English 110/034 Approaches to Literature (January 2020)

Approaches to Literature – Term 2 (034: TTh 2:00-3:30 p.m.) – Gisèle M. Baxter

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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. Other core texts include Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as selected short fiction and poetry.

Evaluation will be based on two or three essays, participation in discussion (both in class and online), and an essay-based final examination.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.


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