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Gothic Reading Group

"the apparent delight with which we dwell upon objects of pure terror, where our moral feelings are not in the least concerned, and no passion seems to be excited but the depressing one of fear, is a paradox of the heart"

~ Anna Letitia Aikin, "On the Pleasure Derived from Objects of Terror" (1773)

Date and Time: Wednesday 4-5pm [online for Term 1, and excluding reading week]

From Week 4 of Term 1 (28th Oct), join Dr Jen Baker (ECLS) and guests for an informal weekly (online) foray into the Gothic. We will discuss a mixture of primary representations of terror, horror, and wonder across various forms from antiquity to the present day, and from across the World and non-fiction and critical pieces that aid a wider discussion on the "Gothic" in cultural and society.

All are welcome: students from any level and from any degree subject, and all staff too.

To be added as a member of the GRG Team on MS Teams at any time, please email or you can add yourself to the group

You don't need any other prior knowledge of "Gothic", nor have to do any wider reading for the Group. If you would *like* to do some general and accessible reading beforehand, however, then I recommend one or more of the following:

Primary reading or viewing for the week(s) ahead will be posted below and in the Teams files, after each session.



Week 4 - Wednesday 28th October, 4 - 5pm
Text for discussion: Washington Irving "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and its Postscript [1820] from The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917

Suggested Further Reading:

Anthony, David. "'Gone distracted': 'Sleepy hollow', Gothic Masculinity, and the Panic of 1819." Early American Literature 40.1 (2005): 111-144.

Hoffman, Daniel G. “Irving's Use of American Folklore in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’”PMLA, vol. 68, no. 3, 1953, pp. 425–435. JSTOR,

Smith, Greg. "Supernatural ambiguity and possibility in Irving's" The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"." The Midwest Quarterly 42.2 (2001): 174-182.

Week 5 - Wednesday 4th November, 4-5pm
Text for discussion: Daphne Du Maurier "The Birds"

Suggested Further Reading:

Bellanca, Mary Ellen. The Monstrosity of Predation in Daphne du Maurier's “The Birds”,ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Volume 18, Issue 1, Winter 2011, Pages 26–46,

Korkut-Nayki, Nil. "The Supernatural and the Functions of the Gothic in Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Birds’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’." The Gothic: Studies in History, Identity and Space. Brill, 2012. 127-133.

Soles, Carter. "“And no birds sing”: discourses of environmental apocalypse in The Birds and Night of the Living Dead." ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 21.3 (2014): 526-537.

Week 7 - Thursday 19th November, 4-5pm
Session led by Dr Fabio Camilletti (School of Modern Languages and Cultures)
Text for discussion: Depending on your expertise, one or more of the three versions of the story 'The Death-Bride'

  • The original German version by Friedrich August Schulze Die Todten-Braut (1811).
  • The 1812 French translation by J-B.B. Eyriès (the one read by Mary Shelley and the others at Diodati) La Morte fiancée 
  • The 1813 English translation by S.E. Utterson, The Death-Bride

    Suggested secondary reading:

    Just for those who are particularly interested, relating back to our first session:

    Week 8 - Wednesday 25th November, 4-5pm

    Text for discussion: John Edgar Wideman, "Fever" from Fever: Twelve Stories, Penguin, 1989.

    Some suggested further reading:

    Gum, Samuel A. 'Philadelphia Under Siege: The Yellow Fever of 1793', Pennsylvania Centre for the Book (Summer, 2010) 

    Lynch, Lisa. “The Fever Next Time: The Race of Disease and the Disease of Racism in John Edgar Wideman.” American Literary History, vol. 14, no. 4, 2002, pp. 776–804.JSTOR, Accessed 24 Sept. 2020.

    Ordner W. Taylor III, “Horror, Race, Reality”, The Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature. Kevin Corstorphine, Laura R. Kremmel, (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

    Articles on the MOVE bombing: and 

    Week 9 - Wednesday 2nd December, 4-5pm
    Text for discussion: Elizabeth Gaskell, "The Old Nurse's Story" Household Words, (1852)

    Some suggested Further Reading:
    Baker, Jen. "Imprints: Forming and Tracing the Malevolent Ghost-Child." Bacon, Simon, and Leo Ruickbie, eds. The Cultural Construction of Monstrous Children: Essays on Anomalous Children From 1595 to the Present Day. Anthem Press, 2020, pp.91-108.

    Bann, Jennifer. “Ghostly Hands and Ghostly Agency: The Changing Figure of the Nineteenth-Century Specter.”Victorian Studies, vol. 51, no. 4, Dec. 2009, pp. 663–686.

    Liggins, Emma, "Elizabeth Gaskell: Old Nurses, Illegitimacy and the Ancestral Rural Home" in The Haunted House in Women's Ghost Stories: Gender, Space and Modernity, 1850-1945, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, pp.41-79.

    Week 10 - Wednesday 9th December, 4-5pm on Teams
    Material for discussion:
    The Inside No.9 episode "The Devil of Christmas" (2018)

    The Devil of Christmas is the first episode of the third series of contemporary anthology series Inside No. 9. Created by League of Gentlemen alumni Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the show harkens back to earlier examples of anthology television such as Tales of the Unexpected and Hammer House of Horror. While the format of the show recalls this earlier mode of television, this episode is a rare example of the show also replicating the formal properties of seventies television, particularly through it’s use of vintage cameras. Through the conceit of an audio commentary, the episode presents something of a gothic return to the “haunted” media landscape of the 1970s.

    CW: Contains references and images of rape and sexual assault.

    Additional Reading:

    Bob Fischer on “The Haunted Generation”

    Derek Johnston “The British Ghost Story at Christmas” in Haunted Seasons (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)

    Diane A. Rodgers “Something ‘Wyrd’ This Way Comes: Folklore and British Television” Folklore 130: 2 (2019) 133 - 152


    Additional Viewing:

    Episode 6 of the series Beasts is available on youtube here This episode (The Dummy) has some similarities to The Devil of Christmas

    If you would like to propose a text for Term 2 and/or lead the session, please get in touch!