English 110/MA1 Approaches to Literature (Summer 2020)

UBC Summer 2020 Term 1 (May-June)

NOTE: Like all Summer 2020 courses at UBC, this course will be Web-oriented: it will be fully online and delivered through Canvas. This status differs from that of online/distance education courses offered through CTLT. It also retains a registration cap.

Dr. 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, Dorian Gray, the Joker, many of the characters in The Walking Dead or Penny Dreadful or Game of Thrones: 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 across the genres use representations of monstrosity to say a variety of things.

We’ll look at William Shakespeare’s Richard III (a play that both meditates on villainy and ambition, and demonizes its subject for Tudor audiences), then at clips from various film and stage adaptations, including Ian McKellen’s 1995 film, which shifts the setting to an alternate-reality 1930s England where fascism takes hold. Other core texts include Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Angela Carter’s “The Lady of the House of Love”, Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” (and possibly Francesca Lia Block’s retelling “Bones” and one or two other short stories), as well as selected poetry.

Since the course now will be conducted fully online, I have ordered only one text through the UBC Bookstore, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as a Broadview Press e-book (Broadview e-books are very reasonably priced and include great supplementary materials). I will provide links to online texts of public domain required readings and put other material on Library Course Reserve in full-text online format.

Evaluation will be based on three short writing assignments, participation in discussion on the course’s Canvas site, and an essay-based final examination.

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

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