After our little warm up period this week while we get ourselves sorted (and start reading Frankenstein) I'd like you to keep the etymology of four key words in mind (an etymological dictionary, like etymologyonline.com should be every lit student's best friend):
MONSTER: when you sift through medieval and ancient accounts of monsters, we find that the traditional meaning of monster is always linked to some kind of warning. Our English word is derived from the Latin monere which means "to remind, bring to (one's) recollection, tell (of); admonish, advise, warn, instruct, teach." This warning element is primarily religious and moral, in the sense that the warning is about the existential nature of the human person, including the afterlife.
EXISTENTIAL: when we start looking at kinds of monsters next week, we will delve into the existential monster (the most terrifying kind). Existential has some various meanings and interpretations (especially in philosophy) but as far as we are concerned, existential will refer to the entire nature of the human person: life, liberty, virtue, happiness, love, etc; but this existential nature of the person extends into the afterlife (heaven and hell) which is why Dante's Inferno is such a terrifying account of the monster.
From a materialistic perspective (i.e., there is no afterlife or coming eternal judgment) modern monsters are scary, but they, like us, have a limited shelf life. How much more terrifying is that monster which not only invades your life here on earth, but which extends into the afterlife. It has hold of your eternal being.
MANIFESTATION: The monster must first appear, or become manifest. Manifestation is from Latin manifestare "to discover, disclose, betray". It is the moment in monster literature and lore when BOTH the monister is revealed AND the "victim" becomes aware of the threat. These TWO elements of manifestation (the showing and knowing) is key. Finally,
DEMONIC: Our English word demon comes from ancient Greek. The two morphemes (a morpheme is a part of a word) de + mon means to "divide." This division can take several existential forms: the division between good and evil; the division of social order; the division of virtue from vice; the division of the human person from God and heaven.
Most modern accounts of monsters, such as the beast in Ridley Scott's Alien or the alien in John McTiernan's Predator are not really monsters in the traditional sense; they're just scary predators, like an aggressive grizzly bear in Lee Tamahori's The Edge. They can be defeated by normal people with little to no reference to the moral order. The monster we want to start with is the existential manifestation of the demonic moral order. Such monsters can be found in Beowulf and Tolkien's writings!