Theories & Methods of Literary Study (LSE)

This course is an advanced introduction to issues in
literary history, literary theory, and literary criticism. We will approach
these issues by way of the fascinating tangle of intertextual connections and
problems presented to literary study by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (first published in 1818,
with a revised edition in 1831). We will explore

  • Frankenstein’s
    connections to myth and epic by way of its allusions to the Judaeo-Christian
    creation myth in Genesis, the Greek
    myths of Prometheus, and  John Milton’s
    adaptation of the Christian myth in Paradise
  • its dialogue with recent and contemporary
    writers, including S. T. Coleridge’s Rime
    of the Ancient Mariner
    and the poetry of Shelley’s husband, Percy, and
    their close friend and associate, Lord Byron;
  • its handling of the form of the Gothic novel,
    e.g. Matthew G. Lewis’s The Monk or
    Anne Radcliffe’s The Italian;
  • the story’s relation to Mary Shelley’s journals
    and letters;
  • its relation to the writings of her famous
    parents, the anarchist philosopher William Godwin and the feminist Mary
  • its adaptation to the stage in the 1820s;
  • Mary Shelley’s own revision of the 1818 text to
    produce the 1831 version;
  • its relation to Victorian mad scientist stores
    like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll
    and Mr. Hyde
    or H. G. Wells’s The
    Island of Dr. Moreau
  • film adaptations, including the Universal horror
    cycle classics Frankenstein (1931)
    and Bride of Frankenstein (1935);
  • and more recent print and hypertext adaptations
    and revisions like Shelly Jackson’s Patchwork
    and Theodore Roszak’s The
    Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Our study of Frankenstein
will be supported and complemented by reading and discussion of some central
pieces of literary and cultural theory by a wide range of writers including
Louis Althusser, Erich Auerbach, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Ferdinand de
Saussure, Fredric Jameson, Laura Mulvey, Slavoj Zizek, and others. The major
requirement, other than steadfast participation, is a well-researched term
paper of approximately twenty pages. There will also be a shorter analytic
essay due early in the semester, and each student will read and report on at
least one novel or film not on the general reading list.

Texts: The Longman Cultural Edition of Frankenstein, edited by Susan Wolfson, available at Revolution

All others texts will be available online.