Honors Seminars Spring 2022

English 402-01: Frankenstein, the Villa Diodati & the 'Ghost Story Challenge' WR - Dr. Karen Hadley

In the summer of 1816, the so-called “Year without a Summer,” the celebrated Romantic poets Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and their entourage gathered at the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva. Their conversations, which ranged widely among contemporary scientific topics such as alchemy, galvanism the principles of animation and the “spark of life,” among literary tales of ghosts and vampires. One evening, Lord Byron read the Fantasmagoriana, an anthology of German ghost stories (with titles such as “The Death Bride” and “The Black Chamber”) and – amongst the candlelight inside and the lightening flashing over Alpine scenery outside, challenged those present each to write a ghost story. The challenged resulted in literary fragments and poems, most notably Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and Polidori’s novel The Vampyre, forerunner of Stoker’s Dracula, and modern vampire fantasy fiction. 

 This course will explore the lives of these exemplary individuals, the contemporary contexts informing this fateful night, and the texts generated in response to Byron’s “ghost story challenge,” among them Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. In reading the novel, we will place special emphasis on her identity as a woman writer: her role as “silent auditor” during those conversations, her experience of the sexual tensions among those staying at the village, and the feminist understanding of Victor Frankenstein’s “monster” as a figure for Mary herself.  

English 402-02: Comics, Senses, and Emotions - Dr. Joseph Turner

Art often makes us feel something, and every form works differently. This course examines how comics, as a hybrid medium that combines images and text, tugs at our emotions in ways that traditional print novels or even films cannot. Drawing on biology, cognitive science, visual art, literary studies, and philosophy, we will ask: how do comics uniquely engage our senses and, as a result, make us feel? To do so, we will of course spend time with primary texts: the dreamscapes of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (the comics and the recent audiobook adaptation), Julie Maroh’s crisp and evocative inking in Blue is the Warmest Color, the violent charcoal sketches of Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner, and others, some of which will be chosen by students. We will also draw on secondary research from a variety of disciplines to develop a critical vocabulary for analyzing comics and their images: for example, we’ll read recent research from cognitive science on images and memory alongside of philosophy of emotions and aesthetics. We’ll develop our understanding of comics through a series of short essays and a multimedia presentation.  Click here for a short video about this course.