Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Gothic

ENGL 550.301
instructor(s):
Tuesday 6–9:00

Part of the reason the Gothic remains compelling lies in its opaque origins and its opportunistic nature. It’s a term we use for speaking about a body of writing anchored in multiple literary traditions, uncannily present whether we are speaking of power, desire, or the numinous. Less a genre than an aesthetic that crosses them, it seems to move effortlessly, almost virally, across media, ideologies, and national traditions. This seminar, therefore, will double as a seminar on genre, and will consider post-structural, affective, and sociological approaches to Gothic’s identities, its histories, and its tendencies. We’ll ask less what Gothic is that than where it has resided (and resides) and what it has signified (and can signify).

We’ll take a two-step approach. For the first half or so of the seminar, we’ll move through key texts, beginning with Horace Walpole, Friedrich Schiller, Ann Radcliffe, Gottfried Bürger, Matthew Lewis, Samuel Coleridge, René-Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt, Charles Brockden Brown, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Edgar Allan Poe. We’ll read these alongside short works by Jacques Derrida, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jack Halberstam, Anna Barbauld, the Marquis de Sade, Sigmund Freud, and others. We’ll then move forward  into Victorian, Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary texts chosen and presented by the seminar members. My hope is that these latter weeks will see us moving into graphic novels and film, bodies and biopolitics, visual art and podcasts, medievalism and the futuristic, theme parks and digital entertainment.

Rather than a single long essay due at the end of the semester, course work will be comprised of responses, a presentation, and shorter essays. If possible, we will also hold a session introducing students to digital tools and archival methods.