Monster Births Essay

1031 words - 5 pages

Marvelous Protestantism focuses on the accounts of monstrous births published in England between 1560s and 1660s, a period of English history teeming with instability both politically and most importantly, religiously. The accounts of monstrous births, often used by modern scholars to demonstrate how naïve and uneducated society was before the scientific revolution brought reason and dispelled wonders, is used by Crawford to demonstrate how the accounts aided and often guided, Protestant reformers dealing with a nation that had fallen into fearsome fractions. The of monstrous births served many purposes, and aided by the printing press, the pamphlets that contained the accounts of these ...view middle of the document...

In addressing the monk calf, Crawford writes, “While the monk calf originally appears as an indictment of Catholicism, its most prevalent legacy lies in the reformation of individual, often female, believers.” (28) The genealogy of the monk calf is the central focus of Marvelous Protestantism’s first chapter. She ties this to both fashion monsters—i.e. monstrous birth deformities that specially address the both the vanity of social dress, but also the controversies around church vestments. The chapter’s strength does not lie in Crawford’s convincing ability to tie the monk calf and other fashion monsters together, but in highlighting the vehemently anti-Catholic world in which printers circulated. Each print of the monsters adding legitimacy to the need to preach about these monsters and the changes that needed to be made.
Chapter two introduces more monstrous birth and in one of the book’s strongest points, Crawford’s research and subsequent recovery of the printer and publisher networks which produced the tracts that told the tales of each wondrous birth and their meaning. Without the speedy production of these tracts, Protestant preachers would be without one of their strongest sermon tools. The chapter builds and bears its best fruits in the following chapter. The case study in chapter three, William Leigh’s account of the 1612 birth of conjoined twins in Lancashire is a good example of how strongly and differently tracts circulated. Two different accounts were published, one focusing on the birth as a denouncement, punishment for local sinners, the other tract’s message being tuned to wider audience, the nation. The conjoined twins were presented as the symbol of “…England’s imperfect union with God.” (91) The conjoined twins were not only a religious message, but also a political one, as Crawford also presents it as condemnation of King James I/VI and his two-faced nature.
The principle theme of chapter four addresses head-on a theme that played a supporting role in the previous chapters, the role of the women who birthed these creatures. Headless monstrous births symbolized many things,...

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