Junior Research Seminar: American Gothic Literature
Buried alive. Driven mad with guilt. Dissolved into a vast, anonymous universe. These are some of the terrors that our course will address as we explore the aesthetic, philosophical, and historical dimensions of nineteenth century American gothic literature. How did gothic writers complicate cultural attitudes towards the unthinkable, the cruel, and the perverse in works of supernatural horror? What do enduring tropes of gothic fiction like haunted houses, doppelgangers, and sentient machines reveal about the massive social and economic changes of the nineteenth century, including the expansion and intensification of slavery, the expropriation of Indigenous land, and the economic transition to industrial capitalism? And what might the gothic genre fail to capture about these underlying political realities? Our historical attention to race, labor, and gender will enable us to reconsider canonical American gothic literature and illuminate our continued reliance on gothic tropes for representing the uniquely disturbing experiences of modern life.