Monsters: Assignment

English 338
Washington State University
Michael Delahoyde


The Objective:

Amid all the flesh-eating and blood-sucking fun is the need to digest (and, please, not to puke back) some of what we have been doing and to improve your skills in critical analysis by articulating, organizing, and polishing the presentation of your insights in some kind of written format. Several types of projects would meet the objectives of this course and may not seem too grisly, projects that can both appeal to your own individual talents and still allow you to package brilliant scholarly textual analysis in impressive and professional ways. There is real potential for lots of vital inspiration and originality in our field of horror — so have at it.

PROJECT DUE: WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14th, 2009; 1:10 pm.

The Options:

I. Your Basic, Sound, Admirable Literary Analysis:

You may simply feel most comfortable writing a standard, solid, literary analysis focused on a phenomenon in a particular work of monster literature or film. This manuscript ought to be at least five pages with proper documentation and stylistic brilliance.

II. An Annotated Bibliography and Brief Analysis of a Monster:

A properly documented bibliography and brief summaries of selected literary and/or critical works, followed by a brief discussion of your perspective on the subject. This involves library research, although web sources may help out. If such a project has already begun on this very site, then expand significantly on this material for amplification of the web site.

III. An Annotated Filmography and Brief Analysis of a Monster:

Many examples are available at this web site, but most of these are incomplete versions with minimal annotation; they need updating, so take over and revise any of these or fill in a current gap. Additionally, write up a brief overview for some kind of perspective.

IV. Summaries/Analyses of a Few Films:

Again, a few examples are available at our site, and tons more at my dinosaur film site. Filling in more of the gaps here would be valuable and we’d link your documents from the film list belonging to the appropriate monster.

V. Ponderously Impressive Web Site Resources:

If you are building a significant new site or component and want to make this first submission an early version of a term-project, cough up what you can towards the final glorious extravaganza. In designing this, think of what would be impressive to both scholarly and amateur audiences. Hand in a hard-copy of just the textual portion with the URL so that I have a document on which to make comments.

Many of these options could improve the monsters web site. You may also choose a collaborative project if you like, or negotiate with me a semester-long undertaking instead of two separate projects, in which case this first will be a work-in-progress.

No matter what option you choose, you must demonstrate some critical thinking (not just reporting). The following pages of advice take you through the process, parts of which are applicable to all the various options.

Finding a Topic:

The rule here is simple: the more particular the better. These works have been combed over for a long time; so ideally you want to find a somewhat new angle, something unusual and arcane that no one else will think of, regarding one work if you’re selecting Option I. Be conscientious, nay ruthless, in focusing your scope. Find a specific moment, subtle motif, or character issue. Why is this one observation or insight of yours significant in the larger framework of the novel? Papers lumbering through general or hackneyed topics will be disappointing … all around! The typical weakness with papers for a class such as this is the too vast nature in the discussions of the topics. The weak mind thinks that selection of some enormous subject such as “monstrosity” itself will allow for superficial discussion of three different works slapped together to fill the required pages. Such a project, and its resultant grade, will suck.

To find something potentially original to say about a work we’ve been reading or viewing, start from one particular moment in the work. What is peculiar and subtle about this moment? Consider its several layers of potential meaning. Then consider its larger significance within the work — perhaps how this moment advances one of the key themes or motifs. What are the ramifications?

The excruciatingly close focus should be on your perceptions rather than your evaluations or on you (e.g., “I feel that Frankenstein is an OK joe”). Rather than as an “opinion,” think of this as your perspective or insight. Also, this is not a “review” — drippy “appreciation” or rhapsodic praise of Bram Stoker is tiresome and dorky, so between the rough draft and the final draft, omit all those “Shelley does a great job, but then that’s how she created an immortal classic” embarrassments. More stylistic advice is coming in class as more examples of what I never want to see again keep occurring to me.

You are encouraged to research and include secondary sources, but original insight and analysis should still dominate the entire discussion. Your final revised essay must consist of typed, double-spaced pages containing an intriguing (not underlined) title, an original unified thesis, vigorous analytical work, no extra spaces between paragraphs, all in a clean, effective, illuminating, properly documented presentation (correctly punctuated in-text parenthetical citations of author and page, and a correctly formatted MLA-style Works Cited list). You will include a Works Cited list even if the only work on the list is the novel. For further instruction regarding documentation, refer to an MLA handbook or style-sheet, or to the web page on our monsters site, or ask me ahead of time. Proofread well so that minor surface matters do not distract readers from your ideas. The grade for any manuscript lacking a Works Cited list or containing a renegade, variant, or insane documentation system will strike you as intensely disappointing.

Doing the Bloody Work:

Meeting these requirements, on time, assures you of at least a C grade (see grading sheet). Specific quotation from the novel or film should demonstrate the validity of your argument. The analytical discussion inside the paper should be persuading readers of the significance of adopting your unique perspective on the material; it should not be a report of pointless factoids nor a scan of tons of bilge. MLA documentation is required for humanities papers and should be carried out correctly; so stop making me cross out commas, p’s, pg’s, pgs’s, and all other manner of clutter between simply author and page in parenthetical citations of secondary sources! Also quit with the bastardized Works Cited lists (MLA cross-bred with numbered references, APA corruptions, etc.). Refer to a handbook (MLA, Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference, Keys for Writers, etc.) for correct documentation, read my MLA advice online, and/or ask me ahead of time. “Are you gonna be like really strict on us about a Works Cited and all that stuff?” Uh, yeah? And stop priding yourself on having a jaunty identity based largely on your special lack of skill in spelling. The presentation and appearance of your work should be letter-perfect so that niggling surface matters do not distract your readers from your ideas.


You may work alone or with someone else creating a useful resource for current and future students of Monster Studies. Realize that this is a scholarly project, not an advertisement or fan page. Pick an appropriately manageable scope for the project and include all the key ingredients that you would provide for a paper: research, analysis, commentary, and whatever else would make this creation impressive and valuable. And then package this in ways appropriate for a web site (research gets registered in a Works Cited that may include hyperlinks, for example) and for an audience consisting of future students of this class. Do not just create a recycling dumpsite, that is, don’t replicate what’s already available. Instead, be sure to offer the one thing most lacking on the web: critical analysis — not a full paper’s worth, since that just invites plagiarism, but some sophisticated components of commentary.

If you choose this project because it seems easy and you think you can submit any old crap with a jpg of Boris Karloff, you are doomed and will fail most miserably. If you take up this challenge heroically and meaningfully, it will show.

Alternate Projects:

I welcome other kinds of projects that demonstrate the same objectives: ability to carry out sophisticated research, to discover an original purpose and focus, to write with clarity and influence your audience’s perspective. You may find a way to construct a bibliographical, filmic, pedagogical, apocryphal, or popular culture related project appropriate to Monster Studies which will inspire enthusiasm and break new ground impressively. You may work on a cooperative endeavor with a colleague. There are many possibilities. Think about it.

The Deal:

You are obligated to hand in the assignment (or the textual portions of a web page with the URL) at the beginning of the class period on the designated due date. Truancy is, of course, no excuse (i.e., “I couldn’t get my paper in ‘cuz I cut class”). Fate, as we know, plays amusing tricks. I tell you right now that Aunt Millie could drop in a flash on “paper-due eve”: it is your obligation to anticipate anything like this in your life that could go wrong and to take preventive measures or to develop back-up plans. You also must accept responsibility for being so foolish as to stake your grade on a computer’s or printer’s reliability. And no bitter ironies about roommates and alarm-clocks. No work submitted means you did not meet the requirements of the course (big F); late work will not be read but at least you will have met requirements minimally (little F factored in). On a more positive note, I assure you that I am happy to provide advice and help at any stage of the pre-writing, researching, and drafting processes, short of giving you a topic and writing the text for you. Ultimately, though, it must be completed and turned in when due; the compressed nature of my schedule this semester does not allow for screwing around and cheesy excuses. Get to work early, consult with me as needed, and turn in the best possible masterpiece. Sample papers, good to excellent, are available at least elsewhere, for other classes, on my web site, as are instructions and examples for the required MLA-style documentation.
Other recommendations about various writing issues can be found here,
including my snotty comments regarding rancid phrases
and about generally turning in the project.

PROJECT DUE: WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14th, 2009; 1:10 pm.