English R1B

Reading and Composition: A History of Monsters

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2022 Gable, Nickolas
MWF 12-1 DWIN233

Book List

Heaney, Seamus (translator): Beowulf; Kafka, Franz: The Metamorphosis; Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Other Readings and Media

All of the following will be posted to bCourses: selections from the Epic of Gilgamesh; Homer's Odyssey; the One Thousand and One Nights (also known as Arabian Nights); early medieval monster catalogues; the graphic novel The Walking Dead; short stories by Carmen Maria Machado and H.P. Lovecraft; short poems by Lewis Carroll and Carol Anne Duffy.

Films include Night of the Living Dead and The Cabin in the Woods. Selections from television include episodes of What We Do in the Shadows and Reservation Dogs. All films and TV episodes will be screened in class.


Undead hordes, bloodthirsty beasts, and uncanny human hybrids are nothing new to the human imagination. The literature and folklore of most (if not all) human cultures is full of tales that bring our imagined fears to life.

In this course, our readings will focus on depictions of many creatures that have been described as “monstrous,” some from media over four thousand years old and others as recent as last year. Our research will look to the ancient and the modern, with a focus on both the mythology and folklore that inspired modern monsters and contemporary criticism of monsters as figures of radical change and fearful stasis. Covering traditions from cultures indigenous to Asia, Europe, and North America, we will track how different monsters have evolved over time and space and how the definition of “monstrous” has been adapted for each age and place. We will confront that which is uncomfortable, strange, and humorous along the way, using our explorations to try to understand the literary fascination with these monstrous creations.

Our main goal in this class is to become better readers, writers, and researchers. To do this, we will develop the skill of “close reading” to better understand and analyze our subject matter. We will “close read” all the media we encounter in this class—even visual media such as comics and films—by paying close attention to detail, which will help us to improve our own writing by making it as clear, concise, and evidence-driven as possible.

Your work in this class will culminate in a research project that will be supported by other assignments across the semester. You will be tasked with analyzing a monstrous figure or genre from a chosen cultural, historical, or literary tradition in an argumentative essay bolstered by independent research.

Back to Semester List