Park and Daston
Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston are intellectual and cultural historians of early modern
Europe (post-Renaissance). The article for next week takes us back to some of the historical
periods mentioned by Foucault. They argue that what the “monstrous” represented was changing
in sixteenth and seventeenth century England and France, from representing divine wrath to a
prodigious event to some pathological aberration. For your paragraph, choose one of the
examples they cover and explain how it fits into their argument about the change.
Park and Daston discussed social and cultural shifts that affect our understanding of what is monster.
Unlike Marx, Foucault, and Latour, the modernity of print allowed us to catalogue the image of monster
and disperse it without boundaries.
Now monsters were something to know about. They were side table talk. Unlike in previous centuries,
epidemiological accounts and broadsides gave a new interpretation of what a monster is.
However, in better understanding the monsters we can understand ourselelves
•For Christians a prodigy was an unusual event, contrary to nature, and attributable directly to God.
They often warned of divine displeasures and future misfortune (25)
•Christians believed that prodigies came in groups and had apocalyptic associations. They foretell
world reformations with the overthrowing of the wicked and the vindication of God’s elect (25)
•Luther and Melanchthon assured the success of monsters as a tool of religious polemic (26)
•Luther was conscious of breaking the medieval chronicle tradion where monsters and prodigies
foretold general misfortune and widespread political upheaval” (26)
•The pamphlet by Luther and Melanchthon debriefed monsters which were prodigies prophesying the
ruin of the Roman Catholic Church (26)
•The pamphlet had great influence and was reprinted a lot during the 16th and 17th Centuries
•“wonder books were catalogues of strange instances or hidden properties of animals, vegetables and
•“broad popular interest in monsters as prodigies seeded by Luther and the religious upheaveals of the
Reformation crystallized in the mass of French and English books and broadsides publicizing these
and other prodigious events” (35)