Monsters of Pre-Modernity: From Dragons to Frankenstein
Where did monsters appear before starring in comic-books and blockbusters? How were they represented and what did they symbolize? This course aims at exploring the notion of the monster in early-modern French literary texts, before Mary Shelley established our modern idea of monstrosity with Frankenstein. "Monstrum," in Latin, was used to refer to a prodigy that did not fit the laws of nature. Thus, the monster, not only generates wonder, curiosity or fear, but also challenges and disrupts the norms and values of a given society. Throughout the course, by looking at the way monsters were represented visually and in literary works (dragons, cyclops, minotaurs, cannibals, hybrid animals, tritons and sirens, murderers or physically deformed humans), we will try to understand what they meant and symbolized at different historical periods, from the feudal system of the Middle Ages, to the court society of Louis XIV. Readings will include: selections from classical authors such as Homer and Ovid; the Legend of Saint Georges and the Dragon; Francois Rabelais, "Quart Livre;" Jean de Léry, "Histoire d'un voyage fait en la terre du Brésil;" Ambroise Paré, "Des Monstres et Prodiges;" Michel de Montaigne, "D'un enfant monstrueux;" Corneille, "Médée;" Victor Hugo, "Le Bossu de Notre-Dame." Taught in French.