English 40-1 - Spring, 2022

Introductory Topics in Literature


Class Information

Instructor: Mlekoday, Michael
CRN: 42012
Time: TR 1:40-3:00
Location: 1007 Giedt
GE Areas: Writing Experience


Gothic literature emerged in England in the mid-18th Century, in part as a reaction against the dominance of scientific rationalism. While the scientific imagination of the day believed in the power of reason to explain human behavior and the external world, the gothic challenged this perspective, focusing on the mysterious, the irrational, and the perverse. The gothic imagination explores the darker aspects of the human psyche and the chaos of the universe, magnifying the anxieties and desires that undergird rational modernity.

In the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, we have seen new struggles between reason and unreason: debates over evolution, responses to climate catastrophe, and how we deal with global pandemic. Many believe that scientific and technological advances, supported by political and economic policy shifts, represent our best hope to survive and thrive as a species. But this rationalistic perspective remains haunted by its inverse: irrationality, consuming desire, the perverse attraction to death.

Since its inception, gothic literature has dramatized political, social, and cultural anxieties. The gothic simultaneously speaks to fears of the Other and uncertainties about the self. Thus we will think intersectionally in our investigation of canonical and contemporary gothic texts. We will read with a particular interest in gender, race, empire, and the environment. Throughout these investigations, we will develop a keener understanding of how literature responds to historical and social contexts, and we will trace literary influence through the evolution and adaptations of an aesthetic mode.


Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
The Devourers, Indra Das
Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Swamp Thing: Becoming, Ram V
Stone Animals, Kelly Link
Harvest, Rebecca Roanhorse