Fables of Modernity: Vampires, Monsters, Madness

Course Number: ENGL 65FM
Prerequisites: Writing 2 or its equivalent
Advisory Enrollment Information: Open to non-majors. Course may be repeated twice providing the letter designations are different.
General Education Areas Fulfilled: GE Area G Requirement, Writing Requirement
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 65AA-ZZ
Quarter: Spring 2019
Instructor: Wicke, Jennifer
Day(s): TBD
Time: TBD
Location: TBD
Description:

This lecture course (with individual discussion sections) focuses on four books that continue to vibrate in the cultural imagination today, because in addition to being fascinating literary works, they are touchstone books that explore or even create social narratives of what modernity means, and how its vast changes alter the ways people live their lives—politically, philosophically, scientifically, psychologically in terms of social identity and self-image, and ethically and spiritually too. From the late eighteenth century to the twentieth century, and now in the twenty-first underway, “modernity” exploded on the world stage, sometimes quite literally. Our focus on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bream Stoker’s Dracula, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness takes these works about literal and metaphorical monsters and madness as “fables”: that is, cultural stories that have stayed culturally current, and continue to guide contemporary narratives in art and culture alike. Each approximately two-week session on a book ends with a really contemporary version of the fable--a film, internet versions, or art that responds to the vampires, monsters and madness that haunt us still, in an interdisciplinary approach that looks at these fables as they act on the world, not as static literary artifacts. The course is also taught so as to reward students’ interests and their time; quizzes are for extra credit to be used on the exams, and there’s a wide range of other incentives, including the chance to choose your own focus in a final short essay. We’re all, in a way, Frankenstein’s monster, some version of Count Dracula or Mina Harker who vanquishes him through empathy, trapped by our own image like Dorian Gray, or involved in the madness of world domination like Conrad’s Marlow, as unwilling participant or one who has been subjugated. Modernity’s fables hold up a mirror to us.