This groundbreaking volume maps the shifting place and function of marvelous transformations from antiquity to the present day. Shape-shifting, taking animal bodies, miracles, transubstantiation, alchemy, and mutation recur and echo throughout ancient and modern writing and thinking and continue in science fiction today as tales of gene-splicing and hybridisation. The idea of metamorphosis lies in uneasy coexistence with orderly world views and it is often cast out, or attributed to enemies. Augustine and the church fathers consider shape-shifting ungodly; Enlightenment thinkers suppress alchemy as unscientific; genetically-modified wheat and stem-cell research are stigmatised as unnatural. Yet the very possibility of radical transformation inspires hope just as it frightens. A provocative, theorising, trans-historical history, this book ranges across classics, literature, history, philosophy, theology and anthropology. From Homer and Ovid to Proust and H. P. Lovecraft and through figures from Proteus to Kafka's Fly and toSpiderman, four historical surveys are combined with nine case studies to show the malleable, yet persistent, presence of transformation throughout Western cultural history.