English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Monstrous Renaissance

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Fall 2019 Rice, Sarah Sands
MWF 11-12 214 Haviland

Book List

Shakespeare, William: The Tempest: A Norton Critical Edition

Other Readings and Media

All other course readings will be made available through bCourses.


This class ventures into Renaissance texts in search of the many monsters that dwell there. We will encounter eerily human beasts, snaky-haired Gorgons, monstrous births, and fierce cannibals. We will get to know those monsters through critical analysis, secondary scholarship, and self-directed research. Our journey into the realm of Renaissance monsters will take us through (among other things) a Renaissance bestiary, a medical treatise on monsters and marvels, and Shakespeare's The Tempest.

By applying the tools of literary analysis and scholarly research to those texts, we will investigate what led particular beings to be considered monsters in the cultural context of Renaisssance Europe. We will unpack the ideologies encoded in constructions of monstrousness and in the designation of a given being as a monster. How, for example, do the characteristics attributed to monsters in Renaissance Europe overlap with disability, gender, race, class, and colonialism? How do Renaissance portrayals of monsters relate to and challenge understandings of the human/animal divide? How do empathy and identification interact with exclusion and condemnation in Renaissance depictions of monsters?

This is a writing-intensive course designed to help you hone your literary analysis skills while expanding those skills to include research and thoughtful engagement with secondary sources. Writing assignments will include two relatively short essays and a longer argumentative research paper.

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