Ghosts and monsters fill the pages of popular books and appear on our TV and movie screens. This course surveys the literary history of such creations and asks what we can learn from them. We will begin by exploring the origins of the Gothic genre. We’ll also familiarize ourselves with theories about the appeal or function of literature that confronts the horrific, the terrifying, or the overwhelming.
Readings include key works by Walpole, Shelley, and Stoker. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey will help us reflect on “low” or genre fiction; we’ll begin that discussion in the present day with Stephen King’s Carrie. Popular films (The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, Scream) serve as examples to help us practice interpretive skills. As we go, we’ll ask: How do literary texts reflect cultural anxieties? Do literary genres imply certain ethical viewpoints? Why do some genres have less status than others?