Modern American Monsters: Representing Difference in Fiction and Film

Module code: AM3039

Module co-ordinator: Dr Sarah Graham

Who are the monsters in contemporary America? Those who transgress boundaries of sex, gender, race or sexuality? Those whose bodies are 'different', whose very identity contests and destabilises the dominant order? In this module we will explore representations of the Other, individuals who might be deemed monstrous in the challenges they pose to the ideals and norms of the United States in the 1990s and 2000s. 

The texts studied in this module help us consider issues that could be broadly grouped under the umbrella labels of 'difference' or 'Otherness'. Through their actions or choices, the characters depicted in these texts challenge dominant ideas about what is socially acceptable. For this, they are often labelled 'monstrous' and face the consequences of disapproval. Through our discussions of these texts, we will think about how and why social norms develop, what is at stake in protecting or upsetting those norms, and - importantly - how these texts communicate their ideas.

The set texts are varied and often provocative. We will explore their differences in form and content as well as their sometimes unexpected common ground. You will need to read the set texts before each seminar in order to be prepared to contribute to the discussion. Screenings will be arranged for the films.

Topics covered


  • 10 two-hour seminars
  • 8 one-hour workshops


    • Passage/scene analysis, 1,500 words (30%)
    • Essay, 3,500 words (70%)