English 149 - Winter, 2023

Topics in Literature

Topic: From Greek Tragedy to Modern Horror

Class Information

Instructor: Connally, Kenneth
CRN: 23441
Time: TR 3:10-4:30
Location: 1283 Grove
GE Areas: Writing Experience


Studies of horror fiction generally begin with the rise of Gothic fiction in the late eighteenth century. Yet, while many definitions of the horror genre exist, all would seem to include the tendency to provoke fear in the reader, and Aristotle famously defined the "tragic emotions" as pity and fear. This course will explore the possibility of tracing the roots of modern horror fiction beyond the Gothic, to the tradition of tragic drama that goes back to ancient Greece. In the first half of the course, we will follow the course of tragedy from antiquity to Shakespeare. In the second half, we will read some of the key works of horror fiction from the eighteenth century to the present, with a focus on techniques and concerns the genre shares with classical and Shakespearean tragedy. Themes we will return to throughout the course include motherhood, domestic dysfunction, the haunting presence of the past, and fate.


Student-Led Discussion: 5%
Reading Quizzes: 10%
Midterm: 15%
Final Exam: 20%
Short Essays & Revisions: 20%
Term Paper: 30%


The Oresteia, Aeschylus
Course Reader (with selections from Aristotle, Seneca, Burke, Radcliffe, Poe, Gilman, Reed, Lovecraft, Jemisin, and others)
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
The Monk, Matthew Gregory Lewis
Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare