What is a Monster? Define the term “monster” in your own words. You definition should be a brief paragraph that explains what a monster is. Make sure to include the physical and behavioral characteristics.
mon·ster noun 1. an imaginary creature that is typically large, ugly, and frightening.
We are going to be starting the second and final unit of the course, Monsters. We will read, write, and think critically about monsters of many kinds. Monsters and Monstrosity will provide us the opportunity to learn about a phenomenon that stretches across multiple cultures and time periods. Monsters will also give you a better understanding of both cultural history and the world today.
Monsters are all around us. In the movies we watch, the books we write, and in every aspect of life. Monsters are fear inducing. But monsters are also cuddly like Sully, Cookie Monster, and The Count on Sesame Street.
Monsters have always been symbolic creatures, generally representing darkness and evil. The villain for the hero to vanquish.
The Latin word monstrum refers to both a monster and a sign that something momentous or calamitous is likely to happen.
In small groups, come up with a monster list of monsters to help our understanding. Do they fit into categories? What commonalities and differences can you see?
“What I will propose here by way of a first foray, as entrance into this book of monstrous content, is a sketch of a new modus legendi: a method of reading cultures from the monsters they engender” (Cohen 3).
The theses are tools for us to use to analyze monster, in the cultural studies sense. The monsters the cultures produce say a lot about that culture. We create monsters that evolve over time, sometimes purposely for whatever reason.
Monster Culture (Seven Theses)
Our purpose for today is to understand the seven theses on Monsters and Monstrosity and to develop a good resources that will help us to remember and use the theses in our writing.
We read Cohen’s Monster Culture: Seven Theses for today. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen argues that we can read “cultures from the monsters they engender” (3). This is chapter one of his book Monster Theory: Reading Culture.
From the editor/author’s website:
We live in a time of monsters. Monsters provide a key to understanding the culture that spawned them. So argue the essays in this wide-ranging and fascinating collection that asks the question, What happens when critical theorists take the study of monsters seriously as a means of examining our culture?
In viewing the monstrous body as a metaphor for the cultural body, the contributors to Monster Theory consider beasts, demons, freaks, and fiends as symbolic expressions of cultural unease that pervade a society and shape its collective behavior. Through a historical sampling of monsters, these essays argue that our fascination for the monstrous testifies to our continued desire to explore difference and prohibition. JeffreyJeromeCohen.com
- Thesis I. The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body (4)
- Thesis II. The Monster Always Escapes (4)
- Thesis III. The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis (6)
- Thesis IV. The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference (7)
- Thesis V. The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible (12)
- Thesis VI. Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire (16)
- Thesis VII. The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming (20)
In groups, develop a list of the important points, lessons, takeaways, and examples that we need to understand in order to understand the thesis. Write a short summary explaining the points of the thesis. Make sure you label which thesis you are writing about. This is very important because we will be using monster theory to write the last two essays in the course. The better we understand the theory, the better we will be able to apply it.
Monster Thesis 1: The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body
Each culture will produce their own monsters and their own versions of monsters. “The monstrous body is pure culture” (4).