Classic American Gothic

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Module code


  • Level 1 – 10 credit module
  • Semester 1
  • 24 places
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • Tuesday evening

Classic American Gothic surveys the ways in which American Gothic has emerged out of earlier traditions and tendencies from Europe, and how it breaks from earlier movements. Students will be introduced to some of the central aesthetics and themes of American Gothic and will examine how social and cultural concerns have evolved the genre.

The lectures will introduce students to themes and motifs such as puritanism, guilt, the haunted house, ghosts, and monsters, which will be examined in prominent examples such as ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, The Haunting of Hill House, and selected works from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edger Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. Students will complete two pieces of coursework: one close reading study and one essay on a text of their choice.


Hope Roulstone


  • Close reading essay (40%)
  • Critical essay (60%)

Module Aims

  • To provide students with the key skills required to undertake an undergraduate degree in the Humanities
  • To increase students’ knowledge of Gothic writing by American authors from the eighteenth through to the twentieth centuries
  • To consider the works of various American writers in their literary and cultural contexts
  • To explore what is meant by the term 'Gothic' and ‘Horror’ how they can be defined from a largely American understanding
  • To examine how American Gothic has evolved and how social and cultural concerns can be explored through Gothic and Horror fiction

Intended learning outcomes

  • Students should be able to develop the critical thinking and writing skills to prepare them for further study at undergraduate level
  • Students should show an ability to engage critically with a representative range of writing from the eighteenth to twenty-first centuries
  • Students should indicate an understanding of some of the central aesthetics and themes of Gothic and Horror fiction
  • Students should demonstrate some knowledge of critical developments that have influenced the interpretation of American Gothic and Horror fiction
  • Students should develop some understanding of the cultural contexts which shaped American Gothic and Horror fiction from several periods
  • Students should demonstrate an ability to use relevant critical and digital resources in preparing written work