On Monsters An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 9/1/2011
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Hailed as "a feast" (Washington Post) and "a modern-day bestiary" (The New Yorker), Stephen Asma'sOn Monstersis a wide-ranging cultural and conceptual history of monsters--how they have evolved over time, what functions they have served for us, and what shapes they are likely to take in the future. Beginning at the time of Alexander the Great, the monsters come fast and furious--Behemoth and Leviathan, Gog and Magog, Satan and his demons, Grendel and Frankenstein, circus freaks and headless children, right up to the serial killers and terrorists of today and the post-human cyborgs of tomorrow. Monsters embody our deepest anxieties and vulnerabilities, Asma argues, but they also symbolize the mysterious and incoherent territory beyond the safe enclosures of rational thought. Exploring sources as diverse as philosophical treatises, scientific notebooks, and novels, Asma unravels traditional monster stories for the clues they offer about the inner logic of an era's fears and fascinations. In doing so, he illuminates the many ways monsters have become repositories for those human qualities that must be repudiated, externalized, and defeated.

Author Biography

Stephen T. Asma is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, where he holds the title of Distinguished Scholar and is a fellow of the Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture. The author of numerous books, including Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums (OUP, 2001), he lives in Chicago.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: Extraordinary Beingsp. 1
Repulsion and Attraction
The Literal and the Symbolic
Ancient Monsters
Alexander Fights Monsters in Indiap. 19
Monsters Are Nature's Playthingsp. 26
Monstrous Bones
Natural History and Credulity
Monstrous Races
Hermaphrodites and Man-headed Oxenp. 39
In-between Beings
Reason and Superstition
Aristotle's Monsters
Phantom Images
Monstrous Desirep. 51
Plato's Monster
Monstrous Mother
Medieval Monsters: Messages from God
Biblical Monstersp. 63
God's Lackeys
The Apocalypse
Do Monsters Have Souls?p. 74
Monsters and a Creator God
Baptizing the Monstrous Races
The Descent of Monsters
Alexander's Gates
The Monster Killerp. 94
"I Have Known Much Peril"
Tolkien's Tragic Beowulf
Possessing Demons and Witchesp. 103
St. Anthony Fights the Demons
The Witch Hunter Illusion or Reality?
Monstrous Desires Revisited
Driving Out the Demons
Scientific Monsters: The book of Nature is Riddled with Typos
Natural History, Freaks, and Nondescriptsp. 123
The Hydra
Eradicating the Fantastic
Responding to the Marvelous
A Mischievous Taxidermist
The Medicalization of Monstersp. 141
Monstrous Births
Pregnant Women Should Not Look upon Monsters
Monsters and the Mechanization of Nature
John Hunter's Monsters
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire's Teratology
William Lawrence and the Headless Children
Darwin's Mutantsp. 163
Monsters and Transmutation
No Monstrous Jumps in Nature
Mutationism and Hopeful Monsters
Alberch, Gould, and the Return of the Monsters
Inner Monsters: The Psychological Aspects
The Art of Human Vulnerability: Angst and Horrorp. 183
Fear and Cognitive Mismatch
Angst and Fear
Torture Porn
Creeping Flesh
Criminal Monsters: Psychopathology, Aggression, and the Malignant Heartp. 203
Monsters in the Headlines
Leopold and Loeb
Rage and Aggression
Monstrous Desire Revisited
Cold Detachment
The Causes of Psychopathology
Judging and Managing the Monsters
Monsters Today and Tomorrow
Torturers, Terrorists, and Zombies: The Products of Monstrous Societiesp. 231
Xenophobia and Race
Theoretical Xenophobia
Monstrous Civilizations
Pathological Societies
Monsters from the Oppressed Classes
Monsters of Ideology Deconstructing Monsters
Future Monsters: Robots, Mutants, and Posthuman Cyborgsp. 255
Mutants and Robots
Disembodied Minds Playing God: Biotechnology
Are Monsters in the Eye of the Beholder?
Epiloguep. 278
Notesp. 285
Indexp. 335
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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