Real Monsters: Adventures in the History of the Abnormal
Dracula, Frankenstein, Godzilla—we think of monsters as horror-movie villains and Halloween props, but monsters weren’t always thought of as imaginary. Ancient explorers believed they lived at the end of the map; Puritans warned they might be in your neighbor’s bedroom, or even your wife’s womb. Monster-hunters performed autopsies to understand the nature of the world, and doomsday preachers and eugenicists hailed them as signs of the end times. In this course, we explore the “real” history of monsters from Greece and Rome to American freak shows. We’ll examine the roles monsters play in every culture: as embodiments of the forbidden, the rejected, and the seductive.
Our first session, Thinking with Monsters, dives into the psychological and social role that monsters play in world cultures. What is a monster? Why are we afraid of monsters, and why can’t we get enough of them? Our second sessions, Here be Dragons: Mythology and Exploration, looks to Greek and Roman mythology, Medieval maps, and taxidermied mermaids to understand some of the monsters “known” to roam the edge of the premodern world. Next, we move to Demon Children and Monstrous Mothers, where we explore the historical connections between monsters, sex, religion, and politics from the Middle Ages to Frankenstein. Finally, in Doctors at the Freak Show: Monsters in American Science and Culture, we ask how monsters became imaginary in the twentieth century as science and medicine explained freaks of nature and the monster moved from the laboratory to the dime museum, the cinema, and the Halloween party. There will be no outside readings for this course.
This class will be held onsite at WIH and simulcast via Zoom.
Four Week Course Schedule | Tuesdays
Oct 04 | 1:00 PM
Oct 11 | 1:00 PM
Oct 18 | 1:00 PM
Oct 25 | 1:00 PM
54 in stock
Price is per student. Class tuition is non-refundable.