New book – Exceptional Bodies in Early Modern Culture: Concepts of Monstrosity Before the Advent of the Normal, ed. by Maja Bondestam, pub. by Amsterdam University Press

Exceptional Bodies in Early Modern Culture, Concepts of Monstrosity Before the Advent of the Normal

Maja Bondestam (ed.), published by Amsterdam University Press, new series Monsters and Marvels. Alterity in the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds


Drawing on a rich array of textual and visual primary sources, including medicine, satires, play scripts, dictionaries, natural philosophy, and texts on collecting wonders, this book provides a fresh perspective on monstrosity in early modern European culture. The essays explore how exceptional bodies challenged social, religious, sexual and natural structures and hierarchies in the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and contributed to its knowledge, moral and emotional repertoire. Prodigious births, maternal imagination, hermaphrodites, collections of extraordinary things, powerful women, disabilities, controversial exercise, shapeshifting phenomena and hybrids are examined in a period before all varieties and differences became normalized to a homogenous standard. The historicizing of exceptional bodies is central in the volume since it expands our understanding of early modern culture and deepens our knowledge of its specific ways of conceptualizing singularities, rare examples, paradoxes, rules and conventions in nature and society.


Table of contents

Introduction – Maja Bondestam

1. The Moresca Dance in Counter-Reformation Rome: Court Medicine and the Moderation of Exceptional Bodies – Maria Kavvadia

2. Monsters and the Matemal Imagination: The ‘First Vision’ from Johann Remmelin’s 1619 Catoptrum microcosmicum Triptych – Rosemary Moore

3. The Optics of Bodily Deviance: Juan Ruiz de Alarcon’s Path to Public Office – Pablo Garcia Pillar

4. ‘The Most Deformed Woman in France’: Marguerite de Valois’s Monstrous Sexuality in the Divorce satyrique – Cecile Resfels

5. Curious, Useful and Important: Bayle’s ‘Hermaphrodites’ as Figures of Theological Inquiry – Parker Cotton

6. An Education: Johannes Schefferus and the Prodigious Son of a Fisherman – Maja Bondestam

7. Ambiguous and Transitional Bodies: Stillbirth in Stockholm, 1691-1724 – Tove Paulsson Holmberg

Afterword – Kathleen Long