The American Gothic
The Gothic trend in American literature officially begins with the publication of Charles Brockden Brown’s 1798 novel, Wieland. But it has its roots in the dire universe depicted in Puritanical texts such as Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741) and in later colonial captivity narratives and slave narratives. Certainly a subversive challenge to the institutions and official narratives of America as a democratic nation, the literary tradition of horror and the Gothic imagination has had a strong influence on American literature, and has inspired writers from Edgar Poe, to Cormac McCarthy, to Joyce Carol Oates. We will study representative works by these and other major authors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and H. P. Lovecraft. We will occasionally study representative Gothic television and film texts, such as The Twilight Zone, James Marsh’s 1999 docu-fiction film, Wisconsin Death Trip and the recent Puritan horror film, The VVitch (2016). Critical issues to be considered throughout the course are the Gothic’s critique of power relationships and subversion of oppressive institutional and hegemonic forces relating to gender, sexuality, culture, and politics. Our discussions of the readings works will be guided by major theories and concepts related to gothic discourse, including the notions of haunting and spectrality; the grotesque and carnivalesque; trauma, dread and anxiety; and psychoanalytical (and proto-psychoanalytical) concepts such as the “uncanny,” the “abject,” the Lacanian “Real,” and the monstrous feminine. Readings include stories, poetry, and the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This course also reviews the elements and key terms essential for literary analysis, and prepares students to write and think critically, and to revise their work.