This volume and its companion gather a wide range of readings and sources to enable us to see and understand what monsters show us about what it means to be human. The first volume introduces important modern theorists of the monstrous, with a brief introduction to each reading, setting the theorist and theory in context, and providing background and guiding questions. The selection of readings in Classic Readings on Monster Theory is intended to provide interpretive tools and strategies to use to grapple with the primary sources in the second volume – Primary Sources on Monsters – which brings together some of the most influential and indicative monster narratives from the West.
Taken together, these volumes allow us to witness the consistent, multi-millennium strategies the West has articulated, weaponized, and deployed to exclude, disempower, and dehumanize a range of groups and individuals within and without its porous boundaries.
1. Introduction: “A Marvel of Monsters” by Asa Simon Mittman and Marcus Hensel
2. “Beowulf, the Monsters and the Critics” by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. “A Measure of Man,” from The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought by John Block Friedman
4. “The Nature of Horror,” from The Philosophy of Horror by Noël Carroll
5. “Rethinking the Canon: Prophets, Canons, and Promising Monsters” by Michael Camille
6. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses),” from Monster Theory: Reading Culture by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
7. “Introduction,” from Orientalism by Edward Said
8. “Approaching Abjection,” from Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection by Julia Kristeva
9. “Parasites and Perverts: An Introduction to Gothic Monstrosity,” from Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters by J. Halberstam
10. “From Wonder to Error: A Genealogy of Freak Discourse in Modernity,” from Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body by Rosemarie Garland Thomson