Vermin, Literature, and the Sciences of Life, 1600-1740
As Cole illustrates, human health and demographic problems -- notably those of feeding populations periodically stricken by hunger, disease, and famine -- were tied to larger questions about food supplies, property laws, national identity, and the theological imperatives that underwrote humankind's claim to dominion over the animal kingdom. In this context, Cole's study indicates, so-called 'vermin�' occupied liminal spaces between subject and object, nature and animal, animal and the devil, the devil and disease� even reason and madness. This verminous discourse formed a foundational category used to carve out humankind� relationship to an unpredictable, irrational natural world, but it evolved into a form for thinking about not merely animals but anything that threatened the health of the body politic� humans, animals, and even thoughts.
—Anita Guerrini, Oregon State University