English 166

Special Topics: Gothic

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2019 Duncan, Ian
MWF 2-3 223 Dwinelle


In the eighteenth century, Gothic was a historical category (the “Dark” or “Middle” Ages, between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance) and then an ethnic one (the Germanic peoples who overthrew classical civilization). It’s all over the place now, designating everything from a 1980s postpunk counterculture to a national anti-tradition (“American Gothic”). As Gothic became the title of a literary genre in the 1790s, the Gothic novel or Gothic romance, it also became an aesthetic category, evoking a distinctively modern relation between history and feeling. Gothic builds its stories around scenic and architectural spaces and objects, reservoirs of psychic and political energies of a supposedly defunct past, which exert a toxic affective hold – mingling desire, longing and dread – on the present. It becomes a figure for style and for the aesthetic as such, not so much aloof from moral purpose (the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism…) as corrupting and opposing it.

We’ll read selected works from the first hundred years of Gothic fiction. 1.) Late-eighteenth-century “classic Gothic”: Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto; Matthew Lewis, The Monk; Ann Radcliffe, The Italian. 2.) Romantic historical Gothic: Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor; Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris. 3.) Puritan Gothic: James Hogg, Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner; Charlotte Brontë, Villette. 4.) Gothic/Aesthetic: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”; Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun. We’ll intersperse our readings with some examples of modern cinematic Gothic: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Black Narcissus; Alfred Hitchock, Vertigo; Alain Resnais, Last Year at Marienbad; Andrei Tarkovsky, Solaris.

Coursebooks will be ordered from University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. Supplementary readings will be made avaiable on our bCourses site.

The English Department is working on expanding the class size for this offering. If you would like to enroll in this course after it fills, please put yourself on the wait list, and if we are able to accommodate you, you will be added as soon as possible (no later than the first week of classes).


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