ENG 3407-O628—Gothic Literature and Visual Culture (Fall 2022)

Capstone, Writing Intensive, Creative Expression

Prerequisite: ENG 1121 or any 2000-level literature course (ENG, AFR, PRS)

Professor Laura Westengard (she/they)

Email: lwestengard@citytech.cuny.edu

Office Hours: Mondays 11:30 am-12:30 pm (Namm 503), Thursdays 10:00 am-11:00 am (Zoom) and by appointment (Zoom)

Asynchronous: This course is online and asynchronous, which means that there is not a scheduled time to meet as a class. However, there are deadlines for reviewing course materials, completing assignments, and contributing to class discussion, which is done on our course site (Gothic Literature and Visual Culture, Fall 2022) on City Tech’s OpenLab. See the course schedule for deadlines and other requirements for the semester.

Course Description:

In the eighteenth century, the Gothic genre emerged to enable a new type of reading and thinking about what it means to be human: it created a new imaginative space in which to consider not only dreams and nightmares, but also fantasies of alternate identities. It was possible, through the Gothic, to imagine vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other types of monsters that reflect and mutate human desires.

The purpose of this course is to gain a better understanding of the popular genre of the Gothic as it was developed and practiced in the late-eighteenth century and through to today in a variety of cultural contexts. An important foundation to this class is the idea that the Gothic is more than simply mysterious or strange; it is a transgressive and provocative sort of strange.

The course will focus on key concepts such as horror, haunting, madness, monsters, and the undead, concepts that serve as entry points to theories such as the uncanny, queerness, and the sublime. Students will critically read, analyze, and write about the ways that the Gothic questions what it means to be normal or accepted. The class will learn about and practice using tools for reading, interpreting, and critically responding to fiction, film, poetry, and other cultural manifestations of the Gothic. In addition, students will participate in conversations about contemporary American identities and also engage in experiential learning through field trips to Gothic architectural spaces.

This is a writing intensive course, which requires a minimum of fifteen pages of writing per student (including a mix of formal and informal writing assignments).

Required Texts:

This class will use free resources, so you will not be required to purchase any textbooks. Instead, all class readings will be listed on the course schedule and made available on our OpenLab site (Gothic Literature and Visual Culture, Fall 2022). It is your responsibility to download, read, and annotate all assigned texts by the due dates noted in the course schedule.

Assignments and Grading:

  • Weekly Critical Response Blogs: 30%
    • Each week I will post a blog prompt and you will complete a blog post that responds to this prompt. This should be an opportunity for you to reflect on the themes and concepts that you found interesting and/or challenging in the week’s reading and to discuss those thoughts with your classmates. Each post must be 250 words, minimum, and it should fully and thoughtfully respond to the prompt. Each week, you also must respectfully and thoughtfully respond to at least one other blog post. Initial posts must be completed by Thursday at 11:59 pm each week. Response posts must be completed each week by Friday at 11:59 pm. Do not wait until the last minute to post!
  • 3 Formal Essays (20% each): 60%
  • Accountability Assignments : 10%
    • Each week you will have a short assignment to complete after doing the posted tasks (reading, watching lectures, etc.). These assignments are designed to show me that you have completed the work and to motivate you to do it!

All essay assignments should follow MLA format. This means that all rough and final drafts must be typed, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins all around, in 12-point Times New Roman font. The first page must display student’s name, your teacher’s name (Professor Laura Westengard), the class you are in, and the date the paper is due. Every paper should have an original title. I recommend that you obtain a writing handbook for the purposes of formatting and editing your work. You may have one from an earlier writing course, or you can use the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/.

I do not accept late assignment submissions. All essays, critical response blogs, and accountability assignments must be submitted by the deadline, or you will get no credit for them. If you have a personal emergency or other circumstances that prohibit you from finishing your assignment on time or turning in an essay as scheduled, email or see me as soon as possible so we can discuss your situation.

Since writing is a process, you should draft and revise each of your formal essays before submitting the final draft. While I will not review an entire essay draft via email attachment, I’m happy to conference with you about your essay drafts and ideas in detail during my office hours. I am also happy to respond to specific questions via email. Feel free to consult with me at any stage in your writing process. In addition to this, you may choose to revise one essay for a new grade. To do this, you must discuss your revision plan with me during my office hours and submit your revision by December 16, 2022.


This course will use OpenLab. You will be asked to complete assignments and contribute to other course related activities on the course OpenLab site. You must sign up for an OpenLab account, participate in activities, and check the site daily because important instructions for completing assignments, as well as class announcements, will appear there.

To set up your OpenLab account, you must activate your City Tech email. I will only send or reply to email from your City Tech email address, so make sure you set it up early and check it regularly.

Course Meetings:

This is a fully online, asynchronous course, which means that we do not have any class meetings. However, you will have assignments with deadlines to complete each week. It is important that you complete your assignments on time each week since this will be how I track your participation/attendance for the class. Remember, I don’t accept late assignments, so each missed deadline will impact your grade in the class.

I will post each week’s assignments on OpenLab, and the overall plan for the semester is outlined in the course schedule. There may be periodic changes and adjustments to the course schedule, so the most accurate and up-to-date source for information on assignments is the OpenLab announcements page.

Since we will be covering topics such as race, gender, class, and sexuality in this class, it is imperative that our virtual classroom is a space of respectful and engaged discussion. Please come to class with an open mind and a desire to learn about identities, cultures, times, and places that are unfamiliar to you. Also, please know that many of the topics we will read about and discuss include perspectives on violence, sexuality, and other topics that may be uncomfortable for some class members.

If you find any of the class material to be excessively uncomfortable, be sure to speak with me privately about your feelings and reactions. I also encourage you to take advantage of City Tech’s support resources by visiting the Counseling Center. They can help you process difficult course materials, address personal topics, and offer support for college-related stress.

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, you can leave a voicemail at 718-260-5143, send an email to: Accessibility@citytech.cuny.edu, or visit the Center’s website at http://www.citytech.cuny.edu/accessibility/ for more information.

Diversity and Inclusion Statement:

This course welcomes students from all backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. In accordance with the City Tech and CUNY missions, this course intends to provide an atmosphere of inclusion, respect, and the mutual appreciation of differences so that together we can create an environment in which all students can flourish. It is the instructor’s goal to provide materials and activities that are welcoming and accommodating of diversity in all of its forms, including race, gender identity and presentation, ethnicity, national origin, religion, cultural identity, socioeconomic background, sexuality and sexual orientation, ability, neurodivergence, age, and etc. Your instructor is committed to equity and actively seeks ways to challenge institutional racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of prejudice. Your input is encouraged and appreciated. If a dynamic that you observe or experience in the course concerns you, you may respectfully inform your instructor without fear of how your concerns will affect your grade. Let your instructor know how to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally, or for other students or student groups. We acknowledge that NYCCT is located on the traditional homelands of the Canarsie and Lenape peoples.


Academic Integrity:

Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions, and other intellectual property 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 The City University of New York 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.

Learning Outcomes:

Course-Specific 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 has 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, the romantic, 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.

General Education Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Gather, interpret, and assess information from a variety of sources and points of view.
  • Evaluate evidence and arguments critically or analytically.
  • Produce well-reasoned written or oral arguments using evidence to support conclusions.

Common Core Learning Outcomes—Creative Expression

  • Identify and apply the fundamental concepts and methods of a discipline or interdisciplinary field exploring creative expression, including, but not limited to, arts, communications, creative writing, media arts, music, and theater.
  • Analyze how arts from diverse cultures of the past serve as a foundation for those of the present and describe the significance of works of art in the societies that created them.
  • Articulate how meaning is created in the arts or communications and how experience is interpreted and conveyed.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the skills involved in the creative process.
  • Use appropriate technologies to conduct research and to communicate.
Print this page