The Gothic

English 232, Spring 2015

Prof. Jack Lynch

Go directly to:


Office: (973) 353-5204; 531 Hill Hall.

Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 11:30–1:00, and by appointment (appointments are best).

Home: (609) 882-4642 (before 10:00 p.m.!).

E-mail: (the best way to reach me).

Course Description and Goals

This course surveys the Gothic literature of horror and terror from its eighteenth-century origins to the present. Topics of discussion will include the feminist Gothic, queer Gothic, Southern Gothic, the sublime, and modern Goth culture.

By semester's end, students should:

This course meets the college's core curriculum requirement for literature.


Online Quizzes
You'll have to take regular short quizzes on Blackboard to show you're keeping up with the reading. You'll have fifteen minutes to answer three multiple-choice questions about the most recent readings. All questions will be straightforward factual questions about the readings themselves — nothing about the authors, the historical contexts, and so on. If you've read the book, the quizzes should be easy. Each quiz will be available at least one full week before the due date, and will be open until the starting time of the class period on which they're due. You can do them at any time in that week, but each quiz must be completed in one session of no more than fifteen minutes; you can't start and stop. You may not consult the readings or cooperate with other students during a quiz. There are no make-up quizzes, so be sure to budget your time.
Written Assignments
There will be two argumentative papers, the first of around 1,500 words (six pages), the second of around 2,000 words (eight pages). I also want to see a provisional draft of three thesis statements before the first paper is due. I'll explain all of these in class as they get closer. Everything should be typed and submitted in hard copy. My (still-incomplete) guide to my expectations on English papers is available online. A significant part of your grade will depend on your writing skills; even though this class is open to everyone, you might reconsider taking a literature class if you haven't yet taken, or at least started taking, English Composition 101.
Final Exam
There will be a short final exam, featuring identification, close reading, and short essays. I'll discuss this in class as the end of the semester approaches.
University students are grownups; I understand that life sometimes gets busy. Almost any excuse, therefore, given in advance (in person, by phone, or by E-mail), will receive my blessing. Absences not excused in advance will be frowned upon, and your final grade will be lowered by half a grade (A to B+, B+ to B, and so on) for each unexcused absence. Students will initial an attendance sheet every class. (Multiple copies of the sheet will be going around; you need to mark only one of them.) The same policy applies to late assignments: I'll grant extensions, but only if you talk to me before the due date.
Class Participation
Even though the class is large, regular and active class participation is essential. I've worked to keep the readings manageable and affordable, but you have to hold up your end of the bargain by doing the readings every day and participating in the discussions. I also expect the following in all classes:
Plagiarism and Academic Integrity
It should go without saying, but all work in this class must be your own. Students are responsible for knowing and abiding by the Rutgers Academic Integrity Policy. I used to be much more laid back about this, but no longer: I will report every violation. If you have even an inkling of a doubt about what's legitimate or how to cite something, see me before handing in the paper.
Of course I'll provide all necessary accommodations for properly documented disabilities. Get in touch with Disability Services for details on the procedures.
The following books are available from New Jersey Books and the Rutgers Bookstore:

I understand that books are expensive, and have chosen the most affordable reliable edition of each work. Classroom discussion is easier if we all use the same editions, but if you own the works in other editions, or if you can get cheap secondhand copies, you needn't buy new ones.

(Acceptable substitutes: other editions, e-books, and audiobooks. Unacceptable substitutes: movies, SparkNotes.)

The remainder of the readings are available through Blackboard; The Shining will be available through Blackboard and the library's swank. I've made many of the longer readings available online as well, though you may not want to read a full-length novel on a screen.

This breakdown shows the starting point for my grading: I don't believe in penalizing students for not being proficient in writing English papers before they've had an English class, so I'll evaluate your performance over the course of the whole semester before I submit a final grade. If an early lapse is compensated for by better performance later in the semester, I'm happy to ignore a bad grade on an assignment. My usual approach is to examine all the marks and to ask what is the highest grade I can give in good conscience. After I finish wrestling with my conscience, though, grades are final, and I'll change a grade only if I made an error in calculation. If you're concerned about your performance, talk to me before you hand something in, not after you get the grade. I'm always happy to look at provisional theses, rough drafts, and so on.

Schedule of Class Meetings

Wed., 21 Jan.
Class business, etc.: a history of the term Gothic, with an overview of the genre and the syllabus.

Eighteenth-Century Origins

Mon., 26 Jan.
Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764): the first work of Gothic fiction. We'll discuss the relationship between the newly conceived realistic novel and the older tradition of romance.
Wed., 28 Jan.
Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, including the prefaces to the first two editions. Online Quiz on Otranto.
Mon., 2 Feb.
William Beckford, Vathek (1782–87): an Oriental tale with Gothic elements. Discussion will focus on the notion of the “other,” and the place of queer sexualities in the history of English fiction.
Wed., 4 Feb.
Beckford, Vathek. Online Quiz on Vathek.

Romantic-Era Heyday

Mon., 9 Feb.
Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796), vol. 1: An over-the-top work that combines “horror” with “terror.” We'll continue the discussion of the “other” and queer sexuality, and introduce the idea of the sublime.
Wed., 11 Feb.
Lewis, The Monk, vol. 2.
Mon., 16 Feb.
Lewis, The Monk, vol. 3. Online Quiz on The Monk.
Wed., 18 Feb.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818), vol. 1: the source of an enduring Gothic legend. We'll discuss the interactions between science fiction and the Gothic tradition.
Mon., 23 Feb.
Shelley, Frankenstein, vol. 2. Three Provisional Thesis Statements Due.
Wed., 25 Feb.
Shelley, Frankenstein, vol. 3; Polidori, “The Vampyre” (1819): the first literary vampire story to be published. We'll begin discussion of the “psychologization” of the Gothic. Online Quiz on Frankenstein.
Mon., 2 March
Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia” (1838), “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842), “The Black Cat” (1843), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), and “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846): a collection of short stories from nineteenth-century America's greatest Gothic writer. We'll continue discussing the psychological Gothic.
Wed., 4 March
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” (1835), “The Minister's Black Veil” (1836), and “Rappaccini's Daughter” (1844): a self-conscious attempt to revive the old romance genre in the age of the realistic novel, with extensive use of allegory. Again, the discussion will focus on psychology as understood in the nineteenth century. First Paper Due.

Victorian Gloomth

Mon., 9 March
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886): another enduring legend. We'll approach the text as the archetypal version of the Gothic double.
Wed., 11 March
Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Online Quiz on Dr. Jekyll.
Mon., 16 March
No Class: Spring Break.
Wed., 18 March
No Class: Spring Break.
Mon., 23 March
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890): an exploration of the double from a new angle. We'll focus on the notion of the uncanny.
Wed., 25 March
Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Online Quiz on Dorian Gray.
Mon., 30 March
Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897): the most famous horror novel in English. We'll look at gender roles and sexuality in the late-Victorian novel, as well as the mediating role played by technology.
Wed., 1 April
Stoker, Dracula.
Mon., 6 April
Stoker, Dracula.
Wed., 8 April
Stoker, Dracula. Online Quiz on Dracula.

Modern Gothics

Mon., 13 April
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892): a psychological tale that puts Gothic elements to explicitly feminist ends. This will give us an opportunity to look back on the tradition of feminist Gothic.
Wed., 15 April
Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood (1952): a prominent example of “Southern Gothic.” We'll explore the ways the notion of the “other” assumes new forms in the twentieth-century American South.
Mon., 20 April
O'Connor, Wise Blood.
Wed., 22 April
O'Connor, Wise Blood. Online Quiz on Wise Blood.
Mon., 27 April
Stanley Kubrick (adapting Stephen King), The Shining: a film based on a novel by the most successful modern Gothic writer. As semester's end approaches, we'll look back and hope to understand both the continuities and the disruptions over the two centuries covered on the syllabus.
Wed., 29 April
The Shining.
Mon., 4 May
Gothic in popular culture: video clips (to be determined, based on suggestions from the class). Final Paper Due.