Spring 2023 Undergraduate English Courses

358:246 Introduction to the Gothic

01  MTH3    CAC  05394   JACKSON  FH-B1

The Psychology and Aesthetics of Fear

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. Aside from this pleasure, what is gothic literature about? Why the focus on fear, anxiety, and the helplessness of a protagonist? What is our draw to the idea of dark foreboding landscapes, the urban underworld, haunted houses, demonic realms, and alien forces? Why are we repulsed by and drawn to urban legends, ominous figures, foreboding fates, and stories of macabre murders? In pursuing these questions, we will look to the critical frameworks offered by psychology, folklore, anthropology, philosophy, and literary theory. We will try to explain fear’s aesthetic payoff. Expect to talk about the way the gothic traces social fissures and cultural anxiety: how it redacts tragedy, human trauma, violence, racism, and the like. Gothic literature can be a little like peering into a dark looking glass and seeing in its reflection the faint image of something horrible, yet vaguely and unsettlingly familiar. If you’re interested in psychological narratives, in understanding the human mind through literature, in thinking about fear, this is the course for you.

Expect quizzes, essays, a midterm, and mandatory attendance.