Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism
A surprising evaluation of the role of the physical body in the construction of British identity. Eighteenth-century medicine used the word "monstrosities" to describe physically deformed bodies--those irreducible to the "proper body" in their singular, sometimes startling difference. Considering British society in confrontation with such monstrosities, Paul Youngquist reveals the cultural politics of embodiment in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Drawing on the histories of medicine, economics, liberalism, and nationalism, his work shows that bodies are not simply born but rather built by cultural practices directed toward particular social ends. Among the phenomena Youngquist treats are the science of comparative anatomy, the annual festivity of Bartholomew Fair, the social status of black Britons, opium habitues, pregnant women, and wounded war veterans. The authors he engages include John Locke, William Blake, Olaudah Equiano, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey, Mary Wollstonecraft, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelley. Uniquely interdisciplinary, formidably researched, and replete with curious illustrations, this remarkable book should be of interest to anyone concerned with the historical and cultural fate of bodies in liberal society--and with the importance of deviance in determining that fate.
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Page xvi - From all which it is evident that, though the things of nature are given in common, yet man, by being master of himself and proprietor of his own person and the actions or labour of it, had still in himself the great foundation of property...