English IV & AP final paper
Every civilization that develops literature incorporates monsters into its storytelling and mythology. From Greece to Egypt to Asia, the heroes of early literature prove themselves by overcoming monstrous beings. In later literature, monsters become more symbolic, ways for writers perhaps to represent new aspects of human nature, both in the monsters and in the human characters who confront them.
For your final paper of the semester, develop an argument around the issue of what monsters in literature teach us as readers and students of literature about being human. Your papers should be 5 – 7 pages in length (6 - 8 for AP) and are due Thursday December 13 at 9 AM (AP) or between 9 & 11 AM (English IV). (N.B. see special instructions on assignment schedule for English IV students who live far from campus.)
For English IV, incorporate references and ideas from THREE of the following: Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Frankenstein, Grendel, and Hamlet. You may add an optional piece of literature of your choosing if you wish. For AP, include three of the above plus Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. References to history, current events, or popular culture may reinforce your ideas but should never become the main focus. Here are some thoughts and quotations on the idea of monsters which I’ve gathered from a variety of sources and my own thinking to help get you started:
· Symbols of humans’ deepest fears, as individuals and as a species.
· “The Other”—forces to be feared and loathed as outsiders, inimical to human nature and human life.
· An inverted reflection of the interests and values of a culture.
· Obstacles to be removed, overcome, or eliminated by a hero.
· “A horrendous presence that explodes our standards for harmony, order, and ethical conduct”—Joseph Campbell
· The personification of our own inner demons—monsters can represent aspects of ourselves that must be shunned as socially or psychologically unacceptable.
· Symbols of human vulnerability (i.e. monsters reveal to us our weaknesses).
· Or, conversely, a means for us to discover our own strengths—“imagining how we will face an unstoppable, powerful, and inhuman threat” (Stephen T. Asma in the Chronicle of Higher Education, October 25, 2009).
· “Inhuman threats are great reminders of our own humanity”—Asma.
Research for this assignment is optional (although I recommend you at least read the Asma essay referred to above). If you do look for ideas and information, be VERY certain to cite all ideas and language not your own in your paper.
Spend some time thinking about an approach you can use to link multiple works from our reading list. Then begin to develop a series of paragraphs interpreting the works you choose. Use whatever combination of comparison and contrast makes your ideas strongest. Your writing will be judged on the originality of your choice, your use of examples from the various texts, and the depth of your analysis.
For English IV, this paper replaces a final exam and is weighted 25% of the semester grade. For AP students, the paper is weighted 15% and the sit-down portion of the final 10%.