LIT 116G: Victorian Monsters

LIT 116G: Monsters and Literature

Victorian Monsters

Instructor Tara Thomas – Summer Session II

July 29 to August 30, 2019

Date: 7/29-8/30/19                              Email:

Time: 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.                     Office: HUM 329

Location: Physical Sciences 140        Office Hours: 12:30-1:30 p.m. MW

Required Texts:

Course Description:

In Monster Theory, Jeffrey Cohen writes that “[t]he monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment—of a time, a feeling, a place.” In this course, we will consider how the Victorians’ construction of monstrosity reflects their particular historical moment, characterized by industrialization, colonization, and scientific development. Through a critical examination of monsters in literature, we will explore anxieties, fears, and ideals of Victorian society, paying close attention to issues of gender, sexuality, class, race, empire, scientific, and technology. We begin by examining the pre-Victorian Frankenstein, in order to discuss the gothic and romantic roots of monsters in the nineteenth-century English literary tradition. Next, we discuss representations of gender, sexuality, and the figure of the vampire in Le Fanu’s Carmilla, followed by an examination of orientalism in Haggard’s She. We then consider Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in conversation with Victorian conceptions of social Darwinism and sexology. Finally, we discuss H.G. Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau in relation to late-Victorian debates about vivisection.   

Course Goals:

As an upper-division course, this class is designed to provide an introduction to critical reading and writing while providing the opportunity to study the literary topic of monsters in literature within the historical and social context of nineteenth-century England. Throughout the course, we will develop these skills in order to provide you with the following outcomes:

  • to develop higher-order reading skills
  • to read and listen attentively
  • to think critically and analytically
  • to produce and evaluate interpretations
  • to access evidence and to deploy it effectively in your own work
  • to identify and to understand how and whether a text achieves its aim

These outcomes have been adapted from the Academic Senate’s Textual Analysis and Interpretation (TA) General Education requirement.

Course Responsibilities and Final Grading:

Because this is an intensive summer course, you will be responsible for an estimated 30 hours of course-related work per week. You will be accountable for having effectively prepared for each class, and I will help motivate you to stay on top of the reading by giving weekly reading quizzes.

Your final grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  • Weekly Reading Quizzes                                                                               20%
  • Take Home Midterm Exam                                                                            25%
  • Take Home Final Exam                                                                                  30%
  • Monster Creative Assignment                                                                                      5%
  • Monster Adaptation Assignment                                                                      5%
  • Attendance                                                                                                     10%
  • Participation                                                                                                     5%

Weekly Reading Quizzes: 4 IN TOTAL

Each week we will have a pop quiz in class covering the assigned reading and films. Please bring your laptop or download the Canvas app on your phone so you can take them in class on Canvas.

Take Home Exams: MIDTERM AUG 16th& FINAL AUG 30th

The take home midterm and final will be comprised of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and a few short essay prompts. Both will cover the primary and secondary texts. The final will be cumulative with an emphasis on the final two weeks of class.

Monster Creative Assignment: DUE AUG 9th

This assignment asks you to apply your knowledge from the primary and secondary readings we’ve read thus far to invent your own monster. You will create a visual representation of the monster and provide a 500-1000 word creative-critical short essay explaining the theoretical underpinning of your project.

Monster Adaptation Assignment: DUE AUG 28th

This will be a film review of a Victorian monster movie of your choice that provides a commentary on how the movie adapts the literary version. This can be one of the texts from our syllabus or another Victorian text you are familiar with. 500-1000 words.


Because this is an intensive summer course, you are required to attend all lectures. More than two unexcused absences will result in a failing grade. Attendance will be worth 10% of your final grade, while the other 5% will be based on your participation in class. In the case of an absence, please contact your small group members to get up-to-date on what you missed.


There will be a separate participation grade that will be evaluated based on your level of active engagement in class. This grade will take into consideration your interaction in your designated small group, your attentiveness and participation in lectures, large and small group discussions, and class activities.

Assignment Submission Policy:

All assignments must be submitted in order to pass this class. Please submit your work on time; I will deduct a letter grade for each day of unapproved lateness. Extensions will be granted only under extenuating circumstances and must be approved 24 hours in advance unless in the case of emergency.

Academic Integrity:

All work submitted for this course must be your own. Breaches in academic integrity will result in failure of this course and may incur suspension or dismissal from the university.

A Note on Accessibility & Accommodations

If you qualify for classroom accommodations, please obtain an Accommodation Authorization form from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and submit to me in person outside of class (e.g. during office hours) ASAP. Contact the DRC at (831) 459-2089 or, or visit for more information about the requirements and process for qualifying for classroom accommodation.

Small Groups:

You will be assigned a small group with whom you will work throughout the term. This group will be your ‘go to’ group for group discussions and activities. In the case of an absence, please contact your small group members to get up-to-date on what you missed.

Contacting the Instructor and Teaching Assistant:

Tara will be available during office hours from 1:30-2:30 p.m. in Hum 1 room 329 MW. Emails will be answered within 24 hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. If you have questions related to the assignments, please be sure to ask well in advance.

Writing Support:

There are several UCSC Writing Centers on campus that can provide you with writing support for your two writing assignments this term. Because this is an intensive course, I request that you visit one of the Writing Centers on campus for writing-related questions and help on your drafts. The TA and I will be available during office hours for course content-related questions but will be unable to read drafts of your assignments.

Due Dates and Reading Schedule


July 29th

Introduction to Course:


Lewis Carroll, “Jabberwocky” (in class)


Jabberwocky Icebreaker Activity


Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Monster Culture: Seven Theses” (in class)


July 31st

Victorians and Classical Monstrosity: Historicizing the Monster

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The Burden of Nineveh”

William Butler Yeats, “The Hosting of the Sidhe”

Alfred Tennyson, “The Kraken”


Film Screening: Godzilla (1954)


August 5th


The Victorian Gothic: Nineteenth-Century Psychological Aesthetics

Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Old Nurse’s Story”

Vernon Lee, “Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady”


August 7th


Monsters of the Market: Gender and Capitalism in Goblin Market and Das Kapital


Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market”


Goblin Market Comparative Illustrations Activity


Film Screening: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)


August 9th

Monster Creative Assignment due by 11:59 p.m. on Canvas

August 12th

The Making of the Modern Monsterous Body: Romanticism, Occultism, and Psychoanalysis


Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


August 14th


Ideological Influences: Reading Wollstonecraft and Godwin in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Film Screening: Frankenstein (1931)


August 16th

Midterm due by 11:59 p.m. on Canvas

August 19th

Perspective, Narrative, and Adaptation

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Film Screening: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)


August 21st


Imperial Encounters: Frankenstein, the Franklin Expedition, and Artic Exploration


Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


Mapping Frankenstein Activity


Friday August 23rdMonster Adaptation Assignment due by midnight on Canvas

August 26th

Egyptomania and Curse of the Mummy Literature:


Arthur Conan Doyle, “Lot 249”

Michael Field, “The Mummy Invokes His Soul”


Film Screening: The Mummy’s Ghost


August 28th

Vampiric Desires

Lord Byron, The Giaour (selections)

Bram Stoker, “Dracula’s Guest”


Film Screening: The Vampire Lovers (1870)




August 30th

Final exam due by 11:59 p.m. on Canvas
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