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Una nación de monstruos. Occidente, los cinocéfalos y las paradojas del lenguaje

Author(s): Paolo Vignolo

Journal: Revista de Estudios Sociales
ISSN 0123-885X

Issue: 27;
Start page: 140;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Keywords: Plinian races | cynocephali | language | upside-down worlds | Conquest.

Among all monstrous races living in far away lands, cynocephali have a conspicuous place in the European imagination thanks to their pri-vileged relation to language. Already in ancient Greece, canine-humans represented the mythical intermediates between the human word and the animal cry. This tradition developed in two different directions. On the one hand, medieval Christianity (also influenced by Mongol and Chinese legends) promoted the view that the inhabitants of the remote borders of earth were barbarian - so-called because they were unable to develop a properly human language - and demoniac, banned from humanity. On the other hand, renaissance humanism, following the cynic school, reexamined the subject of half dog-half human beings in order to address the paradoxes of language. The question of lin-guistic understanding with Alter Orbis peoples beca me a burning issue during the European conquest of the New World. Wefollow then the passage from a canine imaginary to one of the ape-like savage: a symptom of deep changes in the communication between the center and the periphery of the world. The cynocephalus, the wise intermediary, was replaced by the monkey, mimetic parody of human expression.
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