English R1A

Reading and Composition: Inscribing Fear: Written Horror, Living Flesh, and the Cultures that Produce Both

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2019 Tomasula y Garcia, Alba
MWF 11-12 122 Wheeler

Book List

Ito, Junji: Junji Ito's Cat Diary; Lavelle, Victor: The Ballad of Black Tom; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Vandermeer, Jeff: Annihilation; Wells, H.G.: The Island of Dr. Moreau


The horror genre—whose very purpose is to let us experience that which frightens, startles, or disgusts through a fictional lens—is capable of inciting a wide range of visceral responses. What will be the particular focus of this class, however, is the sub-genre of body horror, which puts emphasis on violations to the human form, and in doing so often delineates what sorts of terrors have defined social production; that in concerning themselves with bodies and what horrors may befall them, in other words, works falling under this sub-genre often effectively portray an encounter between the all-too-real symbolic order that underlies our material reality, and that which threatens this order's stability. This course will critically examine but a few of literature's fleshy terrors—in pieces from Victorian science fiction to Japanese graphic novels, and starring every being from suffering human-animal hybrids to beleaguered scientists to runaway antebellum slaves—to not only provide a few prime examples of how terror has been utilized in literature, but to also analyze how body horror has had an important hand in making clear—and even in influencing—what we find frightening, monstrous, and unacceptable within the living world. As we read, we will consider multiple aspects of how body horror has been utilized in fiction: what literary and rhetorical devices are used to represent that which is obscene, atrocious, or unspeakable; how the social/material constructions of class, race, and gender get embedded into the flesh of horror's protagonists, antagonists, and secondary characters; what sorts of social pressures may be at work when it comes to determining what even counts as "horrific."

With the goal of developing your critical reading, research, and writing skills, we wil primarily devote class time to discussing the course reading through a combination of lecture material, question and answer, and group discussion. We will also dedicate time to preparing for graded essays by building writing, editing, and research skills in weekly writing workshops.

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