ENGL 102: Monsters in Film and Literature (University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2013)
Why do monsters have such lasting popular appeal in film and literature? From Renaissance pig-men to shark-toothed science fiction aliens, monsters reveal our fascination with the supernatural and the grotesque, with scientific experimentation and the boundaries of what it means to be human. Every culture and historical period has its own way of representing the unknown and sublimating its deep-seated fears of contamination and invasion—often through the figure of the monster as social outlier. In this course we studied films and literature featuring a wide assortment of monsters across a range of genres and eras, but with a focus on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The goals of this course were several: to provide a critical and conceptual vocabulary to analyze films and literature; to introduce students to histories and theories of monstrosity in the West.