The Gothic Tradition

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.

What is the Gothic literary tradition? How is it still used today?

The Gothic literary tradition began in the mid-eighteenth century in Europe and lives on in various forms across the globe through contemporary fiction, poetry, art, music, film, and television. Mad scientists, blasted heaths, abandoned ruins, elusive ghosts, charming vampires, and even little green men people its stories. With ingredients such as a highly developed sense of atmosphere, extreme emotions including fear and awe, and emphases on the mysterious and the paranormal, Gothic works tend to express anxieties about social, political, religious, and economic issues of the time, as well as rejection of prevailing modes of thought and behavior. This course will investigate the fascinating and subversive Gothic imagination (from the haunted castles of Horace Walpole to the threatening aliens of H.P. Lovecraft, from Dracula to Coraline), identify the historical conditions that have inspired it, consider how it has developed across time and place and medium, and explore how it has left its indelible imprint on the modern genres of science fiction and fantasy.

Course Schedule

This course includes two 90-minute lectures (pre-recorded) and one 1-hour discussion session per week as assigned.

Week 1 – The Father of the Gothic

  • The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764)

Week 2 – The Mother of the Gothic

  • The Italian, or The Confessional of the Black Penitents by Ann Radcliffe (1797)

Week 3 – The American Gothic

  • “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839) and “The Premature Burial” (1844) by Edgar Allan Poe

Week 4 – The Brontës: Sisters of the Gothic

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1849)

Week 5 – Gothic Children of the Night, Part I

  • “The Vampyre” by John Polidori (1819)
  • “Carmilla” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)

Week 6 – Gothic Children of the Night, Part II

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

Week 7 – The Cosmic Gothic

  • “The Call of Cthulhu” (1928) and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” (1936) by H.P. Lovecraft

Week 8 – The Psychological Gothic

  • The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (1969)

Week 9 – Televised Gothic

  • “Pilot” from Millennium (Episode 1 of Season 1, 1996) OR another example of Gothic TV of the student’s choice
  • “Blink” from Doctor Who (Episode 10 of Season 3, 2007)

Week 10 – “Meta” Gothic

  • A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny (1993) *
  • “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire” by Neil Gaiman (2004) *

Week 11 – Children’s Gothic

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)

Week 12 – Cinematic Gothic

El Orfanato (The Orphanage) directed by J.A. Bayona (2007)

* an audiobook of the former and a PDF of the latter will be available to registered students

Required Texts

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Spring 2023Dr. Gabriel Schenk & Dr. Sara Brown
Fall 2018Dr. Gabriel Schenk
Spring 2014Jessica O’Brien

Course artwork adapted from an original illustration by Elia Fernández. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

The Gothic Tradition

This course will investigate the fascinating and subversive Gothic imagination, identify the historical conditions that have inspired it, and consider how it has developed across time and place and medium.

START: January 9, 2023

DURATION: 12 Weeks

ID: LITB 5305