ENGL428A - Seminar in Language and Literature; Gothic Spaces: Gender, History and Romantic Writing
0101 - Orrin Wang

The course will carry out an in-depth study of the relation between the gothic genre and British Romantic writing. Characterized by brooding atmospherics, supernatural occurrences, and aberrant psychologies, the gothic has always been thematically and historically associated with British Romanticism, or "beauty in strangeness" as Pater famously put it. But, paradoxically, many Romantic writers tried to disassociate themselves from the gothic works of their day. This paradox speaks to the very definition of Romanticism as a literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as to the very distinction between high literature and popular entertainment that organizes literary studies to the present time. We will thus spend much of the course reading the novels, poems, and plays of Godwin, Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, De Quincey, Byron, Keats, Austen, M. Shelley, and P. Shelley. But we will also study British texts just prior to and after the Romantic period ( The Castle of Otranto and Jane Eyre ) as well works of authors who were both contemporaneous with and separate from high Romantic writing (Radcliffe and Dacre). We will also look at philosophical and critical writings whose themes, such as the sublime and uncanny, resonate with the gothic (Kant, Burke, and Freud.) Particular topics to be explored: the relation of gothic writing to anxieties over gender and sexuality; the possibility of seeing a masculine gothic based on horror and a feminine gothic based on terror; the connections between conceptions of Romantic self-hood and those of the pathological; and the gothic as a ghostly recording of the historical traumas of the French Revolution, Western industrialization, a growing mass culture, and British empire-making.