ENGL 351 - Studies in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
Semester Offered: Spring
(Same as VICT 351 ) Study of a major author (e.g., Coleridge, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde) or a group of authors (the Brontes, the Pre-Raphaelite poets and painters) or a topical issue (representations of poverty; literary decadence; domestic angels and fallen women; transformations of myth in Romantic and Victorian literature) or a major genre (elegy, epic, autobiography).
Topic for 2021/22b: The Gothic. This class opens the door to the cellar, and descends into the dark, dangerous, and delightful realm of the Gothic. Beginning with the first Gothic novel in English, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), we follow the transformations of the genre and its shifting cultural functions throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What makes a work of art recognizable as Gothic, and how and why did this genre become so wildly popular? What cultural anxieties, unconscious fears, or forbidden desires come to light in the monsters and villains of Gothic tales? And how does the persistence of the Gothic complicate familiar narratives of modernization as the triumph of civilization, progress, and reason?
In addition to major works of Gothic fiction by Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and others, we consider the long afterlife of the Gothic on screen: from the legendary adaptations of Hollywood’s Golden Age (Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster; Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula) to the teen vampire romances of today. Along the way, a selection of secondary readings from major psychoanalytic, feminist, poststructuralist, and queer theorists helps us to distinguish different varieties of the Gothic (e.g., female Gothic, queer Gothic, alien Gothic, urban Gothic) and to unpack the genre’s complex relationship to dominant ideologies of gender, race, nation, and class. We conclude with the postcolonial Gothic, asking how and why both European/settler and indigenous writers and filmmakers have drawn on the Gothic tradition, and reimagined it, to wrestle with the ghosts of colonialism’s past. Mark Taylor.
This course satisfies the pre-1900 requirement for the English major.
One 2-hour period.
Course Format: CLS
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