Cover for HOBGOOD-OSTER: Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition. Click for larger image

Holy Dogs and Asses

Animals in the Christian Tradition

Recognizing animals in the Christian tradition

Analysis of animals in the history of the Christian tradition has been exclusively symbolic, but Laura Hobgood-Oster utilizes the feminist perspective in her examination of the impact of animal presence. In challenging the metaphoric reading of animals that reinforces human superiority and dominance, Holy Dogs and Asses underscores animal agency.

Creatures play various active roles, which Hobgood-Oster categorizes as exemplars of piety, sources of revelation, saintly martyrs, and the primary other in an intimate relationship. Drawing from rich oral histories, legends, artwork, and popular stories of saints, this study directs our attention to the animal body--also a central concern of Christian theology and feminist criticism. Hobgood-Oster invites the reader to venture beyond the exclusive symbolic nature of animals in the Christian tradition to an awareness that we can know ourselves more fully by reference to the animal.


"A welcome contribution to the growing field of animals and religion. . . . Recommended."--Choice

“Raises some important theological and historical questions about the role of animals in the Christian tradition, questions that encourage thoughtful reflection among people of faith.”--Religious Studies Review

"A pioneering study."--Church History

"Laura Hobgood-Oster's incisive contribution to the emerging field of 'religion and animals' is at once scholarly and caring--this remarkable volume models for all of us how valuable new works on the issue of nonhumans in the Christian tradition can be."--Paul F. Waldau, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University, and coeditor of A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics

"This study persuasively analyzes popular visual images in an effort to recover the lost significance of animals in Christian iconography. Hobgood-Oster's search in Christian history for a realization of the animal as more than mere sacred symbol is very important."--Belden C. Lane, Theological Studies, Saint Louis University


Laura Hobgood-Oster is the Elizabeth Root Paden Chair in Religion at Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas, and author of "She Glanceth from Earth to Heaven": The Phenomenon of Love Mysticism among Women in Antebellum Virginia and Maryland.

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