Belinda Martin Porras (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

Monumentalising the monstrous: the attraction and repulsion of monsters in Archaic Greek art

This dissertation revisits the monumental appropriation (chiefly in temple decoration and funerary sculpture) of monstrous images in Archaic Greece (750–480 BC). Such appropriation was heralded by what I call the ‘monster revolution’ (750–650 BC), which encompassed the proliferation of hybrid creatures and a new network of object-viewer relationships in Archaic Greek art. Attending to certain formal features which are transculturally understood as monstrous and which appear in Archaic Greek art (e.g. corporeal hybridity, frontality, monumentality or exaggerated facial traits and expressions), I contend that monstrous images affected the beholder in particular ways. Cognitive dissonance is the term I use to describe the double and contradictory effect on viewers. On the one hand, the term refers to a push, a sense of peril, respect and repulsion; on the other hand, it is also a pull, for monsters produced attraction, too. The tension between these simultaneous and conflicting affective and cognitive feelings afforded by Archaic monsters has more to do with drawing the beholder in and inviting them to engage phenomenologically with them than solely with inspiring terror. Images of monsters function in more complex ways than the ‘apotropaic’ purpose so often attributed to them by modern classical archaeological scholarship. I suggest monsters are themselves ‘good to think with’ for exploring the complex dialectic of looking and viewer reception in the Archaic Greek world.

Primary supervisor: Professor Michael Squire, KCL
Secondary supervisor: Professor Jeremy Tanner, UCL

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