fabel in Orient und Okzident" am 22. und 23. November 2007. Schriftenreihe des Landesmuseums für Natur und Mensch Oldenburg; Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2008.

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