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Scary Stories: Intro to American Horror

ENGL 1141.001
TR 3:30-4:59pm

This course will serve as an introduction to American horror traditions from the 1830s to present day, in both literature and film. By reading and watching representative works focused on recurring motifs -- haunted houses, demonic possessions, monstrous creatures in the wilderness, a world gone mad, science gone wrong, a killer on the loose, to name a few -- we will explore the contours of the horror genre to better understand what makes a great scary story and why horror, for all its "repulsive" qualities, is a nearly $1 billion-per-year industry. Why do many people enjoy the feeling of being scared? What narrative and cinematic techniques go into building suspense, turning your stomach, or making a "jump scare". What individual and cultural fears (and fantasies) has American horror engaged? What makes a story creepy, shocking, unsettling, or downright terrifying? This course may include short stories and novels by Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Stephen Graham Jones, Toni Morrison, and Alyssa Wong, and films and TV features by Alfred Hitchcock, George A. Romero, Jordan Peele, Guillermo Del Toro, Nia de Costa, Mike Flanagan, Mariama Diallo, and Ari Aster. Assignments will include guided notes, in-class writing exercises, short reflection pieces, and two 5- to 7-page papers. No prior experience with horror is required, but enrolled students should feel up to reading, watching, and discussing unsettling and sometimes disturbing material. Content warnings will be used. 

English Major Requirements
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
  • The Novel Concentration (AENV)
College Attributes
Additional Attributes