ENGL 110/021 (Approaches to Literature) January 2016

Approaches to Literature (3 credits)

Instructor: Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

This Section: Literary Monsters and Monstrous Literature

“Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world” – Richard III 1.i

What is a monster? We know them from myths and legends, folktales, horror fiction and film. We know their variety: the grotesque, the beautiful, the terrifying, the pitiable, the sports of nature and the forces of evil. Basilisks, dragons, werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein’s Creature, Mr. Hyde, the Joker, Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters: they’re everywhere, from under the bed to the battlefield, and right into a great deal of literature. Which leaves us here: in this section of 110 we’ll focus on how literary texts use representations of monstrosity to say a variety of things.

We’ll look at excerpts from William Shakespeare’s Richard III (a play that both meditates on villainy and ambition, and demonizes its subject for Tudor audiences), then at Ian McKellen’s film adaptation, which shifts the setting to an alternate-reality 1930s England where fascism takes hold. We’ll examine the novel that made “Dracula” synonymous with “vampire” in popular culture, as well as Charles Perrault’s 17th century tale “Bluebeard”; status as a children’s story is now problematic, but its influence on literary and popular culture is enormous. These core texts will be supplemented by a broad selection of poems and short stories, ranging from Coleridge’s “Christabel” and Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” to Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Lady of the House of Love.”

You will need a Campus Wide Login (http://www.cwl.ubc.ca) username and password to access the Connect site (http://elearning.ubc.ca) for this course. All assignments and handouts for this course will be distributed electronically: emailed to you as document attachments and posted on the course’s Connect site, which will also provide links to online readings and various resources.


  • Ebook editions of any of the texts (where available) are acceptable.
  • Custom Course Materials package: selected poems and short stories, an introduction to and synopsis of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, selected passages from Richard III, and an introduction to reading poetry. (A full list of items in the package will be posted on my blog – linked below – by November 2015.)
  • Selected poems and short fiction in the public domain can be read online and will be linked to Connect, though they may also go in the course materials package.
  • Resources on university-level literature course writing, grammar and mechanics, and library use will also be linked to Connect.
  • Richard III (1995 film) dir. Richard Loncraine, with Ian McKellen. (The film will be screened in class over two lecture days; a copy will be put on reserve in the library. Any other available viewing options will be identified at the start of term.)
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula. Broadview.
  • The Canadian Writer’s Handbook: Essentials Edition. Oxford.
  • Janet Gardner’s Reading and Writing about Literature. 3rd ed. Bedford.

Course Requirements:

  • Participation (preparation for and contribution to discussion; completion and submission on time of all assignments; attendance): 10%
  • Two in-class essays (1st: 15%; 2nd: 20%)
  • Term paper (25%)
  • Final examination (30%) In order to receive a passing final grade of 50% or greater, you must write and pass the final examination.

Course Prerequisite: LPI level 5 or approved LPI exemption required to remain registered in this class. For further details on the LPI requirement, please visit http://www.english.ubc.ca/ugrad/1styear/faq.htm

General 110 Description:

Through the study of selected examples of poetry, fiction, and drama, this course will introduce you to the fundamentals of the university-level literary study, and furnish you with the skills to think and write critically about literature. Through lectures and discussions, you will learn the basic concepts of genre and form in literature, and methods of literary analysis, to enable you to pursue more specialized English courses at the second year or beyond. The skills developed this term in critical reading and writing will serve you well in your pursuit of a variety of academic courses (not just English). Moreover, they’ll serve you well in your everyday engagement with various forms of cultural expression: novels, movies, songs, television series, journalism, etc.

Each week will consist of two 50-minute lectures (Monday and Wednesday) and one 50-minute meeting with your Discussion Group (Friday).

© Gisèle M. Baxter. Not to be copied, used, shared, or revised without explicit written permission from the copyright owner.

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