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The Gothic

2012-13 is my second year running my Advanced Studies in Literature seminar on the Gothic. I'll slow the pace down a little this year: an introductory session instead of diving straight into Horace Walpole, two sessions on Matthew Lewis instead of one. I've also brought in Dominik Moll's film of The Monk (Le Moine) and James McTeigue's The Raven.

The course studies the evolution of the Gothic genre, and is shaped in various ways by the texts that are easily available and the courses that were already being taught in our department. For example, Dracula appears on another course, so that's out, but Coleridge and Keats are omitted from the Sensibility and Romanticism module, so are included here. Baldick's Gothic Tales collection is useful for a survey of the unfolding genre, and for the obscure fan fiction it reproduces.


Following the publication of Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto in 1764, and influenced by the revival of Gothic architecture, an explosion of interest in the Gothic literary mode occurred in late eighteenth-century Europe. The result was a proliferation of texts populated by spectres, skeletons and cursed nobility, set in ruined castles, dungeons and monasteries, and plotted to evoke terror, suspense and intrigue.

The Gothic was adopted by authors as diverse as hack fiction-writers for magazines, serious novelists such as Ann Radcliffe, and later by poets of the Romantic canon such as Coleridge, Byron and Keats. Examining key works that typify the initial craze for Gothic literature, we will also read subsequent works influenced by the tradition, including Victorian and American texts and film adaptations. Using scholarly writing on the Gothic we will adopt the critical tools that are most useful for analyzing the mode, with the aim of establishing what can legitimately be termed ‘Gothic’.


Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, Penguin Classics

Matthew Lewis, The Monk, Oxford University Press

Chris Baldick ed., The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales

Available on Blackboard

John Polidori, The VampyreLe Moine

Washington Irving, 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'


10% participation

40% essay 2,500-3,000 words

50% exam


1. The Gothic: Introduction

2. Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

3. Matthew Lewis, The Monk
Dominik Moll, Le Moine

4. Matthew Lewis, The Monk
Isaac Crookenden, ‘The Vindictive Monk or the Fatal Ring’

5. Anna Laetitia Aikin, ‘Sir Betrand: A Fragment’
Richard Cumberland, ‘The Poisoner of Montremos’
Anonymous, ’The Friar’s Tale’
Juvenis, ‘Raymond: A Fragment’

6. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, ‘Christabel’

7. John Polidori, The Vampyre
Frederick Cowles, ‘The Vampire of Kaldenstein’
Angela Carter, ‘The Lady in the House of Love’

8. John Keats, ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, ‘Lamia’, ‘The Eve of St Agnes’

9. Washington Irving, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’
Tim Burton, Sleepy Hollow

10. Edgar Allen Poe, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘The Raven’
James McTeigue, The Raven

11. Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’
Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘Olalla’; Thomas Hardy, ‘Barbara of the House of Grebe’

12. Joyce Carol Oates, ‘Secret Observations on the Goat Girl’
H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Outsider’; Isabel Allende, ‘If You Touched My Heart’

13. Course Review