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ENGLISH 199:
Writings About Medieval Monsters: From Antiquity to the Renaissance

 
COURSE MATERIALS:
Syllabus (offline)
Course Policies
(offline)
Annotated Bibliographies

Beowulf Introduction
Close Reading of Literature (Handout)
Essay Directions (offline)
Greek Mythology (External Link)
List of Medieval Monsters
List of Literary Terms
Medieval Resources (General Materials)
Reserve Readings (offline)
Study Questions (offline)
 
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with late medieval and early Renaissance, in which the rather whimsical monsters in the bestiaries find themselves superceded by sexualized, demonological monsters; here, students will explore the connection between our desires for monsters and the cultural tendency to punish the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.

 

 

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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2014. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated November 5, 2014. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.

Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2014. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated November 5, 2014.
kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.