Corneille's Andromeda: Painting, Medicine, and the Politics of Spectacle

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:
Corneille's Andromeda: Painting, Medicine, and the Politics of Spectacle

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This chapter initiates discussion of the conjoined processes of medicalization and theatricalization that monsters undergo in the seventeenth century. The changing reception of Heliodorus's Aethiopica (onstage, in painting, and in vernacular verse and prose translation) introduces its central themes. There follows detailed analysis of (hitherto largely unknown) accounts of conjoined twins born mid-century. The survival of sixteenth-century civil-war rhetoric in these ‘medical’ discussions suggests that politics underscores the history of medicine in matters monstrous. The final section is devoted to a close reading of Corneille's enormously successful ‘machine-play’, Andromède, performed at a time of renewed civil war (1650). It focuses on Corneille's revisiting of the themes of sedition, seduction, witness/autopsy, and the force of the imagination; its argument is that the playwright's resistance to spectacular politics is evident both in his recasting of Perseus's ‘rescue’ as mere show, and of the monster as the embodiment of Andromeda's true desire.

Keywords: Corneille; Andromeda; Heliodorus's Aethiopica; painting; medicine; the politics of spectacle; civil war; autopsy; witness

Chapter.  29734 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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