Frankenstein, smallpox and Kevin Spacey have something in common. UF honors students are preparing an exhibit about monsters, and all three are on display.
The UF Honors Program offered What Makes A Monster, a class taught by undergraduate students, for the first time this Fall semester, said Nina Stoyan-Rosenzweig, a senior associate for the UF Health Science Center Libraries. The students’ work will be featured in an exhibit called “Monsters and the Monstrous” at the Harn Museum of Art in late January.
The exhibit will feature about 12 works that showcase how monstrosity defines morality, Stoyan-Rosenzweig said.
“If you don’t conform to moral standards then you’re considered a monster,” she said.
Mary Johnson, a 21-year-old UF English and history senior, is one of the course’s four student lecturers.
Johnson said society’s idea of a monster changes over time. The exhibit includes photographs ranging from Dracula to Kevin Spacey, who is now considered a “monster” after he was accused of sexual assault.
The course explores why humans are interested in monsters, Johnson said.
“We are trying to broaden the definition of a monster away from just a monster like the minotaur or the monster in the Labyrinth,” she said.
UF introduced the course in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stoyan-Rosenzweig said.
The one-credit course is only available to undergraduate honors students, Stoyan-Rosenzweig said. She designed the course to give students the opportunity to teach and have their work displayed to a larger audience.
“One thing that bothers me is when students put a lot of effort into a paper or a project and no one really sees it,” she said.
Students took a tour of the Harn to choose which art pieces and photographs they would analyze for the exhibit, Johnson said.
The tour allowed the students to discuss their ideas and get comfortable working with museum curators, she said.
“It was the first point that we really got to see our exhibit come together with their personal touches, which is exactly what we wanted,” Johnson said.
Olivia Trumble, a 20-year-old UF anthropology and biology junior, taught the class with Johnson. Although writing the syllabus ended up being harder than she thought, she said she enjoyed being able to connect with students and help them think of monsters from different perspectives.
“It’s an incredible feeling being able to help them with their projects and see them make it their own,” Trumble said.