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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Dr Wes Williams: Monsters as metaphorical models

10th March 2008, 17:15, Cosin's Hall, Durham University
Dr Wes Williams [Oxford University] in dialogue with Dr Kathryn Banks, Dept of French, Durham University as part of the interdisciplinary dialogue series Metaphors as Models.

In this paper I shall explore a number of ways in which monsters – and in particular ‘monstrous births’ -- are subjected to metaphorical reading in the Renaissance. My talk will be structured around a brief discussion of three contrastive examples of such ‘monsters’: all of them, to differing degrees, drawing on the figure of the conjoined, or double child. What emerges is a historically specific sense of how the particular incidence of a monstrous birth figures as a model for reading/interpretation, bringing together as it does a number of distinct, but intimately related dimensions: politics, theology, medicine, ‘popular culture’, poetry and narrative explanation. Questions which Renaissance monsters raise bear on our understanding of the future, the immediate past, God’s will, the construction of the body, political catastrophe, narrative identity, the costs of curiosity, and ways in which to write about what remains of the human in a time of barbarity and civil war…. I hope, then, both to present some specific examples for discussion, and to raise a number of methodological questions concerning the role of historical context and the peculiar status of literary texts in debates concerning the representation of (monsters as) metaphorical models.

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