The Boundaries of the Human

Marcus Hensel (PhD '12) has published a two-volume collection on monster theory.

Professor Marcus Hensel has recently published a two-volume set titled Classic Readings on Monster Theory. The collection, co-edited by Hensel and Professor Asa Mittman, comes to us from Arc Humanities Press, a partner of Amsterdam University Press.

The set gathers together a wide range of readings to help students and teachers understand what monsters are and how they represent difficult questions about what it means to be human. The first volume juxtaposes classic readings in monster theory - including works by John Block Friedman, Noel Carroll, and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen -  with critical works from "allied theories" - including seminal essays by Edward Said, Julia Kristeva, and Rosemarie Garland-Thompson. The second volume consists of primary texts that range from Gilgamesh to the contemporary period.    

AUP writes that the collection "is intended to provide interpretive tools and strategies to use to grapple with . . . the most influential and indicative monster narratives from the West. Taken together, these volumes allow us to witness the consistent, multi-millennium strategies the West has articulated, weaponized, and deployed to exclude, disempower, and dehumanize a range of groups and individuals within and without its porous boundaries."

Dr. Hensel emphasizes the timeliness of this collection and its ability to provoke reflection on the monsters plaguing our own period. He writes: 

When we wrote the introduction to the collection, it was in the wake of the Charlottesville alt-right rally, the protests against it, and the violence that ensued. There is a section titled, "Destroy All Monsters: An Urgency." The attempted bombings and Anti-Semitic violence [that] have followed the books' release make our discussions and examinations all the more urgent.  Monster-making is in full effect right now, on our TV and in our streets: our point is that reading the process and product of monster-making gives us rich insight into the anxieties and values of a particular culture. In this particular case, it is our own.

Dr. Hensel adds that the collection is a "monster theory starter pack," ideal for students and classroom use:

We wanted a representative offering of Western monsters for classroom use. In volume 1, we try to represent the larger contours of monster theory while at the same time including what we've termed "allied theory" (such as Edward Said and J. Halberstam) . . . In volume 2, we worked hard to include monsters that one would expect (Dracula or Polyphemus) alongside monsters one might not expect (the space-vampire Shambleau or Slender Man).  Since it is for classroom use, every selection has a short introduction, discussion questions to facilitate teaching, and further reading entries to fire students' curiosity.  From Christina Rossetti's goblin-men to Grendel, we tried to include the broadest array of time periods, cultural moments, and craziness so that students could get a sense of the sweep and scope of monsters in the West.

Dr. Hensel is currently Assistant Professor of English at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. He graduated with his doctorate from UO English in 2012. Dr. Hensel's colleague, Asa Mittman, is Professor and Chair of Art History at California State University, Chico.

Please follow this link to Amsterdam University Press for more information about this rich and exciting collection.