This course will look at literature centered on monstrous figures to think about two things. The first: how do monsters (like devilish magicians, mad scientists, and any number of nameless creatures) show or de-monstrate the fears, anxieties, and problems of specific cultural moments throughout history? What are the techniques authors use to fashion their monstrous characters, and what are their implications? The second: what are we to make of the fact that, while monsters are often objects of terror, they are also frequently sympathetic figures, vibrant fictional characters whose complexities seem to protest the fear they are (supposedly) meant to inspire?
Indeed, many of the monsters we will cover are, to some readers, the heroes of their stories.
By reading literature in genres ranging from 16th century English drama to the 19th century Gothic novel to contemporary American horror fiction, this course will teach you to understand and write about—through close reading, historical and contextual research, and comparative analysis of texts—literature’s rich, ongoing, and ambivalent tradition of making monsters.