Interpreting the Hidden Self: /The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde/

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Programs for Teachers
Newberry Teachers' Consortium

In this perennially popular, short, and sensational (i.e., teachable!) book, we are confronted with one of literature’s most enduring and chilling tales of a hidden or repressed self. Just what is the relation of Stevenson’s hideous Mr. Hyde to the urbane Dr. Jekyll? Like many other nineteenth-century monsters (Frankenstein or Dracula, for instance), we may feel like we know this tale even before we read it for the first time. Many of our students will already have encountered popular-cultural allusions to the story. But what exactly does the hideous Mr. Hyde stand for? And where do we get our clues and our cues for this once we sit down with the book? Stevenson’s book has been interpreted as being about unconscious desire, or some aspect of human culture that the nineteenth century feared, like homosexuality. Participants will consider the implications and challenges of teaching the novella through these conflicting and competing interpreations.

Seminar led by Jules Law, Northwestern University