Monster Lit

One of the courses I’m teaching this term is British Literature. Right now we’re with the Victorians. The Norton Anthology doesn’t have Dickens’ novels, so I’m out of luck there, but I knew I needed to teach Darwin and reading him made me think about the end of century outpouring of gothic horror novels that we still reference today.

Bram Stoker’s vampires are still hugely popular. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein had a good hundred year run. And although Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is the only one of these three in my text, it was the book that sparked the idea to do a lecture on Monster Lit.

Not sure but think I just coined a term. Bit irreverent, but I like it. 

There had to be a connection between Darwin and all those monster novels–I could sense it. Just told that the bible is not the final word on the meaning of life, that in fact life is a random system of chance and struggle, how would writers of the time feel? Put the turning of a century in there, plus the French and Industrial revolutions, the new fields of geology and astronomy, and people were way overwhelmed. Terrified, even.

So what’s a writer to do?

Terrify them more. Write out their worst nightmares. Take the idea of evolution and turn it upside down, make it devolve. Recognizing our deepest fears, turning them into stories, works on a gut level. People loved those books, still do. I think my Monster Lit lecture will be a hit. Anyway, I’m having fun working on it.


Meanwhile, the revisions are moving along too. I’m pretty sure I’ll make my deadline of March 16. And then it will be time to query.

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  1. I have fond memories of The Norton Anthology. I took Brit Lit 35 years ago. Good class with a good teacher. I bet it would be fun to audit your class, Cindy.


  2. Thanks Sharon. Yesterday, after the lecture, one of the studen’ts said “I am really liking this,” as if she was surprised to enjoy a class;-)


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