Reading Monstrosity in Iberian Culture - LS550

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) DR A Lazaro-Reboll







This module will take a close look at the figure of the "monster" in Iberian culture, ranging from medieval considerations of the monster in medieval bestiaries to eighteenth-century medical treatises of monstrous forms to twentieth-century depictions of monsters. The module will focus on the historical context out of which a particular meaning of the monster emerges. In order to do so, the course will draw on high and popular culture, a variety of disciplines, and a variety of media (literature, prints, paintings, films). Discussions will be supplemented with relevant historical, critical and theoretical readings. The monster in this course will be an interpretative model for an understanding of how notions such as "normalcy", "beauty", the "classical body" are constructed and will enable us to look at issues of otherness, gender, and race. Drawing on theoretical approaches to literary and visual representations, it aims to raise questions around concepts such as the gaze, power and identity.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

2 hours per week.

Method of assessment

100% coursework.

Preliminary reading

Indicative Reading List

Historical and Cultural Background:

Medieval Iberia

• Gerli, E. Michael. (ed.) Medieval Iberia: an Encyclopaedia (London: Routledge, 2003)
• Jackson, Gabriel The Making of Medieval Spain (London: Thames and Hudson, 1972)
• Kamen, Henry The Spanish Inquisition (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1965)
• Meyerson, Mark D. and Edward D. English (eds.) Christians, Muslims and Jews in Medieval and Early Modern Spain (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000).

The Spanish Golden Age

• Brown, Jonathan Painting in Spain 1500-1700 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998)
• Elliott, J. H. Imperial Spain (1469-1716) (London: Edward Arnold, 1961)
• The Old World and the New 1492-1650 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970)
• Spain 1494-1659 (Devizes: Sussex Tapes, 1983) [1 sound cassette and 1 booklet]
• Spain and Its World 1500-1700: selected essays (London: Yale University Press, 1989)
• Evans, Peter (ed.) Conflicts of Discourse: Spanish Literature in the Golden Age (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999)
• Kamen, Inquisition and Society in Spain in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985)
• Lynch, John Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, 1598-1826 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).

Spain 1700-1808

• Carr, Raymond. Spain 1808-1936 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982)
• Herr, Richard. The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Spain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958)
• Lynch, John. Bourbon Spain, 1700-1808 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989).

Twentieth-Century Spain

• Boyd, Carolyn. Historia patria: politics, history and national identity in Spain, 1875 – 1975 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997)
• Carr, Raymond. Modern Spain 1875-1980 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980)
• Labanyi, Jo (ed.) Constructing Identity in Contemporary Spain: theoretical debates and cultural practices (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
• Ross, Christopher Contemporary Spain (London: Arnold, 1997).

On monstrosity

• Bovey, Alixe (2002) Monsters and Grotesques in Medieval Manuscripts, London: The British Library.
• Canguilhem, Georges (1962) 'Monstrosity and the Monstrous', in Diogene, 40: Winter 27-42.
• Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome (ed.) (1996) Monster Theory, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
• Dorriam, Mark (2000) 'On the Monstrous and the Grotesque' in Word and Image, 16, 3, 310-317.
• Fiedler, Leslie (1985) 'The Tyranny of the Normal', in Which Babies Shall Live? in Thomas H. Murray and Arthur L. Caplan (eds.), Cligton, NJ: Humana Press, 151-169.
• Foucault, Michel (1967) Madness and Civilization. A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, London: Tavistock [1961].
• (1997) 'The Abnormals', in Paul Rabinow (ed.) Michel Foucault. Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, London: Allen Lane, 51-57 [1974-75].
• Friedman, John B. (1981) The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
• Huet, Marie-Helénè (1993) Monstrous Imagination, Harvard: Harvard University Press.
• (2004) 'Monstrous Medicine', in Laura Lunger Knoppers and Joan B. Landes (eds.) Monstrous Bodies /Political Monstrosities in Early Modern Europe, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
• Knoppers, Laura Lunger and Joan B. Landes (eds.) (2004) Monstrous Bodies / Political Monstrosities in Early Modern Europe, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
• Lafuente, José Antonio and Javier Moscoso (eds.) (2000) Monstruos y seres imaginarios en la Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional.
• Shildrick, Margrit (2001) Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the vulnerable self, London: Sage.
• Thomsom, Rosemary Garland (ed.) (1996) Freakery. Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body, New York: New York University Press.
• Wilson, Dudley (1993) Signs and Portents from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, London: Routledge.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

Course specific skills:

- Students will consider evidence, isolate issues and critically evaluate their historical and contemporary significance;
- They will develop critical, analytical and problem solving skills in the consideration of the construction of Iberian identity;
- Students will develop an understanding of the debates surrounding the notion of monstrosity within a political, religious and historical context;
- Students will develop skills in the analysis and evaluation of contextual material;
- Students will have the opportunity to build upon their critical skills by comparing and contrasting a variety of media (literature, prints, painting, films);
- The course is also designed to provide students with concepts and terminology in the fields of Critical and Cultural Theory;
- Students will gain an appreciation of intercultural diversity;
- Students will develop an ability to mediate and display qualities of empathy in an intercultural context.

All these subject specific outcomes correspond to Programme Outcomes. In terms of knowledge and understanding, students will develop a critical awareness of the broad canon of Iberian cultures and societies and have a broad knowledge of and the analytical skills to understand the cultural and historical contexts in which specific literary and visual discourses on monstrosity are produced; in terms of intellectual skills, students will be able to analyse, evaluate and interpret a variety of texts and other cultural texts in a critical manner, and to reflect on the importance and complexities of cultural representations for individuals and for national societies.

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