Acefalie e figure del disordine nell’Inghilterra della prima età moderna

Luca Baratta


Six English seventeenth-century accounts of acephalous births are the starting point for a reflection on the meaning assumed by the body “out of norm” in the early modern period: not a fortuitous occurrence, but a breach through which one could look inside the portentous machine of the universe, in an incredible interweaving of theology, politics and medicine, the human monster became a sign of divine wrath and a powerful means of social control. What did the birth of a headless child mean in this context? What mythical distances and horizons did it feed on? How did it intertwine together the punishment for a single parental blame and the warning for entire communities, social groups, and state structures?

This study takes into account the social imaginary and the contexts in which the six stories were thought up, written, printed and read, and investigates the ways in which these narrations stigmatized a specific pathology of the human body, making the lack of the head a physical and metaphysical symbol of disorder in the private or public sphere, and therefore an effective means of repression and control.


Body Politic; Early Modern England; Gender History; Monstrous Births.


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ISSN: 2465-0315

Registration with Court of Naples n. 24, dated 21.04.2015