The study of literature from different historical periods and cultures allows us to think about what different cultures and eras label as “monstrous” and why. As Professor Asma says, “an action or a person or a thing is monstrous when it can’t be processed by our rationality, and also when we cannot readily relate to the emotional range involved.” This statement suggests that when a character in literature is considered a monster, that label may give us insight into those doing the labeling as well as a greater understanding of the monster itself.
For your final paper, consider three of the “monstrous” works we have studied this semester. By looking at them either individually or in comparison with each other, show how the presence of monsters contributes to the effectiveness of the work as a whole. This “effectiveness” may in part be based on the facilitation of plot, but it should also involve consideration of the way in which the presentation of a monster is related to the meaning of the work as a whole.
Start by thinking about which of the so-called “monstrous” characters either confirm or refute any of the following assumptions:
- · Monsters cannot be reasoned with
- · Monsters are ugly and inspire horror
- · Monsters are unnatural
- · Monsters are overwhelmingly powerful
- · Monsters are evil
- · Monsters are misunderstood
- · Monsters cannot be understood
- · Monsters reflect the deepest fears of specific eras and cultures
- · Fighting and killing monsters is the business of heroes
- · Monsters are socially “constructed” and serve as scapegoats for expedient political agendas.
- · Monsters are psychological projections* of our own insecurities, fears, and shortcomings as a society. (*projection is a psychological defense mechanism which involves the unconscious transfer of one’s own desires or emotions onto another.)
Your paper should be approximately 7 – 10 pages in length; parenthetical citations should be used for textual support; any additional information, ideas, or language must, of course, be scrupulously cited.
See the assignment schedule on my blog for submission information, electronically on December 11, hard copy on 11th or 12th. Be sure to pay special attention to submission deadlines. On turnitin the assignment will be label “Final fall 2013.”