Horror is “hot” right now. Prestige television programming such as The Walking Dead and True Detective, the popularity of writers such as Jeff VanderMeer and Thomas Ligotti, and academic interest in weird and new weird fiction attest to this fact. This course examines this current popularity by way of a historical investigation of the roots of the horror genre in the Gothic, its development in the ghost stories and weird fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and its current appropriation and subversion by contemporary writers of color. Horror, we discover, questions the world in which we live, the faculties through which we understand, and whether such concepts as the “human” or “knowledge” make any sense in the contemporary world, one characterized by an increasing incredulity to modern institutions such as the nation and the school as well as by increased anxiety about anthropogenic climate change. Although horror provides no easy, or even palatable, answers to the questions we face, it nonetheless offers a means by which to contemplate them.
Probable reading list: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus; Bram Stoker, Dracula; Shelley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom; Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation; Short fiction from Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Chalmers, Algernon Blackwood, MR James, Clark Ashton Smith, HP Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, and Clive Barker.
Evaluation will be based on several short papers, quizzes, class participation, and a final project.