Monsters: A Literary Exploration
Spring 2017 quarter
Monsters occupy a conspicuous place in our consciousness, in our discourse, and in our literary creations. Why are we so fascinated by them? Why have they cropped up in cultures around the world for thousands of years and why, in a modern and technological age, do they continue to thrive? And what can we learn about ourselves and our world by critically examining our relationship with them, however imaginary they may be? In Western literature, monsters inhabit texts from the ancient epics to medieval works like Beowulf and Dante's Divine Comedy to Milton's Paradise Lost (1667) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818). The 1880s and 1890s alone give us a rich vein of inquiry with Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde , Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau , and Bram Stoker's Dracula --all tales that meld the human and the bestial into new and disturbing forms. Our studies will encompass a number of these classic texts as well as more contemporary examples, such as David Beauchard's groundbreaking graphic novel, Epileptic .
Class activities will include seminars, films, small-group discussions, and workshops. Students will develop and articulate their new understandings by means of response papers, reflective journals, bibliographic summaries, and related writings. Because our topic invites investigation and interpretation from so many different perspectives--for example, those of philosophy, psychology, history, art, and the biological sciences--the program will also host guest speakers who can connect our inquiry to that of other disciplines. We may also attempt to consider some "real-life" monsters along the way: predator species, unstoppable disease agents, and humans themselves, with their immense and proven capacity for destruction. Where are the limits of the monstrous? Let's find out together.
Location and Schedule