Monsters, Prodigies, and Demons: Medieval and Early Modern Constructions of Alterity is dedicated to the study of monstrosity and alterity in the medieval and early modern world, and to the investigation of cultural constructions of otherness, abnormality and difference from a wide range of perspectives. Submissions are welcome from scholars working within established disciplines, including—but not limited to—philosophy, critical theory, cultural history, history of science, history of art and architecture, literary studies, disability studies, and gender studies. Since much work in the field is necessarily pluri-disciplinary in its methods and scope, the editors are particularly interested in proposals that cross disciplinary boundaries. The series publishes English-language, single-author volumes and collections of original essays. Topics might include hybridity and hermaphroditism; giants, dwarves, and wild-men; cannibalism and the New World; cultures of display and the carnivalesque; “monstrous” encounters in literature and travel; jurisprudence, law, and criminality; teratology and the “New Science”; the aesthetics of the grotesque; automata and self-moving machines; or witchcraft, demonology, and other occult themes.
Portraits of Human Monsters in the Renaissance: Dwarves, Hirsutes, and Castrati as Idealized Anatomical Anomalies
At the center of this interdisciplinary study are court monsters - dwarves, hirsutes, and misshapen individuals - who, by their very presence, altered Renaissance ethics vis-à-vis anatomical difference, social virtues, and scientific knowledge. These monsters evolved from objects of curiosity, to scientific cases, to legally independent beings. Although many images of and writings about these individuals depict them as jokes of nature or indices of courtly wit, others transcend these categories, combining a vocabulary of courtly self-fashioning with close observations akin to dissections that humanize monsters, while simultaneously stressing their anatomical difference. More importantly, the works examined in this book point to the intricate cultural, religious, ethical, and scientific perceptions of monstrous individuals who were fixtures in contemporary courts. From entertainers to advisors, and from faithful companions to collectible objects, monsters at court held liminal positions used by rulers to create and shape their own personae.