English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Monster in the Mirror

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Spring 2011 Lankin, Andrea A
TTh 2-3:30 225 Wheeler Reading and Composition

Book List

Heaney, Seamus, ed., trans. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation; Moseley, C. W. R. D., ed., The Travels of Sir John Mandeville; Valente, Catherynne M., The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden; Hacker, Diana, Rules for Writers. Sixth Edition; A course reader (to be available at University Copy, 2425 Channing Way, just south of Telegraph Avenue

Films/TV shows:

The Addams Family Season 1, Episode 1 (“The Addams Family Goes To School”) (1964); La Belle et la Bête, dir. Jean Cocteau (1946)


A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them

        ~Adrienne Rich

A monster can be defined as a creature who is not human and who is exiled from human society.  We will refine and complicate this working definition over the course of the semester.  Paradoxically, although monsters are by definition on the margins of society or beyond society altogether, they are central to each of the texts we will study in this class.  

As we examine popular works about monstrosity from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century, we will ask the following questions, among others:  How and why do monsters belong in stories?  How important is their place beyond society, and how are society and its fringes mapped out?  To what extent is the monster the representation of the anxieties of the culture that produced the text?  If a story about a monster gets retold, how does the portrayal of the monster change, and why?  Is the monster, in the end, only a more or less distorted reflection of the storyteller who describes the monster?
We will be asking and answering these questions in a series of essays over the course of this class.  Along with a three-page diagnostic essay, there will be two longer research papers (5-6 pages and 8-10 pages) which students will write and revise during the semester.  The first paper will focus mainly on the primary texts we will be reading together, while the second paper will also involve at least three secondary sources.  Students, in consultation with me, will choose their own paper topics.
Each of the paper assignments is designed to introduce you to progressively more difficult composition techniques.  By the end of the semester, all of you should be able to design your own paper topics based on the class reading, organize your papers around thesis statements, and support these thesis statements with evidence from the texts we’ve read together and from your own external research.  These skills should help you as you proceed to more advanced college courses and leave university for the so-called “real world” (where there be monsters!).

Back to Semester List