Monstrosities: The Meaning of Monsters in the Modern World

Course Description

Why is our culture so fascinated with monsters even though we know they are not real? What makes a monster? Is it their strange-looking body, or is it the unfamiliar world they represent? “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,” says horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and monsters often confirm our worst fears—evoking our terror, horror, and dread. But rarely do we examine those fears and ask what our anxiety about monsters tells us about our society and ourselves. In this course, we make sense of the monstrous in popular culture by seeing how “the monster” serves as a social index, reflecting our society’s anxieties about the new, the unknown, the threatening, and the unimaginable.

Using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) as our starting point, we track the many faces of the monstrous—from Romanticism to Postmodernism. Along the way, we discuss how culture has explored monsters through the 19th-century Gothic genre, classic Hollywood horror, and more recently science fictions about ancient aliens, robots, and zombies. Exploring these topics a central question will emerge: What does the monstrous reveal about our changing modern world?

We will engage a variety of media and genres including short stories, novels and novellas, comics, podcasts, television, and film. Authors and works include (but are not limited to): Isaac Asimov, Stephen Crane, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, The Twilight Zone, The Walking Dead. There will also be a visit to the H. P. Lovecraft Special Collection at the John Hay Library.

You will learn to analyze a text, to think critically about its themes, and to craft a compelling argument that convincingly expresses their point of view. Central to this process are response papers and an argumentative essay task that will develop the skill-set necessary to college-level writing both for the University and beyond.

During this course, you will:

• Survey knowledge of the history and conventions of the gothic and horror in literature and visual media
• Introduction to basic questions of genre, adaptation, and context in reception history
• Methodological introduction to literary-critical and basic archival research
• Writing training in and experience with the response paper and argumentative essay genres
• Experience in respectfully and meaningfully participating in a seminar-style college-level course


You should feel confident at (or motivated by the idea of) analyzing literature in a college-level setting.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: July 25, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 2 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 3:30P-6:20P
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Dorin Smith
Course Number: 10282