Reading the Medieval in Early Modern Monster Culture
Abstract

Abstract:

This article explores the ways in which early modern authors reimagined medieval texts and figures within monster discourse. While medieval monsters are typically found on the edges of civilized space, early modern writers occasionally situate ‘medievalized’ monsters within domestic settings, locating a medieval alterity both temporally and geographically in the process of past-creation. I analyze two cases from seventeenth-century print culture: the hog-faced monster Tannakin Skinker in A Certaine Relation of the Hog-Faced Gentlewoman called Mistris Tannakin Skinker (1640) becomes an urban loathly lady through a pamphleteer’s satirical use of John Gower and his “The Tale of Florent,” and Richard Johnson, among other writers, fashions the early modern folk hero Tom Thumb textually and visually as an Arthurian knight. Rather than quest in far-off locales, the midget Tom instead turns the familiar domestic landscape into a site of adventure. In both cases, the locus of the everyday becomes a place of spectacle and wonder.