How and when does there come to be an “anthropology of the alien?” This set of essays, written for the eighth J. Lloyd Eaton Conference on Fantasy and Science Fiction, is concerned with the significance of that question. “[Anthropology] is the science that must designate the alien ifit is to redefine a place for itself in the universe,” according to the Introduction.
The idea of the alien is not new. In the Renaissance, Montaigne’s purpose in describing an alien encounter was excorporation—mankind was the “savage” because the artificial devices of nature controlled him. Shakespeare’s version of the alien encounter was incorporation; his character of Caliban is brought to the artificial, political world of man and incorporated into the body politic
“The essays in this volume . . . show, in their general orientation, that the tribe of
Shakespeare still, in literary studies at least, outnumbers that of Montaigne.” These essays show the interrelation of the excorporating possibilities to the internal soundings of the alien encounter within the human mind and form.
This book is divided into three parts: “Searchings: The Quest for the Alien” includes “The Aliens in Our Mind,” by Larry Niven; “Effing the Ineffable,” by Gregory Benford; “Border Patrols,” by Michael Beehler; “Alien Aliens,” by Pascal Ducommun; and “Metamorphoses of the Dragon,” by George E. Slusser.
“Sightings: The Aliens among Us” includes “Discriminating among Friends,” by John Huntington; “Sex, Superman, Sociobiology,” by Joseph D. Miller; “Cowboys and Telepaths,” by Eric S. Rabkin; “Robots,” by Noel Perrin; “Aliens in the Supermarket,” by George R. Guffey; and “Aliens ‘R’ U.S.,” by Zoe Sofia.
“Soundings: Man as the Alien” includes “H. G. Wells’ Familiar Aliens,” by John R. Reed; “Inspiration and Possession,” by Clayton Koelb; “Cybernauts in Cyberspace,” by David Porush; “The Human Alien,” by Leighton Brett Cooke; “From Astarte to Barbie,” by Frank McConnell; and “An Indication of Monsters;” by Colin Greenland.
In this striking social history, Barbara M. Benedict draws on the texts of the early modern period to discover the era's attitudes toward curiosity, a trait we learn was often depicted as an unsavory form of transgression or cultural ambition.
Through a detailed unpacking of the castaway genre’s appeal in English literature, Empire Islands forwards our understanding of the sociopsychology of British Empire. Rebecca Weaver-Hightower argues convincingly that by helping generations of readers to make sense of—and perhaps feel better about—imperial aggression, the castaway story in effect enabled the expansion and maintenance of European empire.Empire Islands asks why so many colonial authors chose islands as the setting for their stories of imperial adventure and why so many postcolonial writers “write back” to those island castaway narratives. Drawing on insightful readings of works from Thomas More’s Utopia to Caribbean novels like George Lamming’s Water with Berries, from canonical works such as Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest to the lesser-known A Narrative of the Life and Astonishing Adventures of John Daniel by Ralph Morris, Weaver-Hightower examines themes of cannibalism, piracy, monstrosity, imperial aggression, and the concept of going native. Ending with analysis of contemporary film and the role of the United States in global neoimperialism, Weaver-Hightower exposes how island narratives continue not only to describe but to justify colonialism.Rebecca Weaver-Hightower is assistant professor of English and postcolonial studies at the University of North Dakota.
In 1726, an illiterate woman from Surrey named Mary Toft announced that she had given birth to seventeen rabbits. Deceiving respected physicians and citizens alike, she created a hoax that held England spellbound for months. In Imagining Monsters, Dennis Todd tells the story of this bizarre incident and shows how it illuminates eighteenth-century beliefs about the power of imagination and the problems of personal identity.
Mary Toft's outrageous claim was accepted because of a common belief that the imagination of a pregnant woman could deform her fetus, creating a monster within her. Drawing on largely unexamined material from medicine, embryology, philosophy, and popular "monster" exhibitions, Todd shows that such ideas about monstrous births expressed a fear central to scientific, literary, and philosophical thinking: that the imagination could transgress the barrier between mind and body.
In his analysis of the Toft case, Todd exposes deep anxieties about the threat this transgressive imagination posed to the idea of the self as stable, coherent, and autonomous. Major works of Pope and Swift reveal that they, too, were concerned with these issues, and Imagining Monsters provides detailed discussions of Gulliver's Travels and The Dunciad illustrating how these writers used images of monstrosity to explore the problematic nature of human identity. It also includes a provocative analysis of Pope's later work that takes into account his physical deformity and his need to defend himself in a society that linked a deformed body with a deformed character.
Roman poets of the Augustan period reinvented monsters from Greek myth, such as Harpies, Furies, and the warring Centaurs and Giants. These monsters represented the attractions and dangers of novelty in various contexts, ranging from social values to artistic innovation. Rome’s two great epics of the early principate, Vergil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, are both filled with mythical monsters. Like the culture that produced them, these poets were fascinated by unfamiliar forms despite their potential to disturb and disrupt.
Monsters and Monstrosity in Augustan Poetry is the first full-length study of monsters in Augustan poetry, and the first metapoetic reading of monstrosity in classical antiquity. Dunstan Lowe takes a fresh approach to the canonical works of Vergil, Ovid, and their contemporaries, contributing to a very recent turn toward marvels, monsters, and deformity in classical studies.
Monsters provided a fantastical means to explore attitudes toward human nature, especially in its relationship with sex. They also symbolized deformations of poetic form. Such gestures were doomed to replay the defeat of hypermasculine monsters yet, paradoxically, they legitimized poetic innovation. Lowe proposes that monstrosity was acutely topical during the birth of the principate, having featured in aesthetic debates of the Hellenistic age, while also serving as an established, if controversial, means for public figures to amaze the population and display their power.
Monsters and Monstrosity in Augustan Poetry will appeal to scholars and students of classical Latin literature and of interdisciplinary monster studies.
In Pretend We’re Dead, Annalee Newitz argues that the slimy zombies and gore-soaked murderers who have stormed through American film and literature over the past century embody the violent contradictions of capitalism. Ravaged by overwork, alienated by corporate conformity, and mutilated by the unfettered lust for profit, fictional monsters act out the problems with an economic system that seems designed to eat people whole.
Newitz looks at representations of serial killers, mad doctors, the undead, cyborgs, and unfortunates mutated by their involvement with the mass media industry. Whether considering the serial killer who turns murder into a kind of labor by mass producing dead bodies, or the hack writers and bloodthirsty actresses trapped inside Hollywood’s profit-mad storytelling machine, she reveals that each creature has its own tale to tell about how a freewheeling market economy turns human beings into monstrosities.
Newitz tracks the monsters spawned by capitalism through b movies, Hollywood blockbusters, pulp fiction, and American literary classics, looking at their manifestations in works such as Norman Mailer’s “true life novel” The Executioner’s Song; the short stories of Isaac Asimov and H. P. Lovecraft; the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson and Marge Piercy; true-crime books about the serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer; and movies including Modern Times (1936), Donovan’s Brain (1953), Night of the Living Dead (1968), RoboCop (1987), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001). Newitz shows that as literature and film tell it, the story of American capitalism since the late nineteenth century is a tale of body-mangling, soul-crushing horror.
In this examination of the monster as cultural object, Judith Halberstam offers a rereading of the monstrous that revises our view of the Gothic. Moving from the nineteenth century and the works of Shelley, Stevenson, Stoker, and Wilde to contemporary horror film exemplified by such movies as Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Candyman, Skin Shows understands the Gothic as a versatile technology, a means of producing monsters that is constantly being rewritten by historically and culturally conditioned fears generated by a shared sense of otherness and difference. Deploying feminist and queer approaches to the monstrous body, Halberstam views the Gothic as a broad-based cultural phenomenon that supports and sustains the economic, social, and sexual hierarchies of the time. She resists familiar psychoanalytic critiques and cautions against any interpretive attempt to reduce the affective power of the monstrous to a single factor. The nineteenth-century monster is shown, for example, as configuring otherness as an amalgam of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Invoking Foucault, Halberstam describes the history of monsters in terms of its shifting relation to the body and its representations. As a result, her readings of familiar texts are radically new. She locates psychoanalysis itself within the gothic tradition and sees sexuality as a beast created in nineteenth century literature. Excessive interpretability, Halberstam argues, whether in film, literature, or in the culture at large, is the actual hallmark of monstrosity.