Since Stephen Greenblatt published Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World in 1991, a flurry of books has appeared that examine the responses of early modern spectators, readers, and thinkers to novelty. Often, novelties appear threatening or transgressive because they unsettle the pieties of conventional institutions. Roger Shattuck's Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography (1996), for example, rehearses the age-long tradition of sequestering or concealing information deemed unsuitable by conventional authorities for public consumption. Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park's Wonders and the Order of Nature (1998) traces the proximity that moral commentators detected of wonder to greed and lust, reprehensible appetites around strange phenomena. One of many case studies, Dennis Todd's relatively early Imagining Monsters: Miscreations of the Self in Eighteenth-Century England (1995) explores contemporary reactions to the surprising birth of seventeen and a half rabbits and parts of a cat...
barbara m. benedict is the Charles A. Dana Professor of English at Trinity College, Connecticut. She has published Framing Feeling: Sentiment and Style in English Prose Fiction, 1745–1800; Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Mediation in Early-Modern Literary Anthologies; and Curiosity: A Cultural History of Early Modern Inquiry. She has also coedited Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey with Deidre Le Faye.
Barbara M. Benedict; Belief Suspended. Novel 1 November 2016; 49 (3): 550–554. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3651468
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