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Foundation Seminar ENGL90
The Gothic

Few people realize that there is any connection at all between the great medieval French cathedrals of Chartres and Mont St. Michel, the neoclassical landscapes and fake ruins of William Kent and Capability Brown, the paintings of Salvatore Rosa and Francisco Goya, the classic horror stories of Frankenstein and Dracula, the films of director David Lynch, the postmodern theories of Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard, and the goth pop artists Poppy Z. Brite and The Cure! What connects them is something called “gothic,” a term that has had many embodiments and meanings over the last one thousand years, but which came into its own in the Enlightenment, and still has a life of its own. You probably know some goths; you might even be one yourself!

In general the gothic might be said to invoke a universal fascination with human transgression, retribution and salvation – or the absence thereof. The gothic has generally been a versatile mode of imagination, usually coming into existence in response to moments of high cultural achievement and confidence, by inventing visions of dystopia – invoking terror, mystery, despair, malignity, human smallness and isolation – all of which have, since the “gothic revival” in the seventeenth century, gratified, chilled or distressed consumers of paintings, ornaments, buildings, literature, cinema, music and clothes.

This course will sketch in some of the main formal and historic characteristics of the gothic, from medieval times to the present. But it will focus on the high water marks of the gothic revival in the European Enlightenment and its main transformations in the culture of modern Britain and America. It will thereby hope to teach you something about the past, the present, and about readings texts of different kinds, whether linguistic, pictorial, or filmic. Our material will come from fictions, paintings, architecture, film, theory, and music. The course will center on our discussions of required texts, incorporate small group and independent research work, and involve various forms of writing and presentations.

INSTRUCTOR: Greg Clingham

This course fulfills the following requirements:

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