UPDATED NOV 16, 2020



Gothic Literature and Visual Culture

English 3407 Section O628

Instructor: Professor Sean Scanlan

Prerequisite: ENG 1121 or any 2000 level literature class


Day/Time/Place: Monday and Wednesday 11:30 – 12:15 on Zoom

Office Hours: Mondays 2-3pm and Thursdays 11am-12; Zoom link TBA

Email: sscanlan@citytech.cuny.edu

Office Phone: 718-260-5123


Course Website: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/profscanlan-english3407-gothic-fall2020/


American fiction has been “bewilderingly and embarrassingly, a gothic fiction, nonrealistic and negative, sadist and melodramatic—a literature of darkness and the grotesque in a land of light and affirmation.”


Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel, 1960


“And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of Perverseness. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart—one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?


Edgar Allen Poe, “The Black Cat,” 1843



Course Description:

THE PURPOSE OF THIS COURSE is to gain a better understanding of the popular genre of gothic literature and visual culture as it was developed and practiced in Great Britain and the US starting during the late-eighteenth-century and as it continues today. Three subjects usually inform what is considered the gothic: suspense, mystery, and terror. But in this class, we will push against these subjects and investigate three more subjects: sexual identity, imagination, and the uncanny. Gothic literature made these subjects strange, outside the norm; in a word, the gothic made things queer. Fundamental to our class will be the idea that the gothic is more than simply strange; it is a transgressive and provocative sort of strange.

The gothic genre enabled a new type of reading: it created a new imaginative space in which to consider not only dreams and nightmares, but also fantasies of alternate identities. It was possible to imagine scenarios, actions, and places outside of daily life. To better consider these strange desires and fantasies, we will examine how the gothic came about, especially its medieval, romantic, and British roots.

Our class experience will be varied. We will examine old and new gothic texts, images, spaces, and film, and we will discuss our readings in a participatory class setting where feelings and imaginations will be taken seriously. We will examine gothic, uncanny, and queer ideas in order to question what we know about different ethnic identities and different regional identities. Towards the end of the semester, we will question the role of vampires and zombies within the gothic genre.


Student Learning Outcomes: By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the various features and subtleties associated with Gothic Literature in the primarily Romantic and Victorian traditions, in both Great Britain and the United States.
  • Analyze and synthesize the common tropes typically associated with Gothic Literature as well as their parodies.
  • Recognize and identify the role of architecture and setting as primary modes in the genre.
  • Articulate the influence of Gothic Literature and rhetoric in popular culture fiction and film.
  • Appreciate the relationship between the gothic and the uncanny as it played out historically as well as how it is discussed in contemporary American culture.
  • Apply gothic frames of reference to complicate and better understand differences in identities, ethnicities, and sexualities.
  • Identify the basic similarities and differences among the major media types that feature gothic representations such as film, television, poetry, fiction, and graphic novels.
  • Develop a vocabulary that consists of key terms such as the sublime, romanticism, the fantastic, and the grotesque in order to describe the gothic effectively in the context of academic writing and class discussion.
  • Draft and revise for content, organization, style, clarity, and emphasis.
  • Work with peers to research and present material in a variety of situations, both oral and written.
  • Gather, interpret, and evaluate sources for research essays on gothic literature and visual culture.


Required Books: All reading material will freely available on our website


Other Materials:

You must devise a system to record, store, and organize the course materials. It is very important that you save all your work for this class. Devise a filing system that allows you to maintain prior drafts and final copies of all major assignments, as well as your research notes, outlines, and written evaluations. In addition to keeping a copy of your work on the hard drive of your computer, save all final drafts of assignments on a stable format such as a flash drive or on a remote hard drive/server such as iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Docs. Never throw away or delete drafts or notes until after you have received your final grade. Computer/Printer malfunctions are not viable excuses for late or lost work.



  • Gothic Coffeehouse (6 journal responses)  15%
  • Reading Quizzes (3)                                                  10%
  • Gothic Spaces Presentation                                10%
  • 2 Essays (5-7 pages each)                                     40%
  • Final Exam                                                                    10%
  • Participation (includes Weekly Goth)         15%

Total: 100%

(Participation includes attendance, in class (Zoom) discussion, short in class and homework assignments, and peer reviewing.)




1–Attendance: Please make an effort to attend every class and please join the Zoom on time. Do not join the Zoom and then leave to do other things. I will ask questions and expect responses. Attendance is tied to participation.

2–Drafts and Typing: The two major essays will require organization, honesty, and clarity. The essays may require drafts. If you have word processing questions, please ask me. All City Tech students have access to Microsoft Word. You can also use Google Docs for free (https://docs.google.com/) or Open Office for free (www.openoffice.org/).

3–Assignments and Grading: Completing all the required elements in good order and form constitutes the average, or a C. To raise your grade above this average, you will need to invest your time, talents, and energies to add insightful commentary, sound argumentative reasoning, and show initiative in your approach to scholarship. I recommend that you make an appointment to see me if you receive a grade of C- or lower.

There will be times when your expectations and my evaluation do not match. I am always willing to explain my comments on your assignments, and to discuss ways in which your work might benefit from additional effort. Lower grades most often result from misunderstanding the assignment goals, and from insufficiently realized or poor executions of these goals. I do not grade beliefs or values. If you are unhappy with a grade, or unsure as to why you received such a response to your work, please make an appointment to see me.

4–UPDATED: Late Papers and homework:  ****Note: If you need to turn in any work this semester, no matter how late, please email me so we can set up a timeline for submission.  Late Papers: For each day that an assignment is late, one full letter grade will be deducted (5 days = 0).

5–College Policy on Academic Integrity: “Students who work with information, ideas, and texts owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in CUNY and at New York City College of Technology, and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion. The complete text of the College policy on Academic Integrity may be found in the catalog.”

Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own. The following are some examples of plagiarism, but by no means is it an exhaustive list: • Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their source. • Presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the source. • Using information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the source. • Failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments.

6–Be on time: tardiness disrupts the entire class. Come prepared: turn off/silence all gadgets, please. There may be times when we discuss the role of digital technologies as a tool for learning and instructions, but, as a general rule, if you are on your phone/tablet/device without permission and without regard for the classroom activity, you will be asked to put your device away. Each time a student is asked to put away a device, he or she will have their overall participation grade lowered by 5 points (participation is worth 15%).

7–The Atrium Learning Center: I encourage all students to take advantage of the writing tutors at the Learning Center. This is an excellent recourse for writers of all abilities. ATRIUM LEARNING CENTER: Atrium Building LG-18: https://www.citytech.cuny.edu/alc/writing.aspx

UPDATE: The English Department is running a new Writing Center. It is open for distance learning help concerning writing and                 literature. Students needing writing help should email CityTechWritingCenter@gmail.com, and they will receive a fast                                   response.

8–Revision Policy: Revision Policy: students may revise the first major essay. The revision must be submitted, at the latest, two weeks before the end of the semester (Dec. 9). The overall grade for the essay will be the average of the original essay grade and the revised essay grade.

9–Accessibility Statement: City Tech is committed to supporting the educational goals of enrolled students with disabilities in the areas of enrollment, academic advisement, tutoring, assistive technologies and testing accommodations. If you have or think you may have a disability, you may be eligible for reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments as provided under applicable federal, state and city laws. You may also request services for temporary conditions or medical issues under certain circumstances. If you have questions about your eligibility or would like to seek accommodation services or academic adjustments, please contact the Center for Student Accessibility at 300 Jay Street, L-237, 718 260 5143 or http://www.citytech.cuny.edu/accessibility/.