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11 November 2012

Atrocity Exhibitions

China Miéville again, this time writing in Fall edition of the literary journal Conjunctions, offering some "Theses on Monsters"...

[ ... ] 2.  To insist that an element of the impossible and fantastic is a sine qua non of monstrousness is not mere nerd hankering (though it is that too). Monsters must be creature forms and corpuscles of the unknowable, the bad numinous. A monster is somaticized sublime, delegate from a baleful pleroma. The telos of monstrous quiddity is godhead.

3.  There is a countervailing tendency in the monstrous corpus. It is evident in Pokémon’s injunction to “catch ’em all,” in the Monster Manual’s exhaustive taxonomies, in Hollywood’s fetishized “Monster Shot.” A thing so evasive of categories provokes—and surrenders to — ravenous desire for specificity, for an itemization of its impossible body, for a genealogy, for an illustration. The telos of monstrous quiddity is specimen.

4.  Ghosts are not monsters. [ ... ]

6.  Epochs throw up the monsters they need. History can be written of monsters, and in them. We experience the conjunctions of certain werewolves and crisis-gnawed feudalism, of Cthulhu and rupturing modernity, of Frankenstein’s and Moreau’s made things and a variably troubled Enlightenment, of vampires and tediously everything, of zombies and mummies and aliens and golems/robots/clockwork constructs and their own anxieties. We pass also through the endless shifts of such monstrous germs and antigens into new wounds. All our moments are monstrous moments.

7.  Monsters demand decoding, but to be worthy of their own monstrosity, they avoid final capitulation to that demand. Monsters mean something, and/but they mean everything, and/but they are themselves and irreducible. They are too concretely fanged, toothed, scaled, fire-breathing, on the one hand, and too doorlike, polysemic, fecund, rebuking of closure, on the other, merely to signify, let alone to signify one thing.

Any bugbear that can be completely parsed was never a monster, but some rubber-mask-wearing Scooby-Doo villain, a semiotic banality in fatuous disguise. It is a solution without a problem. [ ... ]

Full text here.

image: Francis Bacon, photographed by John Deakin, c. 1962

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