Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters

Overview

What is a monster? Is it a thing with a hairy face, extra eyes, and missing limbs? Or is it simply anything we don't understand? Photographer and author Rosamond Purcell explores the territory of the Other in this study of monstrosity, showing us the relationship between the mythical monster and its real counterpart. Using historical images, specimens from medical museums, and her own exquisite photographs, which eerily display the remains of monsters, both possible and impossible, Purcell shows us that too tall,...
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Overview

What is a monster? Is it a thing with a hairy face, extra eyes, and missing limbs? Or is it simply anything we don't understand? Photographer and author Rosamond Purcell explores the territory of the Other in this study of monstrosity, showing us the relationship between the mythical monster and its real counterpart. Using historical images, specimens from medical museums, and her own exquisite photographs, which eerily display the remains of monsters, both possible and impossible, Purcell shows us that too tall, too short, too many, not enough, and in the wrong place are concepts that have more to do with our own fears than with reality.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Under the guise of cultural studies, humankind's ceaseless fascination with human anomalies has gained a newfound legitimacy, and publishers are producing ever more works to satisfy both the prurient and intellectual ends of the scale. This handsomely produced book, unfortunately, seems unsure about where to place its focus and, ultimately, will disappoint most readers. Purcell, a photographer, writer, and curator of a show at the Getty Research Institute, from which this book was derived, has written a rambling, unconstructed text that not infrequently touches on fascinating ideas and historical examples. But just as often she abandons a theme just as she gets beneath the surface or moves on to another sample before fully examining the specimen before us. Her thesisthat the collectors and classifiers play as much a role in creating a freak as do the abnormalitiesis interesting, if not entirely new, but never truly develops. Recommended only for academic cultural studies collections; popular collections would do better with Lawrence Weschler's Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder (LJ 10/1/95) and Jan Bondeson's A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities (LJ 10/15/97).Douglas McClemont, New York
Booknews
The author, curator of an eponymously titled exhibition at the Getty Research Institute in California, presents a lavishly illustrated examination of the history of the depiction of monsters and their oft-times natural and cultural explanations. The material discusses the mythological depictions of conjoined twins, giantism and dwarfism, and the hirsute man of P. T. Barnum's circus, and speculates on the origins of a variety of mythological monsters. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811815680
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 8.84 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 0.89 (d)

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