Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Horror

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit will attempt to identify the origins and nature of the genre in terms of its relationship to fantasy and science fiction by questioning the interstitial problems that delimit theoretical categorisations or definitions of fear, terror and horror in literature. Development of the genre all trace its pre-Gothic emergence and fruition in Chaucer's and Shakespeare's respective preoccupation with prophetic dream-visions and the nothingness of being through a Todorovian/Derridean reading. Consideration of the Augustan nightmare of physical and aesthetic entropy will explore how Defoe, Pope and Shelley transmute the Gothic crudities of Walpole, Lewis and Radcliffe into a profound meditation on the apocalyptic horror of existence proleptic of Blanchot's Writing of the Disaster. Analysis of the Romantic/Victorian/Edwardian obsession with the ambivalence of consciousness will engage with the 'ghosts' ghost fiction of several mainstream and lesser know writers through a reconsideration of the Freudian 'unheimliche' and the Todorovian fantastic. Assessment of twentieth century weird literature will focus on female voices in horror- hauntings, Lovecraft's offspring and suburban horror.

The topics to be covered in this unit will include:
- A Macobrian Hyper/Reality: The Fantastic in Chaucer's Dream-Visions.
- Nothing Visible: The Spectrality of Shakespearean Tragedy.
- Writing Plague: Defoe's History of the Grave.
- Mock-Apocalypse: The Entropic Art of Pope's Dunciad.
- The Cruelty of Creation: Shelley's Frankenstein as Promethean Theology.
- The Ambivalence of Ghostliness: Poe, Hawthorne, James, Kipling, De La Mare, Hartley, Aickman and Wharton.
- Cosmic/Suburban/Feminist Hauntings: Lovecraft, Smith, Ligotti, Bradbury, Barker, Campbell, Jackson, Hill and Morrison.

Study-unit Aims:

This study-unit aims:
- To explore the subtle differences, if any, between fear, terror and horror, and address the complex ways in which they have become literally and cultural manifestations of the human collective unconscious.
- To trace the development of the genre in literature (with occasional references to film adaptations of horror fiction) through the emergence of British Gothic and the American weird tale throughout the centuries.
- To enable students to become critically aware of the poetics of horror with special reference to the metacritical methods that the genre employs to sustain the suspension of disbelief which lies at the heart of its metaphysical essence.
- To encourage students to question the aesthetics of horror, especially from an ethical/artistic perspective.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will:
- Be able to differentiate between the various modalities of the genre (fear, terror, horror) as well as appreciate its extensive reach into fantasy and science fiction.
- Be familiar with a number of British and American writers whose works have been instrumental to the evolution of the genre, its reception and influence.
- Be able to understand the amenability of horror to various theoretical and critical considerations.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be:
- Able to critically engage with texts (which may be supplemented by film or other popular media) whose nature is to unsettle or haunt the reader.
- Able to respond to the ways, tropes, stereotypes and motifs of horror that had been assimilated and reconstituted over time so as to ensure generic renewal and novelty.
- Able to discuss the ingeniousness (or otherwise) of the narrative methods employed in the works selected for close reading, in particular the way(s) in which they convey through their formal qualities their peculiar aura of fear , terror and horror
- Capable of delivering personal aesthetic critiques of works of horror, both verbally and in writing

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Blanchot, Maurice. The Writing of the Disaster. Trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
- Briggs, Julia, Night Visitors: The Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story. London: Faber, 1977.
- Carroll, Noël. The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart. New York: Routledge, 1990.
- Cavaliero, Glen. The Supernatural and English Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
- Cooke, Jennifer. Legacies of Plague in Literature Theory and Film. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
- Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, The Work of Mourning and and the New International. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. New York: Routledge, 1994.
- Gamin, John. “The Interpretation of Dreams: Chaucer’s Early Poems, Literary Criticism and Literary Theory”. Chaucer’s Dream Visions and Shorter Poems. Ed. William A. Quinn. New York: Garland, 1999.
- Gelder, Ken.The Horror Reader. London: Routledge, 2000.
- Grixti, Joseph. Terrors of Uncertainty: The Cultural Contexts of Horror Fiction. London: Routledge, 1989.
- Grove, Robin. “Multiplying Villainies of Nature”. Focus on Macbeth. Ed. John Russell Brown. London: Routledge, 1982.
- Heller, Terry. The Delights of Terror: An Aesthetics of the Tale of Terror. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.
- Hills, Matthew. The Pleasures of Horror. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2005.
- Jemielity, Thomas. “‘Consummatum Est’: Alexander Pope’s 1743 Dunciad and Mock-Apocalypse”. More Solid Learning: New Perspectives on Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad. Ed., Catherine Ingrassia and Claudia Thomas. Lewisburg: Buknell University Press, 2000.
- Joshi, S.T. The Weird Tale. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.
- ----- The Modern Weird Tale. Jefferson: McFarland, 2001.
- ----- The Evolution of the Weird Tale. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2004.
- Lovecraft, H.P. Supernatural Horror in Literature. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2012.
- Lustig, T.J. Henry James and The Ghostly. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1994.
- MacAndrew, Elizabeth. The Gothic Tradition in Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.
- Mighall, Robert. A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction: Mapping History's Nightmares. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
- Punter, David. The Literature of Terror: The Gothic Tradition. 2nd. Vol 1. London: Longman, 1996.
- ------ The Literature of Terror: The Modern Gothic. 2nd. Vol 1. London: Longman, 1996.
- Rambuss, Richard M. “‘A Complicated Distress’: Narrativizing the Plague in Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year’”. Prose Studies 12.2 (1989): 115-31.
- Salomon, Roger B. Mazes of the Serpent: An Anatomy of Horror Narrative. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002.
- Schweitzer, Darrell (ed.). The Thomas Ligotti Reader. Wildside Press, 2003.
- Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. Trans. Richard Howard. Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (1 Hour) SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Saviour Catania
Kenneth Scicluna

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