01 CAC 05662 MTH3 JACKSON MU-204
An Introduction to the Anglo-American Gothic Tradition
We read gothic literature for pleasure, for the thrill it gives us, for the spine-tingling suspense that builds to a sudden—often deeply—unsettling crescendo. No sooner do we recover from one fright, but we feel the narrative tension mounting again. But aside from pleasure, what is gothic literature about? Why the focus on fear, anxiety, and the helplessness of a protagonist? What is our draw to dark foreboding landscapes, the wilderness, the urban underworld, haunted houses, demonic realms, and alien forces? Why are we simultaneously repulsed by and drawn to urban legends, dark villains, and stories of macabre murders? If you’re interested in psychological narratives, in understanding the human mind through literature, this might be the course for you.
In exploring the questions above, we will focus primarily on short stories and urban legends. We will also look to the critical frameworks offered by psychology, folklore, anthropology, philosophy, and literary and cultural theory. We will try to explain the aesthetic payoff of fear, tracing it back from our present time to its roots in occult practices. Be forewarned: while we will not be reading horror fiction in this course, the gothic can, at times, be somewhat unsettling.