English 110 Approaches to Literature (Summer 2021)

Approaches to Literature – Term 1 (May-June) MW 6-9 p.m.

Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

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NOTE: This course will be web-based: it will be fully online and delivered through Canvas. This status differs from that of courses developed by CTLT and offered through Distance Learning. It also retains a registration cap.

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, Hannibal Lecter, Marisa Coulter, many of the characters in The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones: they’re everywhere, from under the bed to the house next door 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 in ways that inspire both terror and horror, as well as (let’s be honest) fascination and even enjoyment.

We’ll look at William Shakespeare’s Richard III (a play that meditates on villainy and ambition in demonizing its subject for Tudor audiences, yet still fascinates contemporary ones). In doing so, we’ll consider 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, and more recent adaptations using race and gender-diverse casting, and casting as Richard actors who are themselves physically disabled. Other core texts include Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as selected poetry (with a focus on the sonnet form).

This course will proceed in a fully online form, using Canvas and a combination of  synchronous (short live lectures and workshops) and asynchronous (notes, links, discussion forums, slides) materials. I will make sure all that course material is available online and/or in digital format (and will identify ebook or streaming options for all course texts) and that the full course is accessible to all students.

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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