An Introduction to the Renaissance Monster Studies: Hybrid Beings and Other Creatures

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University
Address: Russian Federation
Journal nameVoprosy filosofii
EditionIssue 8


The views on essence and causes of hybrid, human-animal, monsters’ birth prevailing in academic circles of the West in the 16th – first half of 17th Cс. are explored on a vast material of primary works in medicine, natural philosophy and natural history. Understanding the monstrous as the other in relation to the human the author considers these spheres as interconnected cultural constructs. Thus an analysis of the Renaissance conceptions in the field of Monster Studies sheds light on shady sides of the contemporaneous anthropology. It gets clear, in particular, that a) there was a realm of constant species of hybrid beings stretching between the human and the animal domains; b) essential causes of hybrid individuals’ birth were based on acceptance of such possibilities as conception via copulating with animals and production of physical effects on a fetus by power of mother’s imagination; c) evidence of natural and significance of divine causes of individual monsters’ appearance usually were thought to be inversely proportional while these causes themselves – as mutually complementary. Eliminating of those and related notions completed in the Enlightenment caused decline of Renaissance “monstrology” as well as a revision of fundamental presumptions on which the prior anthropology had rested. 




KeywordsRenaissance culture, natural history, history of medicine, historical anthropology, geographical discoveries, monsters, portents, imagination, bestiality, spontaneous generation.
Publication date03.10.2018
Number of characters1341
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