English 346b
A. Boone
M 7:30–10 PM


Topics in 18TH Century: Gothic Meditations

In Jane Austen’s Gothic satire Northanger Abbey, the protagonist Catherine Morland is so affected by reading Gothic novels that she begins to hallucinate their grotesque features in her everyday life. Satire or not, every Gothic novel contains a crisis of reading, a grievous error of conflating mediations of the real and the imaginary. There are mysterious manuscripts, spooky institutions, secret societies, interlopers, haunted technologies, sounds and other sensory perceptions that have no apparent sources: all forms of vexed mediation that take on lives of their own. In this seminar, we will read Gothic novels, plays, and poems and consider all of the hallucinations and grievous errors we ourselves make when we devour these fantastic fictions. That is, we will begin the class with the provocation that writing as a technology that reconfigures the real and then consider how mediating these stories—re-reading, imitating, adapting, and theorizing—helps instantiate the vexations into a mysterious institution of its own, that concept called the Gothic.

Additional Reading Material:
For primary texts, we will read mostly eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novels, including Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron, Wiliam Godwin’s Caleb Williams, Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey. We will use later short stories and essays about the Gothic by Edgar Allan Poe, Vernon Lee, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Henry James to help us understand the conventions of the Gothic novel. We will also discuss why critical theory—its own form of mediation—finds so much rich material to animate theories of gender, sexuality, empire, mediation, and techno-determinism in the Gothic novel. Those critical readings may include essays by: Jay David Bolter, Jeffrey Sconce, Terry Eagleton, Marshall Brown, and Michael Gamer.

Two 6-7 pp. essays about the class’s discussions of the novels, one larger final project of creating a critical introduction and apparatus for an out-of-print Gothic novel, in the style of either a book proposal/sample chapter or a new media format for the novel. Students will work on these projects for the final weeks of the semester and present their materials to the class for feedback that will be useful for final revisions.

*Class enrollment is limited to 15