Dear Instructors of ENG 215: The Monster and the Monstrous in Literature:
When creating ENG 215, I did so from the perspective of someone who is a great believer in the canon and has taught World Literature I many years at Saint Leo. Many students not majoring in English struggle with the traditional canon and don’t recognize the utility of taking a literature course. My hope is that The Monster and the Monstrous in Literature combines the canonical and non-canonical in such a way as to hold student interest, engage students in literature in ways that foster critical thinking, and gets at the core of two of Saint Leo’s values: community and integrity.
I’ve organized the online version of the class chronologically and have tried briefly to situate each text within its historical context. When looking at our first text, Frankenstein, for example, we see Mary Shelley grappling with new ideas about education and science that require us to think about community and integrity. If Victor had educated the creature--that is taken responsibility for his creation in a way that demonstrated integrity--then the creature might never have become a murderous monster. If the greater community around the creature had not repeatedly rejected him, the creature also may have been peaceful and potentially a good citizen. This is why the class is called the monster and the monstrous, for even as Shelley does eventually label her creature monster, we readers may believe Victor to be monstrous in his abdication of responsibility.
For the QEP assignment, I have chosen Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” because of the centrality of choice. Our QEP centers on how critical thinking and values inform decision making. In Kafka’s story, the author implies that Gregor’s choices to live such a small, one-dimensional life have literally transformed him into a dung beetle. He has rejected a life of integrity. His family--the central community upon whom he depends after his transformation--keeps his existence a secret and neglects him, leading to his eventual death. The QEP should come to life for the students through exploring these issues.
As the course closes, students will read a contemporary novel, Handling the Undead, where none of what they think they know about zombies is confirmed. My hope is that, by challenging assumptions, the book will push critical thinking, and, through showing students that best-selling contemporary authors can write thrilling as well as thoughtful works, perhaps we will create readers who enjoy books for fun outside our classrooms.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or to share your own ideas at email@example.com. I hope you will enjoy teaching the class and will put your own expertise into making it even better than I can imagine.
Kathryn Duncan, Ph.D.
Professor of English