Dwelling Underground in The Book of John Mandeville: Monstrosity, Disability, Ecology

  • Alan S. Montroso
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In this chapter, I turn to the late medieval travel narrative The Book of John Mandeville to consider the many ways that the subterranean realms were imagined as spaces in which social categories of monstrosity and disability are entangled with and transformed by the ecological agency of caves and the underground. Caves impressed their material properties into the flesh of their inhabitants, and in the world of The Book, those cave-dwellers were often monsters. By bridging Stacy Alaimo’s concept of “transcorporeality” to medieval theories of the influence of climate and geography on the body, I argue that subterranean monsters are marked as insufficiently human because their living in the earth has made them something else; and yet, I also argue that dwelling underground imparts certain bodily capacities to these monsters: abilities and pleasures that enrich our understanding of nature and embodiment in the Middle Ages, and a futurity that complicates present discourses surrounding disability.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan S. Montroso
    • 1
  1. 1.George Washington UniversityArlingtonUSA

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