English 362/001: Studies in a 19th-Century Genre (September 2017)

ENGL 362-001: Ghosts are Real (So are Vampires): 19th-Century Gothic Horror – Gisèle M. Baxter

Term 1 MWF 10:00 a.m.

“I know that ghosts have wandered on the earth.” – Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Whether we take Edith Cushing, Abraham Van Helsing, and Heathcliff at their word, the 19th-century Gothic revival certainly emphasized possibilities for horror and terror in tales of the supernatural. However, these interventions of un-dead beings often take place in the recognizable present; they speak to its anxieties. Perhaps they speak to ours as well, given our recent fascination with Neo-Victorian representations of the 19th century, such as Penny Dreadful, From Hell, Crimson Peak, etc. As we journey into the dark days of autumn, we will address issues of gender and sexuality; class, race, and culture; realism and the supernatural; urban and rural settings, all in a century known for developments in science and technology, social upheaval, and a veneer of respectability, yet with monsters lurking in closets and under beds.

The core text list includes Wuthering Heights, Carmilla, Dracula, The Turn of the Screw, and short fiction including works by Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, M.R. James, Arthur Machen, Sheridan LeFanu, W.W. Jacobs, and E. Nesbit (and possibly others; we may even look at a few excerpts from the genuine penny dreadful serial, Varney the Vampire). We will consider the evolution of academic critical responses (as well as popular reaction) to such texts, and the way in which such texts have shaped the way we think about and visualize the 19th century. Evaluation will be based on two short essays, a term paper, and a final examination, all focused on literary textual analysis, as well as contribution to in-class and Connect-based discussion.

The following books have been ordered through the UBC Bookstore:

  • Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Broadview)
  • Henry James, The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories (Broadview)
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula (Broadview)
  • Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert, eds. The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories (Oxford)

Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla will be linked to the course’s Connect site as a Project Gutenberg text (allowing you to read it online or download to a computer or e-reader). Wuthering Heights, The Turn of the Screw, and Dracula are also available online, and if you already own unabridged copies of them, feel free to use those, but the Broadview editions are reasonably priced and contain useful contextual material. Other short stories will also be linked to Connect, as well as academic critical resources and writing resources.

© Gisèle M. Baxter. Not to be copied, used, shared, or revised without explicit written permission from the copyright owner.

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