English 110/MA4: Approaches to Literature (Summer 2018)

Approaches to Literature
Term 1 Summer 2018 (May-June)
TTh 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Literary Monsters and Monstrous Literature

Rey: “You are a monster.”
Kylo Ren: “Yes, I am.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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

What is a monster? We know monsters 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. Dragons, werewolves, vampires, zombies, Frankenstein’s Creature, Mr. Hyde, the Joker, most of the characters in Penny Dreadful: 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 1995 film adaptation, which shifts the setting to an alternate-reality 1930s England where fascism takes hold. We’ll examine Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, a novel about a female vampire that influenced the writing of Dracula, and Charles Perrault’s 17th century tale “Bluebeard”; while its status as a children’s story is now problematic, its influence on literary and popular culture is enormous.

Evaluation will be based on two in-class essays, a term paper, participation in discussion (in class and online), and an essay-based final examination.

Text List:

Note: titles with publishers have been ordered through the UBC Bookstore. The film Richard III will be available via Library Reserve on dvd; other viewing options will be announced in class. Carmilla and “Bluebeard” will be linked to the course’s Canvas site via Project Gutenberg and Wikisource respectively. Other short fiction (tentatively including Francesca Lia Block’s “Bones” and Angela Carter’s “The Lady of the House of Love”) will be available in full text online through Library Reserve.

  • Susan Holbrook, How to Read (and Write About) Poetry (Broadview)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818) (Broadview Third Edition)
  • William Shakespeare, Richard III (Signet)
  • Richard III (1995 film, directed by Richard Loncraine, with Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr., Maggie Smith, Adrian Dunbar, Jim Broadbent etc.)
  • Sheridan LeFanu, Carmilla
  • Charles Perrault, “Bluebeard” and various other short stories (see Note above)
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