Monsters provide a key to understanding the culture that spawned them. So argues the essays in this wide-ranging collection that asks the question, what happens when critical theorists take the study of monsters seriously as a means of examining our culture? In viewing the monstrous body as metaphor for the cultural body, the contributors consider beasts, demons, freaks, and fiends as symbolic expressions of very real fears and desires, signs of cultural unease that pervade society and shape its collective behaviour. Through a sampling of monsters as a conceptual category, these essays argue that our fascination for the monstrous testifies to our continued desire to explore the difference, prohibition and the everchanging "borders of possibility".
Topics treated include: the connection between Beowulf, Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, and Dr Jekyll's Hyde; the fascination with Chang and Eng, the "Siamese twins" in 1830s America, and what it has to say about anxieties regarding the recently "united" states; the idea of monstrosity in Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles"; the use of monstrosity in medieval anti-muslim polemics; and an exploration of the creation myth embedded in "Jurassic Park".
Part 1 Monster theory: Monster culture (seven theses), Jeffrey Jerome Cohen; Beowulf as palimpsest, Ruth Waterhouse; Monstrosity, illegibility, denegation: the martyrology after de Man, David L. Clark. Part 2 Monstrous identity: the odd couple: Gargantua and Tom Thumb, Anne Lake Prescott; America's united siameses brothers: Chang and Eng and nineteenth century ideologies of democracy and domesticity, Allison Pingree; Liberty, equality, monstrosity: revolutionizing the family in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, David Hirsch. Part 3 Monstrous inquiry: No monsters at the resurrection: inside some conjoined twins, Stephen Pender; Representing the cripple: cognition, cripples, and other limp parts, Larry Kritzman; Hermaphrodites newly discovered: the cultural monsters of sixteenth century France, Kathleen Perry Long; Anthropometamorphosis: John Bulwer's monsters of cosmetology, Mary Baine Campbell. Part 4 Monstrous history: Vampire culture, Frank Grady; The alien and the alienated as unquiet dead in the sagas of the Icelanders, Will Sayers; Unthinking the monster: twelfth-century responses to saracen alterity, Michael Uebel; Dinosaurs-R-us: the (un)natural history of Jurassic Park, John O'Neill.