Exploring the Cultural History of Continental European Freak Shows and ‘Enfreakment’
Editor: Anna Kérchy and Andrea Zittlau
Date Of Publication: Nov 2012
This collection offers cultural historical analyses of enfreakment and freak shows, examining the social construction and spectacular display of wondrous, monstrous, or curious Otherness in the formerly relatively neglected region of Continental Europe. Forgotten stories are uncovered about freak-show celebrities, medical specimen, and philosophical fantasies presenting the anatomically unusual in a wide range of sites, including curiosity cabinets, anatomical museums, and traveling circus acts. The essays explore the locally specific dimensions of the exhibition of extraordinary bodies within their particular historical, cultural and political context. Thus the impact of the Nazi eugenics programs, state Socialism, or the Chernobyl catastrophe is observed closely and yet the transnational dimensions of enfreakment are made obvious through topics ranging from Jesuit missionaries’ diabolization of American Indians, to translations of Continental European teratology in British medical journals, and the Hollywood silver screen’s colonization of European fantasies about deformity. Although Continental European freaks are introduced as products of ideologically-infiltrated representations, they also emerge as embodied subjects endowed with their own voice, view, and subversive agency.
Anna Kérchy is a Senior Assistant Professor and a member of the Gender Studies Research Group at the Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Szeged, Hungary. She holds a PhD in Literature from the University of Szeged and a DEA in Semiology from Université Paris VII. Her monograph Body-Texts in Angela Carter: Writing from a Corporeagraphic Point of View (2008) offers a corporeal narratological analysis of self-enfreaked embodiments’ feminist potentials. One of her major research interests centers on the figure of the freak in Victorian and postmodern fantastic imagination, and intermedial cultural representations.
Andrea Zittlau is an Assistant Professor in the Department for American Studies and a Coordinator of the Graduate School program “Cultural Encounters and Discourses of Scholarship” at the University of Rostock, Germany. She wrote her PhD thesis about the representation of Native American cultures in ethnographic museums. Her current research concentrates on ethnographic and medical museums, as well as on freakery and the medical body.
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