University of Notre Dame

Frankenstein and Friends: The Monstrous in Literature and Films

Course Number: ENGL 13186 – 2
Instructor: Laura Knoppers

Frankenstein and Friends: The Monstrous in Literature and Film This course will explore the cultural construction of monsters and the monstrous through the enduring figure and myth of Mary Shelley’s Creature, popularly known as Frankenstein. We will begin by reading Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818; 1831) alongside sources for her lonely and rebellious monster in Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, and John Milton, Paradise Lost (selections). We will then turn to Frankenstein’s Victorian analogues in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde (1886). We will also examine the Frankenstein monster on film, including clips from or screenings of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and campy Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Mel Brooks’s satiric comedy Young Frankenstein (1974), the rewriting of Shelley (and Milton) in Ridley Scott’s dystopian thriller Blade Runner (1982; final cut, 1994), and Tim Burton’s gothic fantasy Edward Scissorshands (1990), as well as his neo-noir horror, the animated Frankenweenie (2012). We will end with a modern speculative fiction rewriting of Frankenstein in Margaret Atwood’s dystopic Oryx and Crake (2003). As we discuss and analyze Mary Shelley’s monstrous myth, including its sources and its fictional and cinematic legacy, we will focus on such questions as: What is a monster? What is the relationship between the human and the monstrous? How do individuals and societies define themselves through / against the monstrous? What do monsters tell us about ourselves and our deepest values? What functions do monsters serve in literature, film, and society? What makes the Frankenstein monster so fascinating, adaptable, and durable? This course is discussion-based and writing-intensive. Students will write short reading responses and four analytic papers. There will be an opportunity for students to write about films, as well as literary texts.