By Paola Guzman
As I walk into the End Zone on Halloween day I am greeted with distinct medieval creatures. I’m surrounded by werewolves on the TV screens, melancholic-looking mermaids, green-skinned knights, headless monsters and various other mystical creatures.
It turns out that I was not at Comic Con as I was beginning to think, especially with everyone dressed up in their Halloween costumes; this was a student exhibit on monsters from the middle ages. The exhibit was organized by history professor Jay Diehl, who teaches a first-year seminar on the history and literature of monsters from the Middle Ages.
As I walked around and engaged in conversations with Diehl’s students they all enthusiastically told me about their projects. All six presentations included Melusine the double-tailed mermaid (inspiration for the Starbucks logo), the Green Knight, Blemyae, Werewolves, the Loch Ness Monster, and Beowulf. All the students went into detail about the specific monster they picked including its origin and story.
When asked about the class, all the students gushed about the course and the professor. Casey Dugan, a freshman health science major, said, “Professor Diehl helps make class more interesting. I get excited to come to class.” Dugan, along with her peers Ahmed Timsah, a freshman journalism major, and Renato Aguirre, a freshman business major, had video clips of the different portrayals of werewolves in movies playing on the screens in the End Zone. They also had a small display board with facts on werewolves and their history.
Instead of having a conventional history course, Diehl has created a course full of mystique, monsters, and individuality. “I was trying to develop a topic for a first-year seminar that seemed interesting,” he said. And interesting is what it was, according to his students. Joe Destefano, a freshman business major said “I don’t mind being there,” which seemed like a humorous compliment to the class and professor. When asked if he would have preferred to take a regular history class, he quickly responded with a “no.”
All the students participating were engaged in the work. Alexandra Papageorege, a freshman speech pathology major, said, “I used to not like history whatsoever, but up until my first year in college I started to be more interested in history, especially this class.” Papageorege had a display with a hand-drawn Loch Ness Monster, as well as sour gummy worms for the visitors to take.
Diehl developed the course over the summer taking into consideration that Halloween would fall in the midst of his class on monsters. Aside from discussing the literature and origins of the monsters, Diehl also asks his students to contemplate thinking about what a monster is.