Gothic Evolutions: Literature and Visual Culture (EAS3229)

StaffDr Corinna Wagner - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will explore how behind these rather momentous questions, the gothic has raised, and continues to raise, some fearful spectres: the unknown, the other, authority, power, tyranny, sexuality, desire and human monstrosity. All these issues are related in some way to the question: what does it mean to be human in the modern world? Where are the borders of the human? As we will see in this module, the gothic continues to provide writers and cultural commentators with the tools and tropes to explore important questions related to modernity, human nature and human identity. In this module, we will engage in close textual analysis of some of the more canonical literary texts but also some lesser known works, as well as visual art. We will structure our study by focusing on the evolution of three key gothic figures: the female seductress, the scientifically-created monster, the vampire. At each point, we will situate our reading within a broader historical and theoretical context.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge about the historical contexts that gave rise to this particular literary and artistic genre;
  • 2. demonstrate a critical understanding of some of the key themes, topics and debates that emerge in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century gothic texts;
  • 3. engage in significant critical debates surrounding such issues as gender, political rights, the nature of the human, the relationship between mind and body, questions of justice and questions related to scientific and technological progress;
  • 4. make links between the above issues and the cultural production of various forms of neo-gothic expression;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse the literature, art and film of an earlier era and culture and to relate aesthetic concerns and modes of expression to its historical context;
  • 6. demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history;
  • 7. demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary and visual texts;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 9. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 10. through research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan

1. Art viewing: Goya, Fuseli, Friedrich, Blake, etc;
I. Human Nature, Domesticity and the Family
2. Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya; Contextual reading: excerpts from: John Locke, Essay
3. ETA Hoffmann, ‘The Sandman;’ Freud, ‘The Uncanny’ (all ELE); William Godwin ‘On Marriage’
Ii. The Vampire: Contagion, Decadence, Difference
4. Bram Stoker, Dracula
5. Context: Max Nordau, Degeneration and Cesare Lombroso, Criminal Man & The Female Offender; Theory: from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men
6. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber; Theory: excerpt from Judith Butler, excerpts from Bodies that Matter; Gender Trouble
7. Film viewing, Let the Right One In
III. Science and the Monstrous
8. Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
9. Frederick Treves, The Elephant Man (ELE)
10. HG Wells, The Island Of Dr Moreau, Dr Corinna Wagner
IV. Re-visions: The Enduring Legacy of the Gothic
11. Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dr Paul Williams

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities33Seminars
Guided Independant33Study Group Preperations and meetings)
Guided Independant70Seminar Preperation (individual)
Guided Independant164Reading, research and essay preperation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation1515 minutes1-8, 11 Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Essay352000 words1-7, 9-10 Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Essay503000 words1-7, 9-10 Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation1000 word Essay1-7, 9-10Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-7, 9-10Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-7, 9-10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading:

Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya (Broadview)

Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Broadview)

H G Wells, The Island of Dr Moreau (Broadview)

Bram Stoker, Dracula (Broadview)

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (Vintage)

Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


Secondary Reading: 

Botting, Fred, Gothic (Routledge, 1996)

Bruhm, Steven, Gothic Bodies (Pennsylvania UP, 1994)

Miles, Robert, Gothic Writing, 1750-1820, 2nd ed. (Manchester, 2002)

Fay, Elizabeth, Romantic Medievalism (Palgrave, 2002)

Halberstam, Judith, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke, 1995)

A Companion to the Gothic (ed.) David Punter (Blackwell, 2004)

Mighall, Rober, A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction: Mapping History's Nightmares (OUP, 2003)

Spooner, Catherine, Fashioning Gothic Bodies (Manchester, 2004)

Watt, James, Contesting the Gothic (Cambridge, 1999)

Wright, Angela, Gothic Fiction (Palgrave, 2007)

Gothic Studies (Journal of the International Gothic Association)

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Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Gothic, literature, film, visual culture