In honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Gothic monster-tale, Frankenstein, this course will consider the history of the Gothic genre, and the various transformations it has undergone from its inception to the present.
We will begin with the birth of the Gothic genre, looking at the sensational and immensely popular novels by people like Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe that cemented its importance and appeal. Then we will move on to look at political implementations of the genre—including Mary Shelley’s own contribution, as well as that of her father, anarchist philosopher William Godwin. Moving forward to the second half of the nineteenth century, we will consider how the Gothic penetrates into shorter fiction, including that of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as the imperialist fears and fantasies of a novel like Dracula. Finally, we will bring the Gothic to our current moment examining (post-)modern interpretations from authors such as Steven King, Angela Carter, and Shelley Jackson’s reworking of Frankenstein, Patchwork Girl.
Together we will consider some of the following questions: What has allowed the Gothic’s enduring appeal? How have its tropes, tone, and message adapted to a changing world? What problems—of narrative, of identity, of modernity—has the Gothic genre allowed us to frame or answer? Assignments will include two short papers (one with an optional creative element), a presentation, and a final paper.
*note: there is a conference on the Gothic (“Gothic States”) taking place at Penn on March 29-31 and I would love to integrate an assignment in which the students attend part of the conference and write a short response if possible.