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Fall 2016 Undergraduate English Courses: Special Topics

358:206 American Horror Stories

02   TTH5  CAC  20849   BARTON  SC-119

03  TTH7   CAC   20850  BARTON   AB-2150

American Horror Stories
As a type of literature, horror is often associated with cheap thrills. But for many American authors in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, horror offered a way to imagine new responses to ongoing social issues such as the formation of a new national identity, chattel slavery, or the changing roles of women in society. How does Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” use supernatural terror to reflect contemporary anxieties about economic inequality, cholera epidemics, and slave uprisings? What can Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman tell us about the fragile limits of domestic spaces? How do decomposing bodies and legacies of violence inform very different accounts of the American South for Ambrose Bierce and Charles Chesnutt?

This class will read tales of the supernatural and tales of social deviance--and even some stories that blur the boundaries between the two categories--by authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, Charles Chesnutt, and H. P. Lovecraft. In addition, we will examine key texts about the Salem Witch Trials and Nat Turner’s Southampton rebellion to see the ways that writers of non-fiction could use the idea of horror to shape their understandings of contemporary events. Through these readings, we will explore how horror--as a genre, as a sensation, and as a way of viewing events--can help a wide variety of American authors, and us, come to terms with a dramatically changing world.