Abstract

Abstract:

This article offers a new interpretation of John Webster's tragedy The Duchess of Malfi (ca. 1613). It treats The Duchess of Malfi's stable of creatures, which includes grave-robbing werewolves, hermaphroditic hyenas, and vermiculated corpses, as an early experiment in trans-animality that emerges in the text's fixation on prodigies. According to religio-medical tracts of the Renaissance, prodigies were portentous signs of divine anger that included sweating statues, speaking animals, human-animal hybrids, and monstrous births, particularly hermaphrodites. As rigid distinctions between gender roles become unmoored, the category of the human also frays, a process culminating in Ferdinand's descent into hysterical lycanthropy. With an eye to the creaturely transformations threaded through the text, this article considers how the play's hermaphroditic imagination erodes the boundaries between human and nonhuman forms of life to explore what Mel Chen calls "the transness of animals."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-3786
Print ISSN
1531-0485
Pages
pp. 206-226
Launched on MUSE
2020-09-24
Open Access
No
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