The Gothic Tradition module (EN42029)

A critical survey of Gothic literature produced before 1900

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This module surveys gothic fiction (novels, novellas, and short stories) produced before 1900 in England, Scotland, Ireland, America, and other countries.

We’ll cover a range of influential writers in the Romantic and Victorian periods, beginning in the 1760s and ending in the late 1890s.

Studying the gothic tradition encourages us to address perennial concerns for humanity, whether it’s life and death, love and hate, faith and doubt, or the functions and figurations of our bodies and souls.

Above all, what does it mean to be human in an increasingly unfamiliar world, and does gothic literature create or uncover monstrosity?

The texts you will study include:

  • Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764)
  • Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796)
  • Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (1797)
  • Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya (1806)
  • John Polidori, The Vampyre (1819)
  • Uriah Derick D'Arcy, The Black Vampyre (1819)
  • James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
  • Florence Marryat, The Blood of the Vampire (1897)
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)
  • Selected short stories by Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, R. L. Stevenson, Charlotte Riddell, Arthur Machen, and Margaret Oliphant

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • examine the persistence of major figures in this period, such as the vampire and the mummy
  • examine the use of the supernatural in storytelling
  • distinguish between horror and terror
  • consider related genres, from science fiction to weird fiction

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of influential gothic works of fiction
  • apply key knowledge of literary movements and fashions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
  • explore the impact of the gothic tradition on modern literature, art, and culture
  • identify important literary tropes and themes

Assignments / assessment

  • first essay - 3,500 words (50%)
  • second essay - 3,500 words (50%)

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

This module comprises a weekly lecture followed by a two-hour seminar for group discussion.


This module is available on following courses: