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Sex, Violence, Law, and the Gothic

ENGL 345.301
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

From the vehemence of current debates concerning the relation of representations of sex and violence on TV to actual sexual and violent acts committen American society, one would think that such issues were new and peculiar to America.  In fact, similar debates were taking place as far back as the 18th C in England and Europe.  Just as one
specific court-TV trial has occupied center stage in the American media for the past several months, so also were late-18th and early-19th century British readers obsesseed with the potent intersection of sex, violence, and law that they found in gothic romances of the time.  Because gothic explores what lies beyond Englightenment attitudes toward reason, literacy, superstition, sensuality, crime, punishment, tyranny, marriage, social class, and nationhood, it provides writers of this period with a means of pushing the boundaries of what is known and what can be known.  It asks whether we can separate pain from pleasure, sex from violence, justice from corruption, punishment from tyranny.  This course explores the craze for gothic fiction in England during the so-called Romantic Period; in particular, we will examine the political, economic, sexual, and aesthetic movements that contributed to gothic's sudden popularity, both in fiction and on the romantic stage.  In addition, we will examine a number of responses to gothic--from Jane Austen's parody of gothic (Northanger Abbey), to Percy Shelley's appropriations of it for stage (The Cenci), to Mary Shelley's gothic critique of science (Frankenstein or The Last Man).  We will certainly read Walpole's *Castle of Otranto*, Radcliffe's *The Italian *, Austen's *Northanger Abbey*, Lewis's *Castle Spectre*, Baillie's *Orra*, Coleridge's *Remorse*, Maturin's *Bertram*, Percy Shelley's *Cenci*, and either *Frankenstein*, *Valperga*, or *The Last Man* by Mary Shelley.  Graded work will be consist of a short paper, a longer paper, a set of final exam questions, final exam, along with some group work during the semester, a short annotated bibliography, and a willingness to acquire and use an electronic computer mail account (there will be a computer bulletin board for this class).

(Note: This is a course primarily for General Honors students/Benjamin Franklin Scholars; English majors who are not GH/BFS students may enroll by permission of the instructor.)