English R1B

Reading and Composition: Postcolonial Gothic

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2007 Sarah Townsend
MWF 12-1 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Banks, The Wasp Factory

Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Hacker, Rules for Writers

McCabe, The Butcher Boy

Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Shakespeare, The Tempest

Film screening of Jane Eyre

And a course reader containing shorter selections of fiction and nonfiction. "


"In recent years, literary scholars have taken an interest in the sub-genre �Postcolonial Gothic,� examining how and why colonial and postcolonial writers employ elements of the Gothic genre in their portrayals of racial difference and of power. This course asks similar questions in a different way, stepping outside the standard understandings of Gothic literature and of postcolonial writing to investigate the long-standing affinity between the two. This semester we will set aside traditional generic historical frames (the Gothic as a primarily 18th- and 19th- century phenomenon, postcolonial writing as a 20th-century product) and instead propose the Postcolonial Gothic as a mode of cultural imagination, born of early imperial encounters with the racial Other and circulated increasingly during the European colonial expansions of the 17th through 19th centuries. The Gothic novel and, much later, postcolonial concerns certainly shaped this racial Gothic imagination into predictable and recognizable forms; but Gothic writing about race pre-dated what literary scholars recognize as the birth of the Gothic genre and continues to develop today in the writings of recently decolonized parts of the world, as well as in more popular arenas such as the language of American politics on the subject of terrorism.

We begin in 1611 with Shakespeare�s The Tempest (performed over a century before Horace Walpole, the �Father of Gothic Literature,� was even born!) and finish in 1992 with Patrick McCabe�s The Butcher Boy, set in a 1960s Ireland preoccupied with television, John Wayne westerns, comic books, and Cold War politics�in other words, an Ireland that has seemingly forgotten all about its colonial past. The course argues that both works, however, are profoundly Gothic and profoundly postcolonial. In sum, this semester we will test and develop the hypothesis that Gothic literature has always been a little (post)colonially minded, and that (post)colonial writing has always been�and always will be�a little Gothic.

English R1B will situate these readings and interrogations around a series of writing assignments. The primary goals of this course are to develop your ability to read and write about literature, and to strengthen your research skills. You will be required to complete frequent reading responses, short essays on literary analysis, and a longer research essay. You will also be required to revise everything you write and to peer-edit the work of your classmates."

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