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Topics in Victorian Literature

19th Century Gothic Literature

The Vampire, Burne-Jones' most famous work (1897)

This course will look at the evolution of British Gothic fiction across the nineteenth century. We will start with a discussion of early Gothic literature, differentiating between terror and horror (the Schauer-Romantik school), and then consider how the Gothic and science fiction come together in Mary Shelley’s iconic Frankenstein. We will look at how Gothic conventions were popularized by the penny dreadfuls and then became mainstream through a sampling of fiction by the Brontë sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Braddon. We will look at the queer Gothic and the rise of sexual anxiety in the latter half of the century – through discussion of works by JS Le Fanu (Carmilla), R.L. Stevenson (Jekyll and Jyde), and Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray). We will also use these texts to build towards a conversation on the Imperial Gothic in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Florence Marryat’s The Blood of the Vampire, and we will conclude the course with a discussion of the Gothic at the fin de siècle in short fiction by Aesthetes and Decadents. Throughout the course we will consider how Gothic fiction participates in a changing social and political landscape (including nineteenth-century anxieties around science, Empire, history, and changing gender roles), and we will look at the genre’s legacy through reference to modern horror (eg. Slasher films, fear of contagion, and body horror).   




  • ENGL 200
  • ENGL 290

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.