Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Desiring Heroines: Women in Gothic Fiction and Film

ENGL 292.601
R 5:30-8:30

Why do hauntings of all sorts enter into contemporary fiction, film, and television? What do they say about our relationships to our pasts and our histories, about where we've come from? Wildly popular in late eighteenth-century England, especially among women readers and writers, gothic fiction has left its mark on literature and culture up to the present day. Its winding passageways, hidden chambers, family secrets, and restless spirits pique our curiosity, while the narratives engage us in debates on power, sexuality, difference, and education. Questioning social norms, as well as the borders of reason and the human, the gothic romance and its subversive style speak to inquisitive readers, postmodernists, and contemporary feminists alike. In the words of Angela Carter, "We live in Gothic times." In this course we will read several classics such as Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, as well as more recent works by Daphne du Maurier, Jean Rhys, Angela Carter, and Salman Rushdie. Films may include Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca and Jane Campion's The Piano. Devoted class participation and several short papers comprise the requirements for this course.