The immortal fascination of the monster. Monstrous births and human phenomena between normality and deviations

deadline for submissions: 
May 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Itinera magazine

Itinera, 24 (2022)

The immortal Fascination of the Monster. Monstrous Births and human Phenomena between Normality and Deviation.

Edited by Marina Mascherini and Bruno Accarino 

Today wonders and prodigies are on the agenda and populate literature, cinema, art, philosophy. A new curiosity about deviance and normality has certainly contributed, and still contributes, to the fascination ascribable to the extraordinary and the marginal. Once the ideals of order and rationality entered deeply into crisis, wonder and the marvelous have assumed an unimaginable importance, especially in intellectual circles.

Why are all kinds of wonders and prodigies arousing so much interest?

The reason is that both contradict and destabilize an already variable, inconstant and heterogeneous nature. Monstrous births are one of the sensational events that cause wonder and astonishment and which we fully consider prodigies. In the literature on monsters and portents there have been some technical and conceptual difficulties in defining the scope of the subjects to be analysed. It is therefore important to clearly specify the type of phenomena that we intend to discuss: natural alterations and anomalies, deviations from the norm and abnormalities. We define the anomaly, that which is off the track, irregular, a derailment of development that generates nothing but change.

The human monster, the deformed, the monstrous births, the freaks; embryos whose development has been interrupted at a certain level and which Deleuze called bizarre and irregular, force us to deal with a second nature in the making.

It is by looking at the monster that man recognizes himself and acquires self-awareness, it is by observing this pole of attraction and repulsion at the same time that man reconstructs his own image.

The visual representation of the monstrosity, its aesthetic form, is that of the grotesque, the excessive, the caricature: exaggerated figures and shapes in motion that break the monotony by virtue of unexpected combinations. Between the coexistence of these contrasts and the reconstruction of a lost unity, the monster is manifestly such and the display of this monstrousness provokes and is present in all cultures. The monsters to be found in the Natural History Cabinets are not easily classifiable. They are as likely to be found in Curiosity cabinets as in circuses or in laboratories and anatomical tables.

These prodigies exhibit a high form of hybridization in which science and entertainment merge.

The analysis of the present perception of the monster is aimed at its ambiguity, presenting itself as a union of contrasting features that stand out on a horizon that leads back to otherness and difference.

Our fascination with freaks gives rises to confusion. These monsters whose fascinating and attractive characters inevitably intertwine with a contrasting shape, appear as horrible as they are attractive and bewitching.

Some examples of topics that may be addressed are:

  • The marvellous and the prodigious between the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • Monstrous births from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment.
  • Cabinets of curiosities, monstrous collections and uncanny sentiment.
  • Studies on monsters between the 16th and 17th centuries in France and England.
  • Naturalists, zoologists and anatomists in Europe between the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • The Freaks: between science and entertainment.
  • The anomaly and the deformed in art (painting, sculpture, architecture, theater, music)
  • The monster in literature and/or cinema.
  • The normal and the pathological: deviations from the norm.

The support of iconographic material combined with sources and captions is desirable, useful for grasping the object of analysis with a certain degree of clarity and concreteness.

Paper can be written in Italian, English or French 

Deadline for submission: 1th May 2023

Expected Release: July 2023

Editors:

Marina Mascherini (marina.mascherini@unifi.it)

Bruno Accarino (bruno.accarino@unifi.it)