On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears

On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears

by Stephen T. Asma


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Hailed as "a feast" (Washington Post) and "a modern-day bestiary" (The New Yorker), Stephen Asma's On Monsters is 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199798094
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 374,439
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Stephen T. Asma is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, where he holds the title of Distinguished Scholar.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Extraordinary Beings
Part 1 - Ancient Monsters
1 Alexander Fights Monsters in India
2 Monsters Are Nature's Playthings
3 Hermaphrodites and Man-headed Oxen
4 Monstrous Desire
Part 2 - Medieval Monsters: Messages from God
5 Biblical Monsters
6 Do Monsters Have Souls?
7 The Monster Killer
8 Possessing Demons and Witches
Part 3 - Scientific Monsters: The Book of Nature is Riddled with Typos
9 Natural History, Freaks, and Nondescripts
10 The Medicalization of Monsters
11 Darwin's Mutants
Part 4 - Inner Monsters: The Psychological Aspects
12 The Art of Human Vulnerability: Angst and Horror
13 Criminal Monsters: Psychopathology, Aggression, and the Malignant Heart
Part 5 - Monsters Today and Tomorrow
14 Torturers, Terrorists, and Zombies: The Products of Monstrous Societies
15 Future Monsters: Robots, Mutants, and Posthuman Cyborgs

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