New book – Monstrous Kinds – Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability, by Elizabeth B. Bearden – publish by University of Michigan Press

This book elucidates how Renaissance writers used monstrosity to imagine what we now call disability

Monstrous Kinds is the first book to explore textual representations of disability in the global Renaissance. Elizabeth B. Bearden contends that monstrosity, as a precursor to modern concepts of disability, has much to teach about our tendency to inscribe disability with meaning. Understanding how early modern writers approached disability not only provides more accurate genealogies of disability, but also helps nuance current aesthetic and theoretical disability formulations.

The book analyzes the cultural valences of early modern disability across a broad national and chronological span, attending to the specific bodily, spatial, and aesthetic systems that contributed to early modern literary representations of disability. The cross section of texts (including conduct books and treatises, travel writing and wonder books) is comparative, putting canonical European authors such as Castiglione into dialogue with transatlantic and Anglo-Ottoman literary exchange.  Bearden questions grand narratives that convey a progression of disability from supernatural marvel to medical specimen, suggesting that, instead, these categories coexist and intersect.

 “An excellent, timely, and necessary book that upends the problematic assumption in contemporary disability studies that norming influences didn’t exist in premodern societies. Highly interdisciplinary, Monstrous Kinds is an important contribution to both premodern and contemporary disability studies.”

—Allison P. Hobgood, Willamette University

An innovative book that will significantly contribute to the growing body of knowledge of Renaissance disability. The variety of texts examined from different geographical areas and languages, and the in-depth analysis of the works and images, are outstanding.”

—Encarnación Juárez-Almendros, University of Notre Dame

Winner of the Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities

Illustration courtesy Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Cover description: The cover is a vibrant shade of red with contrasting white and yellow type. Set against this background and to the left is an image of conjoined adult female twins, joined from the chest down. Their torso and breasts are bare and they are draped below the waist.  

Elizabeth B. Bearden is Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

More infos on the editor website

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