Trafficking the body: Prolegomena to a posthumanist theory of ornament and monstrosity

Jacob Wamberg

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This chapter activates a posthumanist conceptual framework – including general
complexity theory, aesthetic philosophy, and Wilhelm Worringer’s theory of abstraction and empathy – in order to explore how ornament and monstrosity uphold
and negotiate the supremacy of the generalized entity, the body, and its ultimate
derivation from the specific figure, the autonomous human body. Whereas
ornament belongs to the periphery of the human body, monstrosity emerges when
the body is invaded by foreign parts of humans, animals, plants, inorganic nature,
or artefacts. If ornament and monstrosity and their sustaining body/less complex
hierarchy peak in humanist cultures, even then these cultures appear as fragile
islands that are often flooded by a surrounding nonhuman sea, sixteenth-century
Mannerism being a case in point.
Keywords: ornament, monstrosity, abstraction, complexity, Great Chain of Being,
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrnament and monstrosity in early modern art
EditorsChris Askholt Hammeken, Maria Fabricius Hansen
Number of pages31
Place of publicationAmsterdam
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)9789462984967
ISBN (Electronic)9789462984967
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesVisual and Material Culture, 1300-1700

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