«Shall the Head neuer come to that Nature requireth». Acephaly as Simulacrum of Guilt and Chaos in Early Modern England

  • Luca Baratta «Parthenope» University of Naples
Keywords: Acephaly, Body, Early modern England, Monstruous births, Simulacrum


Four English pamphlets (1609-1646) devoted to cases of acephalous births are the starting point for a reflection on the meaning acquired by the “out of the norm” body in early modern England. In an intertwining of theology, politics and medicine, the monster does not appear as a fortuitous event or as a pathological deviation, but as a real simulacrum of guilt: the lack of the head, in the ideological reading of these publications, becomes a symbol – physical and metaphysical at the same time – of shades of disorder in the private or public sphere, and may therefore be used as an effective means of repression. Acephaly says, in an analogical way, about the lack of a guiding principle or the breaking of a hierarchically stable order. In the apocalyptic imagery nourished by the contrast of faiths, God watches over order also through the whims of nature: the headless creature makes itself a sign of divine anger and, through a mechanism of similarity between guilt and deformity, a powerful means of social control.


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How to Cite
Baratta, L. (2022). «Shall the Head neuer come to that Nature requireth». Acephaly as Simulacrum of Guilt and Chaos in Early Modern England. Between, 12(24), 1-30. https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/5215