TS English/Fall2014 Asking Monstrous Questions Academic writing is built upon a “line” of academic inquiry. It is motivated by a number of different types of questions about how the world (physical, metaphysical, social) works. Inquiry is, first and foremost, a “habit of mind”: Openness to Possibility: Opening questions are followed by more informed questions as research reveals new details and as new facts come to light. The investigation can often take unexpected turns and angles, and may require you to think about things you didn’t expect to have to deal with. Skepticism: All previously positions can be reevaluated when new information suggests that it is necessary. Nothing is more important than making sure that your own position is supportable and properly nuanced. To start, inquiry begins by making observations. In this case, the inquiry-based “habits of mind” Openness: Be willing to look at the world and ask “why?” Recognize that there are many facets to this world and, thus, we need multiple ways of answering this question (physical, social/political, biological) . Recognize that things have multiple angles and can be understood productively from multiple perspectives. Think creatively about both questions and hypotheses. Skepticism: Be wary of “common-sense” or untested truth. Be willing to question held belief and assumptions, especially your own! Be open to criticism of ideas or concepts you consider reliable. Monster stories have a long history The “modern” period (17th-18th C) introduces a new type of secular monster story, many of which have been assimilated into the category of “Classic Literature” Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) Stevenson’s, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) Wells’, The Invisible Man (1897) Stokers’ Dracula (1897) These narratives have assumed a new type of popularity through film, which has taken up monster stories since its earliest stages. Frankenstein (1910) Nosferatu (1922) King Kong (1933) Of course, beyond these early examples there are too many monster movies to mention or summarize! Monsters and monster narratives also appear in a whole variety of other genres and forms including; Video Games Comic Books Political Cartoons Children’s Stories Cereal Boxes Other? Monster stories are a whole genre – a popular TYPE of story that gets told over and over… Other examples: detective stories, romance narratives, spy dramas, ghost stories (are they monsters?), etc The genre is both highly conventional and diverse Conventional: certain aspects of the genre repeat and maintain common themes Diverse: we are always inventing new monsters to frighten ourselves with This will be an essential question for us as we investigate Frankenstein and other monster narratives over the course of this quarter. Why are these the stories we like to tell ourselves? What desires do they fulfill? Considering their diversity, by what logic are they categorized? What makes something a “monster”? Why do horror stories appear so regularly? Do they have some kind of function? How and why do they change? It will be essential for us to not only come up with some answers to these questions, but to answer them in an academic manner! Common knowledge and attitudes would tell us that fictional narratives about monsters – horror films, monster stories, etc. – are simply a cheap form of popular entertainment. Most, unlike more “serious” literature, do not count as culturally significant. They exist purely to shock us, frighten us, and otherwise take us away from our real lives. They are escapism and distraction. An adrenaline rush. IS THIS REALLY IT? • From a comic called The Silver Streak (1940) Opened in 1954 – (Cold War) 1960 (Cold War) • One of the many adaptations of the Dracula story for film and popular culture Opened in 2008. In our informal inquiry on Wed, we constructed a series of analytic observations that seemed to challenge the “common-sense” notion that monster fictions are simply “diversion” or “entertainment.” We noted the importance of: Social prejudice; political difference; global, ethnic conflict; the concept of “social fears/anxiety” Social norms/values; gender/family The idea of “boundaries”; prohibitions; illegitimate or legitimate behaviors; violence Remade in 2010 Opening one month before Cloverfield Released in 2001 How has your definition of a “monster” changed through this analysis? What are the most important insights, ideas, or issues that you have noticed? How has your perspective/definition changed over the course of this investigation? What new questions can we ask? What still needs further inquiry? What else should we look at to make our definition more comprehensive?