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Literature & Language
Thesis Proposal
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Thesis proposal for Literature department Literature Thesis Proposal (Thesis Proposal Sample)




This study analyses how the monster has been presented or represented in the selected texts. Being a textual study, it examines selected literary texts: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (2012) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1983). Frankenstein and Dracula, the Gothic texts, have been selected partly because Gothic literature is seen as the progenitor of modern horror genre, and partly because they contain what can be seen as authentic or archetypal monsters/monstrosity desired by this study. Using the primary texts augmented by selected secondary material, the study intends to: explore the socio-cultural and historical background of monster that relates to its development; analyze how the nature of the monster has been presented; and explore spatio-psychological location of monsters as portrayed in the selected novels. The theoretical framework chosen for this study, the psychoanalytic theory, uses Freudian, Jungian and Anna Freud’s postulations to locate the monster within unconscious psychical processes. Freudian concept of “dream work”, where different but related elements are condensed into one image can be seen as possible explanation for creation of archetypal monster image. The unconscious processes of introjection, projection and scapegoating will be used to explain how the self is constructed and maintained by internalizing good traits, and externalizing or attributing all the negative aspects of the self like anxieties, fears and angst, guilt, inadequacies and shortcomings onto Others. These processes, arguably, have capacity to turn the targeted bodies into virtual monsters, which are then subjected to prejudice, censorship, torture and even death. To achieve a clear perception of literal and figurative monstrosities, textual material will be used to isolate features which identify them.
Table of contents
TOC \o "1-3" \h \z \u Declaration PAGEREF _Toc22719436 \h iiTable of contents PAGEREF _Toc22719437 \h iii1.1 Background of Study PAGEREF _Toc22719438 \h 4Introduction PAGEREF _Toc22719439 \h 41.1.2 Art and Representation: Monsters, Strangers and Otherness PAGEREF _Toc22719440 \h 31.3 Statement of the problem PAGEREF _Toc22719441 \h 81.4 Research questions PAGEREF _Toc22719442 \h 91.7 Literature review PAGEREF _Toc22719443 \h 111.7.1 Monster PAGEREF _Toc22719444 \h 111.7.2 Strangers PAGEREF _Toc22719445 \h 141.8 Theoretical Framework PAGEREF _Toc22719450 \h 151.9.1 Scope and Delimitations PAGEREF _Toc22719453 \h 22REFERENCES PAGEREF _Toc22719455 \h 23
1.1 Background of Study
The concept of monster is inextricably attached to otherness. According to Ryan ((2011) “the other” is a rather fluid term denoting among others the negated form of self, the colonized people (in the colonial discourse) and a woman (in feminist theory).
The notion of monster has found different expressions in different communities in the world. Tales of ogres, giants, devils and hideous creatures without names abound among diverse Africa communities. From oral narratives documented by Akivaga and Odaga (1982), for instance, these creatures could literally devour everyone in a community and were quite difficult to defeat. In some cases, a slain monster could still come back to life and cause more damage (Akivaga and Odaga 1982:52). Similar cases occur in West African tales among monstrous spirit children called ogbanje in Igbo (or àbíkù among the Yoruba) who torment their parents by dying soon after birth only to re-enter the womb of the same mother and be reborn (Bloom 2009:61).
Though many mythic monsters are often portrayed as inherently dangerous, depraved and uncompromising, this is not always the case. Murgatroyd (2007) describes how some mythical monsters like Scylla and Medusa had been beautiful maidens before being transformed into the hideous monsters. In Greek mythology, some monsters have been depicted as being quite helpful: Cyclopes, a race of one eyed giants helped built and fortified famous Greek cities; three very powerful giants called Hecatoncheires helped the god Zeus defeat powerful ancient gods called Titans; and a winged horse called Pegasus which also served Zeus and a Greek hero called Bellerophon(Murgatroyd 2007:56)
Western classical monsters like the griffins, Cyclops, sphinx and behemoths as described by Bolton (2002), arguably, offer ideal monstrous essence. Mythical creatures like the sphinx and griffins, for instance, incorporate attributes that naturally belong to categorically distinct entities, while others like Cyclopes and behemoths were extremely large. These essential features of classical creatures have generally become models utilized by creative writers to develop fictional monsters. The creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (2012), for instance, is categorized as monster owing to its monstrous size and its overly deformed physiognomy.
Used in metaphorical sense, a monster refers to ordinary human beings who are deemed to have abdicated their humanity by engaging in inhuman acts or deviant socially behaviour (Asma 2009: 9). Activities and attitude of schoolteacher towards the slaves, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), could be considered inhuman and therefore monstrous. It should also be noted that inhumanity, as in chattel slavery, is not intrinsic, but could be imposed to serve exploitative agenda.
Monsters are arguably figment of human imagination. This implies therefore, as Asma (2009: 184) observes, that monsters and their prototypes reside in human unconscious. Lakoff and Johnson (2003) have indeed argued that human ordinary conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical. The observation above support the view that monsters normally found in works of art are modeled after the real monsters in the human unconscious. This implies that fictional monsters are product of the projection of conscious or unconscious fantasies (Ethel et al., 1995:125).
Modern research works by the contemporary Marxist, anthropologist and postmodern critics unanimously agree that monsters, by virtue of being presented as alien, represent “the other” of a given socio-cultural setting (Murgatroyd 2007:2). An examination of the selected texts does confirm that the monsters generally present themselves as Other of ordinary human characters. Indeed some of them possess superhuman capabilities, which not only make it possible for them to achieve extraordinary feat, but also render them virtually invincible. This study intends to analyze such monstrous attributes, together with the others mentioned so far, as reflection of unconscious fantasy. In addition, it will try to prove that monster art, just like any other written works of art, correlate to social reality. Thus while literary works impinge and are impinged upon by social reality as will be addressed in the next section, it should also be seen as reflection of conscious and unconscious fantasies (Ethel et al. 1995).
1.1.2 Art and Representation: Monsters, Strangers and Otherness
Art is representation of a reality in a given social setting. In his reading of Michel de Certeau’s essays on history and fiction (Certeau 1986:199), White (2005) contends that art is a simulacrum of the real and its complementary role in historical discourse should not be ignored. White (2005:147) considers historical knowledge incomplete as it only offers a fraction of what the reality consists of. The genuine account, he insists, should comprise the historical reality as well as artistic (fictional) reality too (White 2005: 147). Written works of art should therefore be acknowledged as an alternative way of accessing reality owing largely to its diversity and capacity to offer multi-perspective picture of reality. Mores so, as Bennet and Royle (2004) observe, literary works cannot be without their immediate historical context.
Monster as a literary genre has developed and gained currency in both adult and children literature. Monster is commonly featured in horror fiction. Modern horror literary genre is generally seen to have developed in eighteenth century from the tradition of gothic literature with the release of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in 1764(Prohászková, 2012). The Gothic tradition sailed to new heights in nineteenth century with production of seminal works such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).These fictional works have had a lasting influence on the horror literature
Dracula and Frankenstein evidently cannot be dissociated from their immediate historical context. Dracula for instance, draws attention to the anxieties and fears of the English during the Victorian age especially in the wake of influx of Jews immigrants in the late 19th century (Browning and Picart 2009). The fact that Count Dracula has been portrayed as a dreadful vampire monster suggests antithetic nature of the immigrants to the British sense of self.
Drawing from the above, it makes sense to argue that monster is a metaphor. Lacan (Lois 2006:30) argues that metaphor involves an absence, loss or lack of something. That which it substitutes, the referent, has been denied or pushed back into the background. Since our subconscious is structured like language (Tyson, 2006:29), the use of metaphor therefore implies our unconscious denial or rebuttal of the referent. Monster as a metaphor, therefore, represents dehumanization of the referent. Carroll (1990:196) buttresses this a...

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