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Anxiety, Menace, and Peril: The Gothic

ENGL 0020.601
Wednesday 5:15-8:14pm


Picture a night dark and stormy in an edifice colossal and haunted. Horace Walpole’s Otranto, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Charlotte Bronte's Thornfield.  Here are the walls containing the skeletons and the secrets, the pervasive sense of impending danger and inevitable tragedy that exemplify the classic Gothic work. But what if I were to add Taylor Swift’s evermore? Or Jordan Peele’s Get Out? Or a good quarter of TikTok? What say you to that?

The fact is that the Gothic aesthetic, with its imperiled protagonist and angsty atmosphere, goes backwards and forwards over centuries, overflowing with haunted hallways, dastardly villains, draining hourglasses—entrancing stand-ins for the horrors that lurk in our own psyches. In this course, we will study classic and contemporary Gothic texts and media, along with supplemental commentary, to determine what exactly “Gothic" means. Where the present day fits into the equation. And why, as a fuzzily-boundaried genre, the Gothic has been unflaggingly best-selling, lauded and derided in equal measure, for nearly three hundred years.

There will be lots of reading, some critical writing, and multiple opportunities to go outside-the-box in both answering the questions above and deciding what the Gothic will be for the remainder of our century. Assignments include regular mini-exercises, a short critical essay, a presentation on your Gothic passion, and a final project of either critical analysis of your term study or a more creative representation of where that study has taken you. Regular participation in class discussions is crucial.

Enter if you dare.


English Major Requirements
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
College Attributes
  • Sector III: Arts & Letters (AUAL)
  • Foundational Approach: Cross Cultural Analysis (AUCC)
Additional Attributes