E350 – The Gothic in Literature and Film
Prerequisite: One course in Literature.
Description: As they reach beyond existing definitions of the self and ordinary experience, writers and readers have turned to the gothic genre with its representations of the uncanny, the inexplicable, and the sublime. This upper division course exposes students to British, German, and American gothic works from the eighteenth century to the present. We will explore its inflections in various genres, including novels, short stories, scientific case studies, and film. We will consider how these authors and filmmakers adopt the gothic to pose certain questions to their readers: does history inherit you, or do you inherit history, and what difference does it make? How and why do domestic spaces and family roles turn into the most terrifying ones of all? What are the phenomenological boundaries of the mind/body, given hypnotic and somnambulistic states? What is at stake when the supernatural experience moves from external reality and into the mind, reemerging as illness, e.g., as phobias, amnesia, hysteria, hallucinations? As we read and reflect on the gothic, we will regularly draw on the resources of literary, filmic, and cultural criticism to refine our notion of the interplay between the “realities” of historical context and the fantastic, “unreal” modes of the gothic. At the core of our discussions will be how these gothic texts redefine notions of personal identity, whether it be gender, sexual, familial, psychological, biological, racial, or national, by making strange the nature of experience. Over the course of the semester, the emphasis will be on developing the students’ critical theoretical models that purport to explain the gothic’s cultural relevance.