Plain ugly

The unattractive body in Early Modern culture

By Naomi Baker

Plain ugly


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6875-1
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £17.99
  • Published Date: April 2015
  • BIC Category: Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: general, Ireland, HISTORY / Social History, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800


Plain ugly examines depictions of physically repellent characters in a striking range of early modern literary and visual texts, offering fascinating insights into the ways in which ugliness and deformity were perceived and represented, particularly with regard to gender and the construction of identity.

Available in paperback for the first time, the book focuses closely on English literary culture but also engages with wider European perspectives, drawing on a wide array of primary sources including Italian and other European visual art. Offering illuminating close readings of texts from both high and low culture, it will interest scholars in English literature, cultural studies, women's studies, history and art history, as well as postgraduate and undergraduate students in these disciplines.

As an accessible and absorbing account of the power dynamics informing depictions of ugliness (and beauty) in relation to some of the quirkiest literary and visual material to be found in early modern culture, it will also appeal to a wider audience.


A valuable compendium of cultural references'
Review of English Studies, vol 62 no 257

'Baker probes beneath the surface to excavate the deeper cultural concerns undergirding aesthetic anxieties. This book is much more appealing than its subject matter suggests, and is a contribution to cultural studies as well as to a neglected aspect of early modernity. A critic who flits so effortlessly from Bacon and Burton to Mikhail Bakhtin, Barthes and Judith Butler certainly deserves a broad readership.'

Willy Maley, THE


List of illustrations
Introduction: ugly subjects in early modern England
1. Theorising ugliness
2. 'Charactered in my brow': deciphering ugly faces
3. Opening the Silenus: gendering the ugly subject
4. 'Sight of her is a vomit': abject bodies and Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy
5. 'To make love to a deformity': praising ugliness
6. Sacrificing beauty: defeatured women


Naomi Baker is Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Manchester

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