What does it mean for an individual to change, develop, alter, become? When does a person or thing cross the line to become something new -- someone or something else? In this course we'll immerse ourselves in the long, glorious tradition of representations of human metamorphosis: human beings turning into trees, stones, wolves, swans, monsters, insects. We'll be attentive to the metaphoric uses to which authors and artists put metamorphosis: metamorphosis as punishment, literalization of inner character, a divinity's whim, social critique, an expression of rage or power; metamorphosis as a commentary on social or political identity, ethnic or gender prejudice, sexual development and puberty. Finally, we'll also consider metamorphosis as a commentary on the creation of art itself. By looking at the ways authors and artists revisit and revise themes and images of metamorphosis, we'll consider how works of art and literature are continually transformed into new shape, always with some basis in the old.
Texts may include: Ovid's Metamorphosis, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Charles Chestnutt's The Conjure Tales, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Ted Hughes' Tales from Ovid, Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, as well as such movies as David Cronenberg's The Fly, Sally Potter's Orlando, and episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - as well as paintings and other works of visual art.
The course will require significant reading and writing. There will be two lectures a week, plus two discussion sections. You will be expected to have completed all reading assignments before class. Assignments will include a midterm and final exam, occasional quizzes, two papers, and additional short writing assignments.