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Harris: Graceful Monsters: Post-Modern Zombies an Pre-Modern Theories
Explain how the quoted section connects to the main argument(s) of the whole text.
(Remember that titles are often useful signposts when trying to figure out the main
Discuss what contribution(s) the text as a whole makes to the academic study of religion.
(In other words, why might anyone who studies religion care about what this text has to
a) What is it about and what is the main argument?
“Graceful Monsters” by Jennifer Harris illustrates how the concept of monsters (zombies in this
case) can serve as an awakening for humanity. Harris states that our interpretations of monsters
has changed over time in that post-modern monsters primarily symbolize our fears, while pre-
modern monsters presents a multitude of topics including the divine, future events and problems
of human nature (Harris, 3).
Monsters have a place in many cultures and societies around the world. Studying the various
interpretations through time will reach a wide audience. Therefore, it is crucial to examine an
abstract notion that is highly influential around the world as it affects the societal view of life.
-How is the text contributing to a specific scholarly conversation?
Harris calls for a re-evaluation of post-modern scholarship of monsters (Harris, 3). Today, post-
modern scholars rarely acknowledge the possibility that monsters confront humanity with
therapeutic grace (Harris, 3). She uses stories from the Bible, theories from past philosophers and
modern media to argue her points.
-Why would anyone care about the work presented?
Since zombies are known as iconic monsters in modern entertainment, people from various
backgrounds are exposed to this phenomenon. Interestingly, Harris’ work also captivates the
attention of religious readers as it uses biblical theories and references to illustrate pre-modern
views of monsters.
the Misfit is a grotesque figure, yet one who “has been made the unwilling instrument of grace”
by confronting The Grandmother with the enormous upheaval of redemption. In the final
moments of her life, the Grandmother encounters this monster of grace and is briefly (yet
eternally) redeemed.In her encounter with the Misfit, the Grandmother is utterly transformed: she
ceases in a moment to be the narcissistic, self-serving woman we have come to know.
The view of monsters confronting humanity with therapeutic grace, one important view in the
Post-modern scholars and monsters, represent our fears, of death of the other of ourselves. And
yet, the medieval monster, broadly defined, was not just, or even primarily, about fear; indeed,
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the medieval monster represented all manner of things, including portents of future events,
problematic signs of human nature, and, most potently, revelations of divine agency.
Pre-modern theories about monsters to parse the post modern zombie.
As graceful monsters and instruments of a kind of therapeutic renewal. Zombies represent not
only our fears but also restoration.
Pre-modern theories of monsters
Medieval theory- The bible and classical thought on natural history
Bible- leviathan in PS 104, others are enemies of God and Gods people
Two common responses to the monstrous: to demonize or to divinize
the identification of these monsters with God: God stirs up a wonderful and terrifying self
Leviathan is an “impossibly over-determined hybrid of features…stitched into one monstrous
In Gods whirlwind he identifies the supernatural creature.
In the Middle Ages, Leviathan like other biblical monsters became identified with Satan
Another biblical monster: Red Dragon of John’s Apocalypse, unlike Leviathan is originally
identified with Satan, in opposition with God and order
In Beowulf CAIN: son of Adam and Eve; a character that represented opposition to divine order
He kills his bother lies about it, and exiled from the first family to the Land of Nod.
sired a line of monstrous beings; including Grendal
Medieval notion of disorder of creation with monstrous beings. Monstrous races
Classical thought: monstrous races; with dog heads (cynocephali) huge ears (panotii)
concerned about beings as existing outside the natural order
late classical writers: monsters as moral signs within the created order
purpose of awakening one to the marvelous diversity of nature (Pliny the Stoic)
The will and power of God (Saint Augustine)
Evidence of Gods work
monsters as signs of something else, namely the divine plan important in the middle ages
The Monster is an epistemological tool; showing forth the nature of God and humanity, a way of
knowing the unknowable, make good signs of divine action.
Pseudo-Dionysius whole creation reveals God, yet no one has ever seen God
Limitation of human reason in the face of God’s transcendence, and the attitude of negation, in
order to become purified, better able to know God
Bible contains two kinds of symbols that lead to knowledge:
Similar Symbolism- aids in its simplicity the beginner to know God
and Dissimilar symbolism, its ugliness inspires to be better adapted to a deeper meaning of God.
monstrous sign not just a negative one, God is not a zombie, points out the limitation of human
reason and the expansive reality that can be known once that limitation is acknowledged and
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