ENGL479G - Selected Topics in English and American Literature after 1800; Horror Fiction and Media Necromancy

Are new technologies inherently terrifying? Each new generation offers many commentators who would answer in the affirmative—often with arguments that are not easy to dismiss, even in hindsight. These fears and anxieties make their way into the stories people tell, and when they do, it offers the chance to see print fiction interacting with other media technologies and channels of communication.

This course will sample a variety of horror tales, exploring how they position themselves within wider media ecologies, and how they present the fate of language in an era that is increasingly less dependent on the written word for circulating information. We will consider the affective range of horror—the weird, the eerie, the creepy, the macabre, etc.—and explore whether different media have a particular affinity for provoking different emotional or societal responses.

Texts for the course will include stories and novels from the mid-19th century to the present day as well as a handful of films, with accompanying critical readings in or near the field known as “media archaeology,” which attempts to understand newer media through their relations with older ones. Wherever possible, we will work hands-on with the “dead” technologies we are considering—telegraphs, telephones, typewriters, radios, video cameras, and more—bringing them at least temporarily back to life: a scholarly form of necromancy at least as fraught as those found in any horror B-movie. No technical expertise is expected or required. Assignments will include two essays (one of them drawing on library research), a brief report and class presentation on one technology, and one work of creative interpretation.

Prerequisites: Two English courses in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.

Note: Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs.