Spring course – Monsters in Literature

January 7, 2010 at 12:37 am (Uncategorized)

The description for my Writing about Literature course was rushed and isn’t very good, but is here just for context:

Content: Monsters. Grotesque, scary, seductive, fierce, fascinating, or just plain weird, monsters occupy a significant place in the literary imagination. Monsters live on the borders — of cultural, racial, political, economic, religious, and sexual difference. In this course, we will encounter many different kinds of literary monster, keeping a number of questions in mind. Where are the borders between human and monster? How and when does the monster return, and under what new guise? What can monsters tell us about the desires, hopes, and fears of the cultures from which they emerge? Through our exploration of the monstrous in various genres and literary periods  — from classical and medieval to 20th century literature — students will develop their skills in summarizing, close reading, literary analysis, critical thinking, argumentation, and research.

W 1/13    Syllabus and policies, begin in-class writing.
F 1/15    snopes.com, “Horrors” (excerpts).  Urban legend, myth, folktale, overview.
M 1/18    Martin Luther King Holiday (no class); Response One due
W 1/20    Beowulf, lines 1-990
F 1/22    Beowulf, lines 991-1650
M 1/25    Beowulf, lines 1651-2820;
W 1/27    Beowulf, lines 2821-3182. Response Two due
F 1/29    Grettissaga (excerpt – pp 169-177 in Liuzza); draft of Paper One due; writing workshop
M 2/1    Volsunga saga (excerpts); grammar workshop; Paper One due
W 2/3    Marie de France, “Bisclavret”
F 2/5    Carter, Angela. “The Company of Wolves.” Response Three due
M 2/8    poetry by Keats, Swinburne, & Baudelaire.
W 2/10    Carter, Angela. “The Lady of the House of Love.”
F 2/12    Cohen, Monster Culture; reading literary criticism
M 2/15    Writing workshop; Response Four due
W 2/17    Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market.”
F 2/19    Freud, “The Uncanny”
M 2/22    Marie de France, “Lanval”
W 2/24    “Underground People: Migratory Folktales.” Response Five due.
F 2/26    Grendel, Chs. 1-3
M 3/1    Grendel, Chs. 4-6
W 3/3    Grendel, Chs. 7-9;
F 3/5    Grendel, Chs. 10-12. Paper Two draft due.
M 3/8    Spring Break
W 3/10    Spring Break
F 3/12    Spring Break
M 3/15    Paper Two due.  The Tempest, Act I.
W 3/17    The Tempest, Act II.
F 3/19    The Tempest, Act III.
M 3/22    The Tempest, Act IV.
W 3/24    The Tempest, Act V. Response Six due.
F 3/26    Tempest, “Introduction”; Ovid (excerpt)
M 3/29    Tempest, “Florio’s Montaigne”; snopes.com, “Roast Fetus” and “Lights Out.”
W 3/31    Asbjørnsen, “East of the Sun.”
F 4/2    Angela Carter, “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon”; Response Seven due.
M 4/5    Charles Perrault, “Bluebeard.”; snopes.com, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light…”
W 4/7    Angela Carter, “The Bloody Chamber”; Paper Three draft due.
F 4/9    Research Methods: meet in Library. Paper Three due.
M 4/12    Hawthorne, “Rappacini’s Daughter.”
W 4/14    Carter, Angela. “The Erl-King.”
F 4/16    Ovid, Book V (excerpt); Margaret Atwood, “Siren Song.”  Response Eight due.
M 4/19    Andersen, “The Red Shoes”; snopes.com, “Satan’s Choice.”
W 4/21    Wulfstan, “On False Gods,” in Liuzza.
F 4/23    workshop and conferences; draft of final paper due in class
M 4/26    workshop and conferences; course evaluations



  1. Anthony Cooke said,

    I kinda like it, actually. There’s a lot of breadth and it has stuff (I don’t think anyway) would come to most people’s minds when you say, “Monsters in Lit.” Esp. not the “Volsungs.” I had to read it for a Medieval Epics class and wish I could read it again–it was very difficult for me, tho I do remember the snake monster and the person born of wolves (or is pigs?). I’m not up on Angela Carter–only one short story by her. Anyhoo, I esp. like the draft and workshop stuff–that may sound trite but such things are essential. Can’t really comment on most of the readings, which may make this post somewhat useless to you, but, for what its worth, this sounds much more interesting and fun than the obvious “Dracula” or “Frankenstein.”

  2. Karma said,

    Hey, Anthony, thanks for coming by and commenting. There’s a lot more drafting and workshopping in this class than that abbreviated schedule displays, but yeah, I’m with you on the essential. I am a firm believer in writing classes using student writing as text (though when you get a group of students who do not like to have their writing read or discussed by peers and/or in class, the class dynamics can go sideways pretty quickly, so it can be challenging to teach that way).

    Re. Dracula and Frankenstein – those would have been fun, too, but in addition to wanting to have some room for medieval stuff in here and not wanting to be too novel-heavy, I also wanted to make sure this class was different enough from one that a colleague of ours just taught last semester, which was *also* called something like “Monsters in Literature.” Didn’t want to “steal her course” and she had one or both of those novels on her syllabus, IIRC 🙂

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