Exciting Spring 2015 Courses at ASU English: Frankenstein and Jane Austen

Promotional photo from Universal’s 1931 film Frankenstein: the actor Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster, in black and white, with wrinkled and wrecked skin, visible stitches and scars, and bolts in his neck, grimacing under heavy-lidded eyes.

This piece is written by Luu Nguyen, and was originally published at ASU News. One of CSI’s major upcoming projects is the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project, which will organize a broad range of activities to celebrate the bicentennial of the writing and publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from 2016-2018. 

Dubbing the mash-up “Beauty and the Beast,” the Arizona State University’s Department of English presents two separately offered spring 2015 hybrid courses – one on Frankenstein and the other on Jane Austen – in the same time slot, to help students make the most of their packed schedules.

Both literature-based offerings meet from 9 to 10:15 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, alternating in-class and hybrid days. Students may take just one course or both.

“Frankenstein and Its Others” (ENG 401) is taught by Mark Lussier, professor and chair of the English department. His course meets in person on Thursdays and online on Tuesdays. Students will delve into not only the written works about this “hideous progeny,” but will uncover how the Frankenstein novels influenced classic cinema as well.

Texts to be explored include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which inspired many others), as well as Percy Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jeykyll and Mr. Hyde and H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Film adaptions of these works include Gothic (1986), Blade Runner (1982) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990), among others.

In celebration of the upcoming Frankenstein bicentennial (1818-2018), this class is a unique starting point for the university’s bicentennial project, exploring the intersection of science and literature to bring the creature alive once more.

“Jane Austen (Women & Literature)” (ENG 364) introduces all things Jane Austen in an unusual team-taught structure, meeting in person on Tuesdays and online on Thursdays. The course, jokingly described as “married couple argues about Austen and tries to teach you something in the process,” is instructed by Austen scholars Devoney Looser and George Justice, who are husband and wife. They are both professors of English; Justice also serves as dean of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Texts to be discussed include Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and shorter works, including her raucous juvenilia. The course will explore Austen’s humor, irony and social criticism, looking at the ways she’s been used in popular culture.

In answering the questions, “Why is Jane Austen so popular?” and “Is she just the author of ‘chick lit,’ best served up with zombies or vampires?” the course dissects historical and contemporary Jane Austen fandom. Looser and Justice hope that students come away with knowledge about Austen and about how reading her can inform new understandings of literature, love and life.

Interested students may visit the Department of English’s website for enrollment information.