Monsters

What makes a monster? Students will grapple with this question as it applies to both traditional and nontraditional monsters in literature. In doing so, students will consider the following questions: What are the characteristics of a monster? How does a monster reflect the society he exists in? What role do monsters play within a society or culture? Do we need monsters? And Can a human be a monster? Texts include: excerpts from Beowulf, Grendel, The Tempest, and Heart of Darkness. Students will research King Leopold's abuses in the Belgian Congo through primary sources such as King Leopold's "The Sacred Mission of Civilization" and Roger Casement’s "The Congo Report" (1903). Students will also watch the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars (20005) and clips from Apocalypse Now (1979). Students will write one literary analysis (1000 words), and two comparative analyses (1500 words).

Readings: 
Texts include: excerpts from Beowulf, Grendel, The Tempest, and Heart of Darkness.
Media Used: 
Students will also watch the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars (20005) and clips from Apocalypse Now (1979).
Significant Assignments: 

Essay 1: What makes Grendel monstrous? Was his monstrosity innnate or learned?

Essay 2: In Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Hank Rogerson’s Shakespeare Behind Bars, we observe characters – both the fictional characters in the play and the real-life inmates in Luther Luckett Correctional Facility – who have committed truly monstrous acts: murder, conspiracy to murder, sexual molestation, and rape among other heinous crimes. And yet ultimately these works seem to be less focused on what it means to be a monster than what it means to be human.
Your task is to answer this complex question: In The Tempest and Shakespeare Behind Bars, What does it mean to be human?

Sample PBATs: 
Final Project PBAT: Students should choose one of the following questions to answer in the form of a comparative essay:
Examine the relationship between Grendel and Caliban and their respective societies. What rationale does Prospero use to enslave Caliban? What rationale does Hrothgar use to demonize Grendel? Are these rationales based on empirical truths or cultural beliefs? What function do Grendel and Caliban serve within human society? Does society need them? Does society have a hand in creating them?
What distinguishes a man from a monster? Compare the characters Prospero and Kurtz. They are both powerful men who have great contempt for their subjects, whom they see as being less than human: Prospero sees Caliban as a “thing of darkness”; Kurtz sees the natives as “brutes”. Examine the way in which these two characters use and/or abuse their power over their subjects. Is either man a monster? In answering this be sure to examine how each character observes or fails to observe “human limits."
Sympathy for the Devil: In all the texts we have read this semester, the “monstrous” characters seem to avoid one-dimensional stereotypes. Despite their inhuman actions, we feel sympathy for them. In most cases, we recognize that these so-called monsters were not born evil, but were products of cycles of violence in which they, themselves, were victimized. Choose at least two of the monsters we have studied this semester and argue for how systematic oppression has made them into the monsters they are. Frame your argument around at least one of the “-isms” we’ve discussed in class, i.e., colonialism, racism, imperialism, or sexism.
In his essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness," Chinua Achebe argues that Conrad is a “bloody racist." Based on the ideas made explicit in his essay and those implicit in Conrad’s novel, do you agree or disagree with Achebe’s argument? Is the real monster in Heart of Darkness Conrad himself? Or did Achebe misconstrue Conrad’s intentions, which were to expose the evils of colonialism?
Using at least two texts from this semester as the basis for your argument, answer this simple question: What does it mean to be a monster?