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Unnatural Reproductions and Monstrosity: The Birth of the Monster in Literature, Film ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Unnatural Reproductions and Monstrosity:

with monsters and the monstrous begins, however, with causation. From early works like those of sixteenth-century surgeon Ambroise Paré (whose own collection gathered case histories from earlier centuries yet) to modern-day conceptions, people have been concerned above all with monstrous origins. From whence do monsters come? What is their genesis—and more important—their reproductive potential? With the “birth” of the monster comes a particular anxiety about its self-replication, generally through perceived unnatural means. The link between the monstrous and fears of reproduction is present from early modern narratives through nineteenth-century fears of degeneration and into contemporary fascination with apocalyptic zombie films, epidemics, trans-species generation, and colonization. Though the incarnation of the monster manifests through different vehicles across these periods, it is clear that regardless of its form, anxiety is rooted in concerns about the monster’s fecundity—its ability to infect, to absorb, to replicate.

Not surprisingly, the female reproductive body and the fertile female mind often become the loci for much of this anxiety. A great deal has been written about gender and the monstrous, but sustained engagement with textual manifestations of cultural and unconscious fears and anxieties about “unnatural” reproduction and monstrous progeny has been limited. Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis remains the most in-depth examination of how horror narratives engage these fears and ultimately render the feminine—particularly the female body and its reproductive capabilities—monstrous and abject. Building upon the work of Creed and others, this collection aims to expand the current discourse on the monstrous reproductive potential of bodies—as well as minds—from a more interdisciplinary and transhistorical framework. Whereas scholarly interest in monsters and the monstrous is certainly not new, studies on monstrous reproduction and birth have tended to be either discipline or period specific, and many are now dated. This book includes essays from a diverse range of perspectives, including film and media studies, literary studies, history, medicine, and women’s and gender studies. Unnatural Reproductions and