International Representation of the Wolf in Art; Deity or Demon?

Utah State University Caine College of the Arts professor of art history, Laura D. Gelfand, returned to the classroom this fall, following a Fulbright grant for research in York, England, focusing on the historical demonization of wolves in textual and visual representations. Gelfand took a yearlong sabbatical, from 2018-2019, to research for her book focusing on the relationship with the wolf, from once a deity to now an embodiment of evil.  Her research focuses on images of wolves over time as cultural and historical developments shifted from viewings the wolf as a god to the representation to a symbol of fear and evil. 

“Pervasive propaganda has poisoned the wolf in our minds, and we have obliterated the animal in reality,” said Gelfand. “Yet antipathy toward the wolf is a relatively recent development. Most pre-Christian cultural belief systems incorporated animism to varying degrees and granted at least a modicum of respect to all living creatures, including wolves. Most cultures also recognized the wolf’s important role as an apex predator in the natural world and mirrored it when establishing hierarchies in their own pantheons. As a deity, or when connected with a god, the wolf inspired fear and admiration.” 

Gelfand’s Fulbright grant awarded the professor opportunities to research, primarily at University of York in York, England, as well as presenting at universities in London, Sheffield, and Birmingham. University of York’s Department of the History of Art has 24 full-time faculty, making it one of the largest art history departments in the world. Gelfand was able to collaborate with professors in art history and animal studies from all over the England. 

“Art history research requires travel to Europe, and I have had the opportunity to work in some of the greatest libraries and museums in the world,” says Gelfand. “I cannot think of anything more important or exciting than immersing yourself in another country and learning about cultures that are different from your own.” 

In the summer 2020 semester, Gelfand and professors Tammy Proctor of history, and Phebe Jensen of English, will be teaching a medieval art history course in England. The program, Shakespeare, Art and War, will primarily be based in Oxford, and will end up in York where a few of the friends and colleagues Gelfand acquired will speak to the USU students. Students can apply for the summer program online at 

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Gelfand attributes some of her success in obtaining a Fulbright grant to the support from USU professors. USU has a rich history of Fulbright scholars, with several lending expertise and advice on applications and submissions. Gelfand was assisted by Chris Winstead, professor in engineering, and Norm Jones and Tammy Proctor, professors in history, providing suggestions for the application and tips for preparing to live and work abroad.  

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar program offers nearly 470 teaching, research or combination teaching/research awards in over 125 countries and the Fulbright U.S. Student program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students.

USU scholars and students can apply for Fulbright grants during the awards cycle, which opens in spring 2020. USU’s Global Engagement office offers workshops and advising appointments for Fulbright applicants. 

Students interested in studying abroad can apply to over 20 faculty-led summer programs, or for exchange or direct programs in over 80 countries, for any semester or academic year. Global Engagement offers study abroad fairs, workshops and appointments for assistance in finding a study abroad program that fits their needs and timeline. 

For more information about Fulbright grants email:
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