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Monsters and The Monstrous

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Monsters and The Monstrous

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  1. Monsters and The Monstrous What scares us? & What disgusts us?

  2. Why are we fans of horror? • In horror stories, we seek to make a violent emotion (fear) accessible and safely remote…we can close the book….Its safe also b/c of the unreality of the imagery and the predictability of the plots… • Horror stories work by dissipating terror in the act of creating it… • Horror stories deal with supernatural events and fantastical characters…readers approach them with the expectation of an escape from the monotonous realities of daily grind…and from the conformity which is our social training (…we indulge in the repressed) [Martin Tropp, Images of Fear)

  3. Classical Monsters Who were they? Why were they?

  4. Early Mythology (Greeks and Hebrews) Titans were the progeny of Gaia and Uranus (Earth Mother and Father Sky) Zeus freed Giantes (Giants, Cyclops, etc) and fought the Titans and won! Female Monsters/Monstrous Females: Amazons, Scylla, Sirens, Harpies

  5. Bible Numbers 13:33 'And there we saw giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight' Genesis 6:4 'There were giants in the earth in those days…’ Job: Leviathan…

  6. Bible Cain had sex with beasts that lived “east of Eden” Gave birth to a mixed race According to the poem, Beowulf, Grendel is one of these mongrel hybrids

  7. Herodotus 5th C. BCE “There is a place in Arabia to which I went, on hearing of some winged serpents; and when I arrived there, I saw bones and spines of serpents, in such quantities as it would be impossible to describe. The form of the serpent is like that of the water-snake; but he has wings without feathers, and as like as possible to the wings of a bat.”

  8. Pliny Historia Naturalis (77 AD)

  9. Medieval Accounts Borrowed from Greek/Roman accounts Also some original works: Marvels of the East(Anon)and Monstrous Races (Marco Polo) But they start to be more overtly religious in significance

  10. Bestiary14th C moralized encyclopedia of real and fantastic animals Elephants, rhinos, but also unicorns, dragons…here is Hydrus (symbolizing Christ) killing a crocodile (Death)

  11. Krakow appeared in Europe within a few decades of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. This beast sported heads on its joints — the standard identifier of demonic handiwork.

  12. 15th C Science Gigantic fossil bones…

  13. Inspired by an elephant skull… The median nasal opening (where the trunk attaches) of the elephant must have been single eye socket….

  14. For Europeans: Monsters Roamed China and India Marco Polo, Europe's greatest traveler, suffered badly for what cynics assumed were his outlandish flights of fancy: coal, paper money, asbestos, urban planning, religious toleration? He's making it up! Imagine him in 1295, trying to convince a skeptical Venetian public that Kublai Khan took his dinner with 40,000 guests and had his servants veiled with silk lest they breathe on his majesty's broth. No wonder, when he returned from 24 years on the road, the children of Venice are reputed to have stalked after him, goading: "Tell us another lie . . . " And so Polo was quickly consigned to that part of our cultural heritage marked "medieval fantasy/travel" - a few notches above Sir John Mandeville, who never went further than St Albans.

  15. Mandeville “In Ethiopia, the children all be yellow and when they wax of age, that yellowness turneth to be all black…In the island of Dondun be folks of diverse kinds, so that the father eateth the son, the son the father…if one or the other shall fall sick…for it is better than kin than worms have them as a feast…In one island be folk of great stature, as giants. And they be hideous for to look upon. And they have but one eye, and that is in the middle of the front. ..And in another isle dwell folk of foul stature and of cursed kind that have no heads. And their eyes be in the their shoulders…

  16. Most monsters…. Say something about what the culture fears

  17. Alien (1979)

  18. Men’s Fear of Women • Vagina dentata is Latin for toothedvagina. Various cultures have folk tales about women with toothed vaginas, frequently told as cautionary tales warning of the dangers of sex with strange women • The concept is also of importance in psychoanalysis, where it is held to relate to the unconscious fears associated with castration anxiety.

  19. Castaway Narrative Became popular as Europe began its colonization of America and Africa…= allegory of taking possession of a foreign land (with all good and bad of that) Reveals fantasies and anxieties of dominating others (fear of rebellion & immorality of conquest) Often depict colonization as benign (survivors are there by act of God and the place is terra nullius) Island indigenes (human and animal) are “savage, brutish”…a symbol of hero’s longing for the wild/magic but also foil of hero’s rationality/grace/self-control

  20. Castaway Narrative Odyssey and The Tempest both castaway narratives (which is different than a straight-up story of Good vs. Evil: Beowulf, or Greek Heroes vs. Female Monsters or Amazoms) How are these tales be read as conquest literature? Or as a critique of conquest literature? (There are facts and fictions of Empire….) How is the Tempest a critique of slavery?

  21. References Weaver-Hightower, Rebecca. Castaways, Cannibals and Fantasies of Conquest ( U Minn. 2007)