CCHU9055 Humanities
Metamorphoses: Tales of Transformation


Course Description

Mutant superheroes, zombies bereft of empathy, machines becoming self-aware, invasive technologies altering your identity – tales of transformation fascinate the popular imagination as we struggle to figure out what it means to be human in the twenty-first century. In this course, we will consider stories of transformation (or metamorphosis) that have themselves undergone transformations as they are told, and retold in written, oral, and visual media. Such stories often use an element of fantasy in order to question our assumptions about identity and difference, power and vulnerability, the boundaries and relations between humans and other life forms: what if a man could turn into an insect? What if a machine could fall in love? What if you turned into somebody else? What if your neighbor became a wolf? What if trees could feel and communicate, much like humans do? We will trace such motifs and questions across a wide range of materials, from oral tales to popular fiction, to science and journalism, visual media, performance, and film. Throughout the course, we will thus also explore the transformative potential of art and storytelling in different media and students will have a chance to create their own story of transformation for their final project.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

    1. Describe and analyze the idea of metamorphosis from its origins through a number of literary and media manifestations across cultures.
    2. Produce critical analyses of written and multimedia texts and situate them in a larger historical and social framework.
    3. Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the ideological and cultural nature of storytelling and textual/media adaptation.
    4. Demonstrate appreciation of the interconnectedness of people across time through their creative thoughts and artistic products.
    5. Relate stories of transformation to situations of cultural and social conflict and change.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials / Workshops 10
Reading / Self-study 60
Assessment: Workshop participation 10
Assessment: Writing assignments 30
Total: 134

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
In-class participation 25
Response essays 40
Final project 35

Required Reading and Viewing

A reader will be available online with short texts related to each week’s course topic.

The course will include one film screening. Additional film and media excerpts will be introduced in class and/or posted on Moodle.

Please refer to the course web page for updated and detailed information.


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr F.L. Blumberg
School of English, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2764
Email: blumberg@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr O. Heim
School of English, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2770
Email: pheim@hku.hk