Image of an old typewriter with and ax in front of it. 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. Students will develop a vocabulary to discuss anxiety, repression, and loss (a vocabulary we will draw from psychoanalytic criticism).

Readings include key works by authors like Walpole, Hoffman, and Shelley. We’ll look at the present day with Stephen King’s The Shining. As we go, we’ll ask: How do literary texts reflect cultural anxieties or prejudice? Do literary genres imply certain ethical viewpoints? Why do some genres have less status than others? Popular films will serve as examples to help us practice interpretive skills.