Studies: 18th C Literature

The Transatlantic Gothic

This class will explore gothic fiction of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Reading works from the Atlantic world, we will analyze how the gothic genre represents, remakes, and resists dominant systems of gender, sexuality, race, and nation. We will attend particularly to how the gothic genre interfaces with settler colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, and their global repercussions. As we do so, we will consider what the genre’s conventions — in particular, its abiding concern with horror, terror, violence, trauma, repression, haunting, and non-normative experiences and characters — offer for understanding this period and its contemporary legacies. We may also consider more contemporary works that revive the conventions and settings of early gothic fiction, such as Antonia Bird’s Ravenous (1999) and Robert Eggers’ The VVitch (2015).

Some potential readings:

  • Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764)
  • Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796) and selections from Journal of a West India Proprietor (1817)
  • William Beckford, Vathek (1787)
  • Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya, or, The Moor (1806)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria, or, the Wrongs of Woman (1798)
  • William Godwin, Caleb Williams (1794)
  • Sophia Lee, The Recess (1783)
  • Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland (1798)
  • Charlotte Smith, The Story of Henrietta (1800)
  • Leonora Sansay, Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo (1808)