what makes a monster?
During this unit, the class will consider various possible definitions of "monster" and will read about and discuss a number of well-known monsters from history and literature, using these examples as a means of testing existing definitions and beginning to form definitions of our own.
In class, we will read and discuss the "monster" entry from the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), the most thorough and authoritative dictionary of the English language. We will also read a short excerpt from an ancient historian, Herodotus (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC), to help us think about where monsters live and how that helps define who and what they are. This slide show, by Ken Jennings at Slate, also explores the idea of monsters as existing at the fringe of the known world.
Assigned readings and due dates are listed below, with hyperlinks to digital editions wherever possible. For the complete syllabus, please look here.
Wed 7: Ambroise Paré, On Monsters & Marvels, pages 8-22 [library eReserve]
Mon 12: Homer, The Odyssey, book nine, 100-end [library eReserve]
Mon 19: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818 edition), vol 1, ch 3 and ch 4 & vol 2, ch 3
Mon 26: Bram Stoker, Dracula, chapters 2 & 3
writing assignment one: define "monster" using an example you research independently
Write a 3-4 page researched essay (800-1,000 words) about a "monster" of your choice (but NOT one of the monsters we study in class) using this specific example to define the idea of "monster" more generally. You may choose a monster from any text, culture, or geographic region.
Your essay needs to do three things:
- DEFINE. Define the characteristics of your monster clearly and succinctly. Make sure the opening paragraph of your essay focuses on a specific monster, rather than talking about monsters in general terms.
- DESCRIBE. Provide researched and documented background information on the monster, important legends about it, its place in history, other relevant cultural details.
- EXPLAIN. Analyze how and why this being falls into the category of "monster," explaining specifically how this monster challenges or threatens our usual sense of natural order. How does it match up with definitions we've studied in class? Does it live, like the monsters of Herodotus, at the threshold of civilization? Is its physical appearance fearsome? Its appetites? Its strength or cunning? What else makes us understand this figure as monstrous?
The essay must use quotations from at least two college-level print sources. (You may use as many additional sources as you wish.) Print sources must be documented with MLA style in-text citations and you must include a list of works cited at the end, also in MLA style (see sample works cited page here).
Papers must be printed out and handed in at the beginning of class on the day they are due. However, students must also bring a DIGITAL file of the paper to the lab on the due date; this will allow for last minute changes and corrections. I strongly recommend students use DROPBOX--a free file sharing and backup application--to store all files used for this class.
help to perfect your work
Take pride in your work. Make sure it's as correct and accurate as you can make it. Prof. Rodas is available to help during office hours, but you should also take advantage of resources at the BCC Writing Center and get research help at the BCC library learning center.