This book explores the relationship between image and cognition in the context of the first age of mechanical reproduction. Linking these various interests is the theme of “monsters,” a term that will be replaced with “composites” to better capture the essence of what the book is interested in. The book focuses on a body of theory called “epidemiology of culture” in order to probe the boundaries of analytical fields that claim to be addressing a common problem: the unified understanding of culture as a product of both history and cognition. It considers—from various perspectives—how the distribution of composite figures in the visual record offers fertile testing ground for an “epidemiological” approach to culture, and ultimately forces a revision of some of its central assumptions. In doing so, the book offers a number of general observations about the relationship between image, cognition, and early state formation in the western Old World.
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