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From the Uncanny to the Horror: Literature, Film, and Psychoanalysis

ENGL 102.401
TR 9:00-10:30am

This class will introduce students to links between psychoanalysis, literature and film by tackling one major theme in Freud’s essays on the arts and literature: the concept of the Uncanny. We will then follow its more recent developments in Horror stories and Horror films. Studying a number of films and literary works, we will test, verify or question psychoanalytical concepts such as the Uncanny, the Thing, Abjection, Enjoyment and Fantasy. Why do we enjoy being startled or afraid when watching horror movies? What is unsettling but also endlessly fascinating and captivating in Gothic tales of madness and haunting? Why do we imagine that the dead might return? A psychoanalytic approach to this paradoxical enjoyment of fear in literary works and films provides original and dynamic methods of interpretation. As theoretical material, we will use three main texts: Freud’s collection of essays The Uncanny, Slavoj Zizek’s Looking Awry, and Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror.   


Bibliography:  Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny, Penguin, 2003.

Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on abjection, Columbia, 1982.

Slavoj Zizek’s Looking Awry, MIT, 1991.

Jean-Michel Rabaté, Introduction to Literature and Psychoanalysis, Cambridge, 2014.

Requirements: 10 film journals (2-3 pages each), one short paper (8 pages) and one research paper (12 pages).


fulfills requirements
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector III: Arts & Letters of the College's General Education Curriculum