ISSN 2477-9083


Inicio / Vol 1. Núm 1 (2016)




Travel, Monsters and Taxidermy: the Semiotic Patterns of Gullibility



Massimo Leone






Early modern travelogues often strove to convey efficacious representations of newly discovered worlds (plants, animals, people, customs, etc.) to an increasingly curious European readership. At the dawn of modernity, the new scientific discourse clashed and frequently blurred with the medieval passion for monsters, resulting in paradoxical arrangements of words and images. To semioticians, these hybrid texts are extremely precious, for they reveal how symbols, icons, and sometimes also indexes variously combine in relating the unknown to common sense while pleasing the curiosity of readers. The essay concentrates, in particular, on Melchisédech Thévenot’s Relation de divers voyages curieux, a monumental 17th century collection of previous travelogues, which sought to present and often validate the bizarre findings of ancient and medieval explorations through the frame of a modern, pseudoscientific edition. The current reader probably does not believe in the same monsters as the early modern aficionado of travelogues would, yet the public discourse is still grappling with the issue of determining what is true, what is false, and what is a paradoxical mixture of both in the present-day circulation of words, images, and relics.



Key Words: Travelogues; monsters; curiosity; iconicity; gullibility; scientific rhetoric






Leone, Massimo (2016). Travel, Monsters and Taxidermy: the Semiotic Patterns of Gullibility. Religación. Revista de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, 1, Marzo, 9-26.






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