ANG6150 Victorian Literature
Fall 2001

Victorian Gothic: Ghosts, Sex, and the Fin de Siècle

Students will consider the Victorian legacy of the Romantic Gothic. We will read five novels, several poems, and selected short stories published between 1827 and 1897. The emphasis will be on developing a better appreciation of the diversity of writings present within the Gothic genre, as well as the fluidity of this genre. We will start by outlining what ‘Gothic’ meant at the beginning of the Victorian era, principally following the peak in popularity of the genre between 1764 and 1820. We will then read several Gothic tales written between 1827 and 1888 to get a sense of the avid interest of the Victorian reading audience in ghost and monster stories. Similarly, poems by Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Lord Tennyson are set in a Gothic environment where the supernatural mixes with the real world; these poems attest to the far-reaching presence of Gothic themes and motifs in poetry as well as in novels. For instance, Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret cleverly use several tropes commonly associated with the Gothic (primarily in the landscape, the bleak ambience, and dark characters) in their novels.

Another element associated with the Gothic genre since the (in)famous success of Matthew Lewis’ The Monk is the ambiguous sexual undertone present throughout the story. This sexual tension manifests itself explicitly in the last three novels of this course: Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Stoker’s Dracula. We will discuss the discrepancy between Victorian sexual values and the subtexts of these works, and how the authors reconcile this apparent transgression.

The spirit that was characteristic of the Victorian fin de siècle will be the subject of two class meetings, when we will consider the socio-political repercussions of this unique moment. In the final session, we will undertake to reflect on the various expressions of the Gothic genre studied throughout the semester, and to bring to a close our study of Victorian Gothic by considering its contemporary legacy in the hit Hollywood film The Sixth Sense, and the popular TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Screenings of films related to the course will take place throughout the semester. The films shown will be: Kominsky’s 1992 Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Flemming’s 1941 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,Lewin’s 1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray, Coppola’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Kuzui’s 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Shyamalan’s 1999 Sixth Sense.

Required Texts:

  • Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847) (Oxford World’s Classics, edited by  Patsy Stoneman) ISBN 0192833545.
  • Mary E. Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1863) (Penguin Classics, edited by Jane Bourne Taylor) ISBN 0140435840.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) (Broadview Literary Text, edited by Martin A. Danahay). ISBN 1551112450.
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) (Oxford World’s Classics, edited by Isobel Murray). ISBN 0192833650.
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897) (Broadview Literary Text, edited by Glennis Byron). ISBN 1551111365.
  • Poetry: Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market”; Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “The Orchard Pit”; Lord Tennyson’s “Mariana” and “The Lady of Shalott” [to be provided in course packet]
  • Tales: Henry Thomson’s “Le Revenant”; Michael Scott, “Heat and Thirst,—A Scene in Jamaica”; William Godwin the Younger, “The Executioner”; Mary Molesworth, “The Shadow in the Moonlight”; J. H. Riddell, “The Last of Squire Ennismore”; J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Carmilla” [to be provided in course packet]


  • First Seminar Presentation (on a critical essay) – 15%
    • Critical readings will be included in a reader to accompany our weekly discussion of the works under consideration. Students will be asked to do a fifteen-minute presentation on one critical essay of their choice (from the course packet); the presentation will consist of an outline of the critical approach chosen by the author and its usefulness for a reading of the text studied. Students are thus encouraged to develop their skills at public presentations, as well as in the critical interpretation of secondary criticism.
  • Second Seminar Presentation (on one of the texts under consideration) – 15%
  • First Essay (revised version of second seminar presentation) – 20%
  • Second essay – 40%
  • Participation in Seminar discussion – 10%

This content has been updated on January 4, 2020 at 21 h 46 min.