The word “monster” is derived from “monstro,” meaning to show forth. In this course, we will examine various monsters and decipher what they show us about the cultures they harass, frighten, fascinate, and from which they are almost always alienated. What do we define as (ab)normal? What is it in the monstrous other that both horrifies and fascinates us? What do we have to lose/gain by embracing or destroying those that differ from ourselves?
The course will analyze various types of monstrosity (the doppelganger, the unholy, the undead, scientific abominations, sexual predators, androids, aliens, freaks, and serial killers) in literary, filmic, and cultural texts. Applying various (Marxist, feminist, deconstructionist, psychoanalytic, and cultural studies) approaches to the monstrous, we will see what it can reveal about nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and American cultural value systems and ourselves.
English majors who are not in the Honors Program may take this course for credit.
“I have sex with faggots. And I’m a lesbian. You think you’re confused?”
(Pat Califia, “Gay Men, Lesbians, and Sex: Doing it Together”)
Are YOU queer? How is "queer" different from "gay"? How does "queer" intersect/collide with gender and racial identifications? How has queer theory impacted English studies and other academic disciplines? Why has queer theory become so fashionable? What is the relationship between queer theory and political activism? In our pursuit of these and other questions, we’ll engage with texts from multiple genres and media (including films, music videos, zines, creative writing, and critical theory) that articulate, enact, embody, defy, and complicate the relatively new, sexy, exciting, challenging, and rapidly expanding field of queer theory.
Course activities will likely include attending a performance of Matthew Bourne’s groundbreaking genderbent version of the ballet Swan Lake at the Ahmanson Theater in downtown LA; watching Ten Cents a Dance, the lesbian film that caused a riot when it was first screened at the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival; queering popular culture (e.g., Harry Potter, Eminem/Feminem); presenting a paper at the annual Honors Colloquium; reading famous, infamous, and unknown work by Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, Robert Reid-Pharr, Michel Foucault, Kate Bornstein, Adrienne Rich, Anonymous Queers, and others; and vigorous class discussions. This is a writing intensive course. Grade will be based on WebCT posts, an oral presentation, the Colloquium paper, and a final critical or creative project. All tutorial meetings will be discussion-centered. No lectures, tests, or exams.