California Lutheran University alumna, Professor Ashley Szanter has adapted a curriculum for Weber State University that is not the typical English core requirement. Welcome to a sneak peek of an English course about Monsters.
Although she has to stay within the ballpark of requirements to satisfy the argumentative academic writing, Weber University encourages instructor freedom within the classroom to help inspire education to students.
As a child, Szanter was terrified of monsters and her earliest memory was when she watched “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” at the age of nine, and could not sleep for days. Over time, her curiosity for monsters grew and the fear became a professional interest.
Her monsters’ curriculum mixes into one simple English course, which ranges from 19th century literature to media and literary sources of today’s society. Some of the monster themes include vampires, zombies and werewolves. Witches, Native American monsters, slasher villains, and serial killers are among some of her other topics.
“I figured a course on monsters might be interesting for my students as it would provide something new and exciting that they may not have encountered in an English classroom before,” Szanter said in an email interview. “This would be a cool, new way to approach English and writing.”
Monsters, according to Szanter, are both considered to be the hero of the story as well as the villain.
“[Monsters] are the perfect subject to study issues like race, gender, sexuality, class inequality, prejudice, stereotyping and general methods of ‘Othering’,” Szanter said.
Szanter said she believes that because she is able to teach her students to see through the lens of monsters, she finds her students are more willing to consider different points of view during discussion.
“This was one of the classes that was offered in the morning to fit my schedule, but also sounded like a great class. We talk about the culture changes that have occurred in monsters, as well as the different perspective we have on them from Hollywood’s influence,” Kenneth Gordon, a current student said in an email interview. “Overall, this is a fun exciting class. It would be interesting if it becomes common curriculum nationwide.”
“English 2010 is a core class that is required for our degrees. I personally was just trying to fill my block and was surprised to find out that the class was on monsters. College level writing is scary to any student, but to add in a syllabus full of vampires, werewolves, and other monsters, this course would seem like its very own monster in itself,” Dean Austin, a former student said in an email interview.
The monster curriculum is a success at Weber University, and has been adapted by other colleague adjunct professors. Professor Angela Kelson-Packer is one of the professors who has adapted her curriculum. For the most part, she teaches the same readings and uses the same sources, adding a little more grammar and rhetoric into the research skills requirement.
Packer adapted this curriculum not necessarily for the monster subject content, but because Szanter has solid research from when she created this class.
“She has a strong intellect, and I know that I can rely on her work to be of the highest quality,” Packer said in an email interview. “She is an expert on all things monster-related, and I know that if she recommends that I read a particular book, or article, then that text will be a strong, and intriguing source.”
Packer also said that every student coming in to this course has been somewhat exposed to the subject of monsters and that throughout this class the student will gain an academic understanding for why these monsters still exist in literature and in film. She hopes to one day incorporate more subjects like ghosts, possessed dolls and aliens in her future classes.
“California Lutheran’s education system has provided Weber State with an academic treasure, and I am proud to say that I highly recommend this course to anyone, and especially if Professor Szanter is teaching [the class],” Austin said.
Szanter said many students, especially at the undergraduate level can regard the view of monsters as just entertainment, which can make it difficult for students to see monsters reflective of culture.
“Monsters are the physical representations of cultural anxiety. We are the monsters, to some degree. Therefore, understanding monsters is just a new way to understand ourselves,” Szanter said. “That is why I value monsters and why I feel they are an important enough topic to teach my students. Not to mention, they’re really fun.”
Published October 7th, 2015