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Frightful: Adolescence and the Gothic

ENGL 0777.301
TR 12:00-1:29pm

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 young-adult 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. Where adolescence 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
  • Literature Seminar pre-1900 (AEB9)
  • Sector 2 Difference and Diaspora (AEDD)
  • Sector 4 Long 18th Century (AE18)
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
  • Creative Writing Workshop Course Minor (AECW)
  • The Novel Concentration (AENV)
College Attributes
Additional Attributes