BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Gothic: Politics, Sexuality and Identity in Early Gothic Writing

Unit code ENGL30071
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course aims to provide students with an understanding of a significant and influential literary genre within a broad historical and geographical context—from the UK and Europe to the U.S. and the Caribbean, focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Gothic was an exceedingly popular form within the fiction and poetry in Britain and on the continent particularly during the 1790s and was associated with excess, French revolutionary rebellion, sexual license and lawlessness. Before long, U.S. and Caribbean writers revised those themes and narrative strategies in order to help them think through racial and gender violence resulting from British and European colonialism and slavery in the West Indies. Throughout the transatlantic nineteenth century, elements of the genre persisted, undergoing various metamorphoses. The theatrical and fantastic elements of the Gothic were intriguingly explored by women and BAME writers and gave shape to what nineteenth-century cultures rendered transgressive or monstrous.


  • To increase students' knowledge and awareness of the Gothic within a literary historical context
  • To broaden and deepen students' critical and theoretical skills in reading and understanding complex texts;
  • To strengthen students' analytical ability to construct a literary argument using textual evidence;
  • To improve both the oral presentation skills and the quality of students' written prose.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have:

  • Acquired a deeper knowledge of the history of the Gothic as a literary form and register within nineteenth-century British literature and a theoretical awareness of the literary practice involved in writing within this form;
  • Improved their ability to mount a cogent argument using evidence and to present a persuasive case with rhetorical force.



NOTE: If you’d like to get ahead on the reading, I’d suggest purchasing Radcliffe’s The Italian (Oxford World’s Classics edition) and reading it over the winter break; it’s the longest novel we’ll read–and a wild ride.


WEEK 1:  Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (Oxford)

WEEK 2:  E. T. A. Hoffmann. The Sandman (PDF); Sigmund Freud. The Uncanny (PDF)

WEEK 3:  Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (Oxford)


WEEK 4:  S. T. Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel (PDF)

WEEK 5:  John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”, [Letter on life as a “large Mansion of Many Apartments”; Lord Byron, Manfred (PDF)

WEEK 6:  Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Norton Critical Edition)


WEEK 7:  Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland (Oxford)

WEEK 8:  James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Oxford)

WEEK 9:  Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” (PDF); Edgar Allan Poe, “William Wilson” (PDF)


WEEK 10:  Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, Póstumo el envirginiado (PDF in English)

WEEK 11:  Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (Norton Critical)

Teaching and learning methods

One 1-hour lecture, plus one 2-hour seminar per week

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

One general essay of 3,000 words (40%);

one 2-hour unseen written examination with two questions (40%);

one in-class group presentation of about 15 minutes, 2 or 3 students per group (10%);

participation (10%-- please note that the participation mark includes participation in an essay workshop in the week prior to the essay deadline).

Feedback methods

Written and face-to-face (upon arrangement)

Recommended reading

Indicative Reading List
Please contact the course unit director to confirm specific texts for next year

Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (Oxford)

Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (Oxford)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Norton Critical)

Victor Séjour, ‘Le Mulâtre’

Leonora Sansay, Secret History; Or, the Horrors of St. Domingo (Broadview)

James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Oxford)

Herbert G. De Lisser, The White Witch of Rose Hall (Macmillan Caribbean)

Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching (Picador)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emily Rohrbach Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Timetable for 2019/20:

Lecture: Mon 5pm - 6pm

Seminar 1: Tue 12pm - 2pm

Seminar 2: Tue 4pm - 6pm

Return to course details