To borrow an old saying, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Tastes vary, in other words, different people like different things, and a truism of monstrosity is that one group’s monster is another group’s beloved master, mistress, child, or friend (etc.). A number of scholars over the years have considered this issue of perspective, including the influential literary critic Umberto Eco, whose study “On Ugliness” explores the monstrous things that repel us as humans. Eco considers what the attraction (and repulsion) is to the gruesome and the horrific, and asks: is ugliness found in the eye of the beholder? With such ideas in mind, for the first part of your Blogpost I’d like you to address in broad terms the ways in which monstrosity is, in essence, “in the eye of the beholder” as it pertains to one of our recent creatures. I would prefer that you address one of Shakespeare’s characters in The Tempest for this part, but since that play is now optional due to Stockton’s new post-Spring Break schedule, as an alternative you may consider the impact/influence of perspective on an ancient or medieval monster studied before spring break.
The second part of your Blog is related, but will be a bit more narrow in its focus. In his novel The Counterlife, renowned American author Philip Roth (writing as a writer very much like Roth himself) comments that “The treacherous imagination is everybody’s maker – we are all the invention of each other, everybody a conjuration conjuring up everyone else. We are all each other’s authors.” What Roth is subtly getting at in this passage is the fact that we all construct our own reality, and we all perceive the world as we will, serving as the “author” of the truths around us. For class on Thursday, you will be reading excerpts from John Gardner’s masterful novel Grendel, which tells the well-known Beowulf story from the perspective of the monster. Next week, you will be writing a longer account where you explore and consider the point-of-view of a specific monster, so as a kind of practice for this kind of thinking – and also to fuel some preliminary thoughts about monstrosity and perspective – I’d like you to consider how the view of a particular monster changes if he/she is seen from a different perspective. So, what happens to a particular “monstrous” story when depicted from the point-of-view of another character or person from his/her world, or through the vision of him/her
themselves? Pick another monster that we have studied of late, and offer some insights about what they might say if they (or someone else from their world) got to tell their story, about how their understanding of certain actions and “realities” would differ from those around them. Feel free to be creative here, if you wish.