Real or imagined, literal or metaphorical, monsters have exerted a dread fascination on the human mind for many centuries. They attract and repel us, intrigue and terrify us, and in the process reveal something deeply important about the darker recesses of our collective psyche. In this seminar, participants will focus on the ways in which monsters embodied anxieties and vulnerabilities, but also symbolized the mysterious and incoherent territory just beyond the safe enclosures of rational thought in European history and philosophy. Exploring philosophical treatises, theological tracts, newspapers, pamphlets, films, scientific notebooks, and novels, participants will unpack traditional monster stories for the clues they offer about the inner logic of a culture’s fears and fascinations.
Seminar led by Stephen Asma, Columbia College