Monsters occupy a conspicuous place in our consciousness, in our discourse, and in our literary and artistic 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 the Western tradition, monsters inhabit literary and dramatic texts from ancient times, extending to medieval works like Beowulf and Dante's Divine Comedy; later classics such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (published in 1818 and first adapted for the stage in 1823); and contemporary novels and plays. As even the most casual filmgoer knows, monsters have also been a formidable cinematic presence since the very inception of the medium. We will learn how monsters have been developed and presented by means of literature, theater, and film, and view them through a variety of lenses—including philosophy, psychology, history, and art.
Class activities will include seminars, screenings, small-group discussions, and workshops. Students will develop and articulate their new understandings by means of response papers, reading and screening notes, and a final creative project. Where are the limits of the monstrous? Let’s find out together.
Likely texts and materials include Euripides’ play Cyclops, excerpts from epic poetry (Homer’s Odyssey and Milton’s Paradise Lost), portions of Shakespeare’s plays, Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Wazem and Peeters’ graphic novel Koma, and films such as Fritz Lang's M, David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, and Ridley Scott's Alien.
Course Reference Numbers
Humanities, cultural studies, education, performing arts.