Jennifer A Malone
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
ENGL 242D: Transformative Bodies
Ancient Greek and Roman myths often emphasized notions of the transformation of the human body—whether these bodies turned into other human bodies, animals, plants, or objects such as statues. However, with the exception of fairy tales and stories inherited from folkloric traditions, this theme of the human physical body in flux appeared relatively little during the rise of Western prose fiction. Instead, early works of prose often emphasized personal transformation based upon personality and/or circumstance, in terms of moral, social, and intellectual improvement (or the regression/decay of those things). But the literary prose of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries frequently exhibits a renewed interest in physical transformation, and many novels and short stories of this period foreground transformation of the body, whether these be transformations in terms of the size, shape and/or sex of the human body, or transformations from human into monster, human into animal, or human into machine or technological hybrid.
This course will explore a number of different types of bodily transformations within literary works, from Ovid’s mythical metamorphoses to the monsters of the Victorian age to the “posthuman” bodies found in more recent stories and novels. The changes in physical form within these works may take place via scientific/technological advancement, unexplained occurrence, magic, death, or simple body modification, and may be the result of choice, force, or chance. We will discuss these transformations, and the purposes of these transformations within the literary works in which they are found, examining the ways in which, in later works, these transformations may reflect the anxieties regarding specific social and cultural developments and issues within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (and beyond), as well as the ways in which such transformations speak to common human concerns about identity, change, agency, and the often complicated relationship between what we think of as the human mind/heart/soul and the appearance and capabilities of the human body.
Readings will include the following novels/novellas: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, David Garnett’s Lady into Fox, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, and James Tiptree, Jr.’s (Alice Sheldon’s) “The Girl Who Was Plugged In.” There will also be a course packet which will include readings such as various tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a version of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” and likely excerpts from at least one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies. It will also likely include short stories from such authors as Rudyard Kipling, Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, George Saunders, Karen Russell, and more.
This course will emphasize close reading and critical thinking, as well as the development of complex and well-supported written arguments. This course also fulfills the University of Washington’s ‘W’ requirement. It will include 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, most likely in the form of two, 5-7 page papers or two shorter papers and one longer paper. The course may also include a presentation component, with the additional possibility of in-class quizzes, short writing assignments, etc.
Book List: Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. ISBN: 0486290301 (Dover Thrift Edition) Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. ISBN: 0486266885 (Dover Thrift Edition) Stoker, Bram. Dracula. ISBN: 0393970124 (Norton Critical Edition) Wells, H.G. The Island of Dr. Moreau. ISBN: 0486290271 (Dover Thrift Edition) *There will also be a photocopied course pack in which many of the readings will be located.
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