|COURSE OBJECTIVES: The modern
fascination with monsters reveals itself in the endless series
of Godzilla movies, the literary re-creations of the
vampire in Anne Rice, reports of unearthly aliens in UFOs, and
the demonic intensity of the Exorcist. Modern readers
transpose and project their own anxieties, fears, and passions
in the form of monsters within their cultural artifacts. However,
medieval writings predate and anticipate the modern monster
by centuries--in some cases, millennia. Studying the treatment
of monsters across centuries can reveal broad trends in the
cultural reception and transmission of the monstrous.
The questions facing us: Why do we
continue to make monsters? Do we make them for the same reason
medieval people did? Or different reasons? What function do
monsters have within a literary text? Within a community?
Within a system of faith? During the first week we will look
at the "composite" monsters in Greco-Roman literature and
then move on to creatures appearing in medieval bestiaries.
From week two through week six, the syllabus covers various
medieval narratives in prose and verse that deal with the
conflict between human beings and external intervention from
monstrous and fantastic creatures. The class concludes with
late medieval and early Renaissance, in which the rather whimsical
monsters in the bestiaries find themselves superceded by sexualized,
demonological monsters; here, students will explore the connection
between our desires for monsters and the cultural tendency
to punish the object of that desire, the same tendency appearing
in treatises on witches.