Description: For your final major essay assignment. You need to choose one monster that you’d like to analyze. It can be any kind of monster that you want, real or imaginary and you can approach the monster as something or someone that is mis-labeled (something called a monster that is in fact NOT monstrous) or you can approach the monster as something or someone you think is very reasonably labeled as a monster. Next, you need to choose just ONE of the seven “theses” in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s essay as an interpretive lens through which to analyze and view this monster. The purpose of this paper is to help you practice using a theoretical framework in the analysis of a text.
Choosing a monster: Monsters can mean many different things, and of course, we use the term “monster” in many different ways in our culture. It is entirely up to you to decide what “monster” you will be choosing for this assignment, and how you view its monstrousness. As mentioned above, you may want to choose something or someone viewed by society as monstrous, or you might want to choose something or someone that seems to you somehow genuinely monstrous. It’s up to you. You may want to focus on an individual, but you can also focus on a characteristic that is used to describe and name a number of individuals as monstrous. The most important thing you need to do is pick a figure that you’re interested in writing about, and learning more about.
Choosing one of Cohen’s theses: You can also choose any one of Cohen’s seven theses as your theoretical framework, but you must choose just ONE. Choose a thesis that helps you better understand the monster you’ve chosen. The best way to proceed is probably first to pick the monster you’re interested in writing about. From there, you can read through Cohen’s theses and pick the one that you’d like to explore at greater length. You will work with the ideas in your chosen thesis thoroughly. It will be the fundamental lens through which you interpret the monster.
Writing the working thesis: The working thesis for this paper is going to include the monster, Cohen’s thesis, and a claim about how that thesis helps you better understand the monster. Below is a very basic example:
More on the Thesis: Remember that you can’t say everything there is to say about monsters in one thesis–that’s not the point of this assignment. Think like Cohen, who breaks his vision apart into seven separate categories, and then attacks the problem one category at a time. Your focus on one of Cohen’s theses helps you to do the same thing.
You should engage directly with Cohen’s ideas in your own thesis. Your thesis MUST be your own, but it needs to follow from Cohen’s thinking. You are developing your own argument using Cohen’s ideas as the main tool.
Referring to a Source: As with essay two, you will need to conduct research. Your primary source will be the monster you’re analyzing, and whatever texts that monster appears in, cinematic, literary or otherwise. Your main secondary source will be Cohen’s essay, but you will also need to have at least three other secondary sources. These sources should be devoted to helping you develop your argument, and they should all come from the hcc library.
Basic Essay Outline: So, once you’ve got a thesis in mind and a source or two to refer to for evidence, you’re basically off to the races and you can begin writing the draft. But for those of you who are not fully familiar with the structure of an academic essay (or if you just want a refresher), here’s what it usually looks like:
–This paper should be typed, double-spaced and submitted to the required “Major Essay 3 Final” link by the date required. The due date is very firm for this paper because grades are due shortly thereafter. You will not submit a draft for this essay and then a final. You have a proposal and then the next thing you submit will be the final draft. The final draft should be at LEAST 1500 words in length. This is between four and five typed pages.
–You need to quote directly from the primary source, Cohen’s essay and three additional secondary sources. The secondary sources need to be from the HCC library system.
–It should follow MLA formatting style throughout. You may refer back to the MLA style page in Canvas if you need a refresher.
Man has always been fascinated with monsters, and the depiction of monsters can be traced thousands of years ago. Since then, monsters have been very dominant in the representation of culture. Cohen sets the tone on the monster theory by categorizing monsters as a pure culture. They are considered among the greatest depictions that critique and give a reflection of the existence of humans. Traditionally, monsters never existed other than in human imagination (Bro et al. 28). Cohen broadly analyses monsters in connection with the culture that produces them. When the monster appears in heroic and epic stories and poems, they are used to reflect on the culture that created them. The report analyses Grendel the monster concerning Cohen’s fourth theses on culture on who the monster’s dwell at the gate of difference. The analysis acknowledges that monsters are made of fresh, and they usually come to live among humans who recognize them. Grendel lives such a life where he is considered an enemy by the humans.
Grendel the Monster
Grendel is a book written by John Gardner, with the title being the name of the monster antagonist. The book is an adaptation of an ancient poem where the Grendel, his mother, and a dragon are the antagonists. The monsters are in a monstrous fight against the protagonists, Beowulf. As a monster, Grendel is loathed in the locality where he lives. He is considered to be from the linage of the biblical Cain though his mother is not aware of their origin or their history. Grendel and his generation are considered as creatures of darkness who were expelled from their original dwelling place and cursed by God (Shackleton 391). In Beowulf, Grendel is a monster that is in constant conflict with humans. Grendel is an imaginary monster character creature who invades Beowulf before he is overpowered and killed. Grendel is considered a descendant of Cain. Cain is a biblical outcast who killed his brother Abel out of jealous and was cursed by God and doomed to wander to all corners of the earth. As a descendant of Cain, the Grendel is considered evil. He is also full of anger, which stems from being banished to the world of monsters. As an evil agent, Grendel attacks Heorot as he hates and envies the excellent life of the warriors residing in Beowulf. Grendel is depicted as a monster who does not like happiness and noise as he constantly attacks men in the village. The monster perceives humans as very dangerous and complex creatures that he had ever come across (Gardner 12-53).
Cohen Fourth Thesis
According to Cohen’s fourth thesis, monsters do not differ from human beings by their physical appearance alone, but by the culture, political, race, economy, and sexuality (Cohen 9). The differences make the monster to be entities that are far from humans, usually considered as other, and alien to the humans. Cultural deviations are regarded as monstrous because they are viewed as alien or because humans have limited or no knowledge about it. Humans also view the ideological and political differences as monstrous aspects entities or groupings. The gender role differences are also considered as monstrous by humans. Any creature that behaves differently, deviating from the expectations, is considered a monster. The differences extend to racial and skin color. Monsters are symbolic representations of culture. Although Grendel is very similar to a man, as he has two arms, two legs, and one head, the creature has a huge body and can overpower several men at a go. The monsters have a charm that protects him from the weapons that humans use to attack him. He is also depicted as a very intelligent and temperamental monster capable of emotional outbursts and rational thinking (Gardner 78). The monster has an ambiguous characterization as he shares linage with human beings. Beyond that shared history, there is a divergence of the creature and the humans as perpetual enmity sets them apart.
The life of the monster is illustrated in three stages. In childhood, the monster spent most of his time innocently exploring and living a life that resembles a human being. He is depicted as rational with the ability to question existence from a philosophical point. Grendel crosses the lake as he moved to adulthood, which marks the onset of the second step. In this stage, Grendel is attacked by a bull, bringing him to the realization that he lives in a world full of chaos, that is devoid of organization or pattern. Grendel observes the human community, where he is fascinated by the organization and the sense of order exhibited. The monster’s life’s final stage involves the conflicts between the monster and the human, eventually leading to his death (Gardner 58-61). Grendel is used to symbolize jealousy, and evil has been a descendant of a biblical character with the same traits who were banished into the world of monsters. The monster is considered to have the same traits as the perceived ancestors Cain (Nedo 46).
In the fourth thesis, Cohens states that “The Monster Dwells at the Gate of Difference” (Cohen 7). The implication is that monsters are outsiders and can only be considered as others by the indigenous population. In most cases, the monstrous differences are economical, culture-based, political, racial, and sexual. Grendel and his generations were born in the wilderness after Cain was exiled and forced to live beyond the human habitation in marshy and uninhabitable areas. He asserts that a monster is different from humans by the nature that they are born raised and the culture they adopt. According to Cohen, monsters do not conform to the normal cultural, political, racial, sexual, or economic settings. They are known to have aspects beyond the standard of normal perception. The monster assumes what is considered to be abnormal by humans (Cohen 7). Grendel never considered himself a monster until he met people and attempted to kill him once they saw him. Hel is isolated from human society and did not have a monster partner for interaction. Thus, when he met a dragon that advises him to attack humans, he does exactly that. The reasoning was that by attacking humans, he was creating unity among humans by giving them a common enemy and thus did not have to kill each other anymore.
According to Waterhouse (32), monsters live beyond the domain of humans, and thus, they do not recognize the social laws of the land they inhabit. They have no recognition of the social bonds created, and therefore present a threat to the then human social setting. Grendel is considered an enemy and dangerous by humans in the area where he was a resident. In Beowulf, Grendel and his mother are both depicted as abject entities. They are descendants of Cain, who had killed his brother Abel before get was exiled. Great importance is placed in the linage and kinship with myths of legendary creatures reinforcing the plot. Cain subverts a critical social order value by killing his brother Abel and, in the process, damages the kinship, making him and his descendants not suitable to be members of the society. The result the expulsion to the monster world for the social order to be re-established. The consequence was the separation of Cain and, by extension Grendel from the human comfort as they occupy the wilderness. In the wilderness, there is fear reinforced by the Grendel’s status as they are considered outsiders and fatherless creatures. The lineage of Grendel is also questioned. Grendel’s father is not known, and that raises concern in a patriarchal society where the ancestral linage is used as the basis of trust. The uncertainty surrounds Grendel’s father and mother, and his ancestry renders his existence raised doubts and a sense of mistrust to the people he lived nearby. Grendel’s home’s objectiveness is also brought to the fore as the swamp is described with negative adjectives that depict it as filthy and fit only for the monster living. The damp is described as a treacherous place that is unfamiliar and alarming and is the abject other (Gardner 121-122).
Grendel is a representation of what is wrong with the German culture in which the book is set. Like humans in German society, Grendel and his fellow monsters are motivated by revenge, jealousy, and greed. Grendel, the monster, reveals a transition from the culture of shame to that of guilt. He highlights the essence of loyalty between retainers and their lord. When the warrior attempted to destabilize the social order, he was cursed and expelled to live in the barely habitable outskirts, which is considered the monsters’ domain. The second change represents moving from the heroic code to the chivalric code. The warrior society depended on the heroic code. When a creature fails to abide by the heroic code, they are viewed as a monster. As a result, they are labeled as monsters and banished to the monster world. The depicted of Grendel is a monster who is locked into his fate, and he feels death coming inexorably towards him. However, he follows his instincts, which could be equated to free will, though he grapples with and reaches for something beyond.
Bro, Lisa Wenger., et al. Monsters of Film, Fiction, and Fable: The Cultural Links between the Human and Inhuman. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996. Cohen 3-25.
Gardner, John. Grendel. Gollancz: London, 2004.
Nido, Almudena. “Grendel: Boundaries of Flesh and Law.” Monstrous Manifestations, 2013, pp. 39–52., doi:10.1163/9781848882027_006.
Shackleton, Mark. “Humanizing Beowulf’s Monster: John Gardner’s Grendel.” Ex Philologia Lux: Essays in Honour of Leena Kahlas-Tarkka. Ed. Jukka Tyrkkö, 76 Olga Timofeeva, and Maria Salenius. Helsinki: Société Néophilologique, 2013. 387–99.
Waterhouse, Ruth. “Beowulf as Palimpsest.” Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 26–39
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