Rabelais's Monsters: Andromeda, Natural History, and Romance

Wes Williams

in Monsters and their Meanings in Early Modern Culture

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577026
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728662 | DOI:
Rabelais's Monsters: Andromeda, Natural History, and Romance

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Framed by an embedded scene of reading, in which Pantagruel falls asleep while reading Heliodorus's Aethiopica, this chapter initiates the contextual exploration of the politics and poetics of romance pursued throughout this study. It demonstrates the interconnectedness of fiction, natural history, and politics, by showing how the Aethiopica was read in the 1540s and 1550s both as a Plinian compendium of exotic marvels and as a reorientation of the foundational myth of Perseus, Andromeda, and the monster. Rabelais's own suspenseful romance engages the reader in detailed and critical argument concerning medical accounts of human ‘monstrous births’, the shape of sea monsters, and the politics of contemporary religious conflict. Rabelais's many monsters reanimate the Andromeda story not only to replay romance as politics, religion, or the founding of the nation state, but also to explore the pact of reading, under the signs of deferral, migration, male friendship, and love.

Keywords: Rabelais; natural history; Pliny; monstrous births; whales; Heliodorus's Aethiopica; romance; book history; religious polemic; allegory

Chapter.  23696 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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