ENGL 362/921: Victorian Period Literature (Summer 2024)

ENGL 362/921: Victorian Period Literature

Term 1 | TTh 2:00-5:00pm

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Ghosts are Real (So are Vampires): Victorian Gothic Terror, Horror, and the Supernatural

“Ghosts are real, this much I know” – Edith Cushing, Crimson Peak

“There are such beings as vampires; some of us have evidence that they exist” – Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula

Whether we take Edith Cushing or Abraham Van Helsing at their word, the 19th-century Gothic revival certainly emphasized possibilities for terror and horror in tales of the supernatural. However, these interventions of spectral and 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 Crimson Peak, as well as Penny DreadfulFrom Hell, Sarah Waters’s Victorian trilogy, the numerous adaptations of Dracula, plus many others.

We will examine fiction addressing 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 (especially photography), social upheaval, and a veneer of respectability, yet with monsters lurking in closets and under beds. Our focus will also permit consideration of the boom in publication of popular literature in a variety of formats, as well as the rise of the professional writer during the 19th century.

Core texts include Margaret Oliphant’s The Library Window, Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, and selected short fiction possibly including M.R. James, “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”; Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Old Nurse’s Story”; Sheridan LeFanu, “An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street”; Mary Braddon’s “Good Lady Ducayne,” R.L. Stevenson, “The Body Snatcher”; E. Nesbit, “John Charrington’s Wedding” and maybe a couple of Victorian werewolf stories (since werewolf stories feature prominently in the research done for both Carmilla and Bram Stoker’s infamous Dracula). Evaluation will be based on a midterm essay, a term paper, a final reflection essay, and participation in discussion both in class and on the course’s Canvas site.

Keep checking this post for more information about the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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