Lessons Week 1
Greetings Students & Monster Hunters!
In this week’s lesson materials:
- How we will proceed with the course
- Your assignments
I am very much looking forward to delving into the nature of monsters in literature with you! Monster literature is profound, long-standing, and can be found in just about every genre and category of literature, filim, and art.
Our approach to the topic will be threefold:
1/ Phenomenological:: for those of you who have studied philosophy, you will have come across the notion of phenomenology. Don’t be put off however by the daunting word! We are going to examine monsters using a couple of basic concepts from phenomenology and so you won’t need a background in philosophy to get the main points.
2/Psychological: Carl Jung (student of Freud) has written a lot on the psychology of literature, including the nature of fear.
3/Literary: once we have the phenomenological and psychological aspects of fearful monsters under our belts, we can start applying the principles. I recommend that you start reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein now, as this will be the principal literary focus (not the only one of course) when we get to this section.
Let’s start with two bits of phenomenology of the monstrous and psychological fear:
Phenomenological & Psychological aspects of monsters and fear:
One of the methods of phenomenology is called “bracketing”. In its simplest form, this entails suspending judgment about what we think monsters are, or what they look like, or what they have for dinner. We want to try and get at the essence of what a monster is. If I said the word “monster”, most people would instantly have an image of some kind of monster in their head (maybe a fire breathing dragon from Tolkein). But we want to get away from the images, and focus on the meaning.
In order to do this, we first need to clear our minds of images of monsters and instead focus on what they mean. Try and clear your mind of images and preconceptions of monsters you may have; instead, think about the nature or essence of monsters in general in such a way that you can define monsters in any most categories.
I’d like you to watch the following video on YouTube: “
102 Minutes That Changed America.” It is a minute by minute replay of what happened in New York on 9/11.
You might reasonably wonder what this video has to do with monsters! In fact, I think it is one of the best “bracketed” accounts of the monstrous in the real world. Don’t think of the hijackers as monsters, for the simple reason that they died, and what they unleashed was far greater than they could possibly have imagined, or controlled. The “monster” is elsewhere in the video. See if you can identify it. What you are looking for is:
(a) References to all 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste). All of these are identified in the video. This is important because the monstrous engages the totality of one’s being (you will see this in coming literary examples too). Keep a notebook handy as you watch the video, and jot down references to the senses.
(b) Symbol: what is the overriding symbol of the terror that engulfs the city (and the world)? What is the one, single image or motif can you identify that encapsulates the monstrous day?
(c) Reactions: what are the reactions (varying) of the people witnessing and experiencing the
We will discuss these elements in the forum starting this week.
For a psychological warm up, I’d also like you to read the following
letter from Carl Jung in 1945, where he discusses the nature of fear itself. This is very profound and will provide much food for discussion!
Make notes of this too.
Each week there will be a weekly quiz. I will notify you once the quiz is open. This week, the quiz will be simple and based on the two assignments (video and letter). Quizzes each week can be completed over a 24hour period from noon Friday to noon Saturday. Once a quiz is open, it will stay open for the rest of the term in case you miss any.
Looking forward to seeing your thoughts in the forum!
Lesson Week 3
Monsters: Week 3
Greetings students! Welcome to week 3 of our lessons. Great posts last week, lets keep it up! I will be posting another monster song in the song post, but wanted to give you a heads up that it contains explicit language.
I am out of the office this morning, but will upload the video lecture later today or tomorrow morning when I return to the office. In the meantime, I’d like you to do a comparison of Frankenstein and Jekyll from Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (see links and instructions below).
Shelley only mentions the word ‘electricity’ twice in her novel, both times in one paragraph (page 37) where Frankenstein explains his encounter with the new science of galvanism, which--at the time--made him call into question his study of alchemy and Paracelsus (please do a little research into Paracelsus to get a sense of what Frankenstein’s interests at the time were). Frankenstein’s encounter with Dr Krempe makes him call into his studies in this vein: but does he ultimately abandon this line of thinking, or does he return to it? Krempe is, you will recall, a professor of natural philosophy, and references to this discipline occur throughout the novel at least fifteen times. Please do a little research into the nature of Natural Philosophy, and see what kinds of things it was concerned with (I am teaching a course on Witches and Wizards next half summer term, which will go into alchemy and magic, so I am not going to spend too much time on it here!).
At the creation of Frankenstein, Shelley writes, “I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.” (beginning of Chapter 5). I think it is this reference to the “spark of being” that leads to later interpretations that link the creation of Frankenstein to electricity.
However, pay attention to the 1910 silent movie clip below. In my view, this is the best! What do you guys think? This seems to be faithful to the text, including Shelley’s description of the monster’s skin barely hiding the sinews, bones and muscles of the monster.
Check out these different versions, and we can share more clips in the forum this week:
1931: The first filmic version of Frankenstein
1974 Version (Young Frankenstein)
1994 version (Brannagh)
I haven’t been able to find a clip from the 2015 version of the film, so if you do please share it in the forum!
However, the movie clip I find most fascinating, and which I would love to get your input on, is the very first filmic version of Frankenstein directed by J. Searle Dawley, in 1910.
You will notice in this clip that there is no use of electricity, but rather alchemy:
J. Searle Dawley 1910 Film
(Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
During the week, we will be getting into a discussion of a comparison between Shelley’s concept of the monstrous with Stevenson’s. If you haven’t read this book before, I recommend you do! It’s only 64 pages long.
For now, I would like you to read the section, “HENRY JEKYLLíS FULL STATEMENT OF THE CASE” (pages 49-64 in the eText link below):
Full eText of the novella here >
For example, there is a reference to “extraneous evil” in Jekyll’s statement. Do you think this means that Stevenson has an external understanding of the monster, or is it still internal or a combination--and if so, in what way?
Also, what is the origin of the evil in Stevenson’s work? What is it’s nature? Ii will discussing the nature of evil in the video lecture coming soon and which I will post in the forum.
See you over in the forum later today!
Lesson Week 4
Monsters Week 4
This week, we are beginning to look at the types and kinds of monsters out there. The video lecture below will introduce you to the materials, keywords and assignments for this week. As usual, we will unpack an explore in the forum.
Video Lecture (Week 4): Typology of Monsters >
The videos referenced in the lecture are as follows:
Introduction to Romanticism >
Introduction to Kafka >
The two assignments, as explained in the video, are as follows:
1. Read Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The edition/translation I would like us to use can be downloaded in the link below. It’s a short novel, and you should be able to read it in under 2 hours:
Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” eBook >
2. Although I am not a big fan of Wikipedia, this very useful list will get you started on all kinds of zoological monsters and mythological creatures. I would like you to select and research a handful of these (at least 4-5) and then identify what the common features/natures of these zoological monsters are. I think it would be more helpful to chose those entries that are actually monsters, and not simply cuddly myths.
Wikipedia’s List of Monster Types >
As usual, we will explore these elements in the forum.
Lesson Week 5
4770 Monsters: Week 5 (May 31)
Greetings students; hope you all had a good weekend. You may have noticed some difficulty accessing the site and forum over the weekend or this morning; this problem is now resolved, and originated with the server, and was not a user issue (it affected many websites I’m told). If the problem persists (which it shouldn’t) IT says clearing your cache should resolve all issues.
The video lecture for this week is below:
The resources mentioned in the video are as follows:
Greek Myths (Modern Lens approach!)
Myth of Sisyphus:
British Library article on Medieval Monsters:
You should review all the picture slides in the article, and watch the two videos (one on Cranes, the other on Whales) to tie up our zoological approach to monsters this week.
If you go to the forum, you will find the instructions for your final paper, due on June 16th in our final week.
I will shortly be sharing information about your final exam too, which will also occur in the final week when the paper is due so it might be a good idea to get started on your paper now, so that the sky doesn’t cave in on you in week 7!
If you have questions or ideas about papers, share them in the final paper link in the forum.
Our zoom meeting for this Thursday (June 3):
Topic: Monsters 5
Time: Jun 3, 2021 11:00 AM Vancouver
Join Zoom Meeting:
Lesson Week 6
Greetings students; I hope you all had a good weekend.
As discussed last week, the formal aspect of our lessons is drawing to a close. We will be using this week to prepare for the final exam.
One of the things that you should do is complete the following exam selection form, with a time for the final exam that works best for you:
Final Exam Selection Form >
Throughout the week, you should go through all of the past materials and forum posts in order to prepare for the exam.
I will highlight some important elements you should focus on in the forum this week.
Our Thursday zoom will be an exam prep meeting, and some final tips for your end of term paper due next week.
Zoom Topic: 4770 Exam Prep
Time: Jun 10, 2021 11:00 AM Vancouver
Have a good day! See you over in the forum this week.
Lesson Week 7
Good morning students; I hope you all had a good weekend. Well done to the first cohort that did the exam on Sunday. Scores ranged from 80 to 96, which is excellent.
Your final essays are due on Wednesday, June 16th by 12 noon. The link is available at the top of your dashboard and is now open, so you can submit any time starting now.
We will have our final wrap-up zoom tomorrow (Tuesday):
Topic: Final 4770 zoom (
Time: Jun 15, 2021 11:00 AM Vancouver
Join Zoom Meeting
Please would you be so kind as to take a few moments to fill out the course evaluation? The passowrd is:
See you tomorrow morning!