‘It Is, Say Some, of a Ravenous Nature’: Zoomorphic Images of Cancer

  • Alanna Skuse
Open Access
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series


In Chapter 1, I described the crab as the oldest and most pervasive zoomorphic image of cancer, bound up with the disease’s etymology and diagnosis. This creature, however, was arguably the least colourful, and certainly the least frightening, of several animals which came to be associated with cancerous disease. In this chapter, I shall argue that the most extreme and culturally resonant figurations of cancer during the early modern period were to be found in the unlikely pair of the worm and the wolf. Through examining the use of these beasts as both popular and medical images, I discuss why early modern Englishmen and women came to associate these creatures with cancer, and how the cultural freight of worms and wolves shaped, and was shaped by, anxieties surrounding this disease.


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Copyright information

© Alanna Skuse 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alanna Skuse
    • 1
  1. 1.Folger Shakespeare LibraryUSA

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