Studies in 19thC Lit: The Gothic

Gothic, with its madmen and monsters, its maidens in distress, its underground
passages, dark dungeons, mysterious manuscripts—with, in short, its constant
flirtation with self-parody—has for more than two centuries been one of the
most popular forms of English fiction. It grew out of a fad for medievalism in
the later eighteenth century, hovered between political allegory and escapist
fantasy during the French revolutionary period, and then persisted through the
nineteenth century as a staple of popular fiction, fashioning on the way such
cultural icons as Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein, the paradigmatic mad
scientist, along with his nameless monster; the modern private eye, starting
with Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin; and R. L. Stevenson’s schismatic

survey of nineteenth-century Gothic fiction will ask about the persistence of
the Gothic, about the relation between “low” and “high” literary forms in
modern literary culture,  and about
the social functions of narrative and dramatic art. As the basis for thinking
about these general questions, we will pay close attention to the specific
artistic and thematic achievements of 
the narratives we study. Classes will be conducted mainly by discussion,
some of it lead by students.


Course Requirements

  • Attendance and participation
  • Three 5-page critical essays, or one 5-page and
    one 10-page essay
  • Two in-class presentations
  • Final exam



Required Texts

Matthew Gregory
Lewis, The Monk (1797)

Anne Radcliffe, The Italian(1797)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Edgar Allan Poe,
selected short stories (1840-45)

Emily Bronte, Wuthering

Mary Elizabeth
Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1861-62)

Robert Louis
Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1885)