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Poe Talks to Freud: Theories of Horror & the 19th Century Gothic

Renée Faubion,                                          

Core: Humanities

Course Description

Ever wonder why we shudder when we see our own blood? Or why the dark seems full of demons—even when we know it isn’t—and why we feel they are coming for us? This seminar sets out to explore these questions by considering nineteenth-century gothic narratives against the history of theories of horror drawn from philosophy, aesthetics, and psychology. Thinkers from the last 275 years, including Edmund Burke, Sigmund Freud, and Julia Kristeva will provide a context for our reading of horror tales as we try to understand how such tales endeavor to terrify us.

We will also look at key developments in the culture of the nineteenth century (notably, colonization, “race” theory, gender roles, and evolution) to help us understand how those events participated in the development of horror narratives. Ultimately, our goal this semester will be to dissect the illicit pleasure of the horror story to understand how nineteenth-century Anglo-Americans translated their desires and anxieties about their changing world into literary texts.

Readings and Texts

Shelley, Frankenstein
Hogg, Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Le Fanu,Carmilla
Stoker, Dracula
Short stories by Gilman, a three-week unit on Poe’s work, and essays by a variety of theorists

Student Requirements

A few short homework assignments; a mid-semester analytic essay; a final research project (including a proposal and annotated bibliography leading to a research essay OR a combined project including both an essay and a non-traditional element such as the writing of an original short story); co-facilitation of one session using secondary sources to help guide discussion to a research essay (may also include the completion of a non-traditional project as part of this component); co-facilitation of one session using secondary sources to help guide discussion.

About the Instructor

After receiving degrees in Russian from Trinity University and the University of Kansas, Renée Faubion earned a second M.A. and a Ph.D. in English at UNM. She has published work on Tim O'Brien and on H.D. and has won four awards for excellence in teaching.