“So as to give them courage we must teach people to be shocked by themselves.”

Final Essay (HUM220)

Read the prompts very carefully. If you have any questions about the prompt, please direct them to this post.

Both of the prompts listed below should focus on the central question of how specific gothic materials and conventions are used by an author to explore/criticize/defend cultural values. Formulate a specific thesis statement and prove it with the text. Vague generalities will not be sufficient.

  1. The Black Spider. Identify specific narrative elements of this short novel and explain how they work to impart a moral education to the reader. You should have a total understanding of The Black Spider’s structure: a) its use of framing and embedded narratives and b) the overall plot and its most significant events. As with your first essay, you should also pay close attention to the symbolic dimensions of character, imagery, and diction.
  2. The Haunting of Hill House. Jackson’s novel represents an effort on the author’s part to unravel/trouble/criticize cultural values pertaining to sexuality and gender. What are these values? How are they treated? What specific narrative elements and particular gothic tropes does the novel use to do this work? What are the ultimate results? Email me a polished, 250 word paper proposal by Dec. 4 if you would like to pursue this prompt.

Consult the Paper Guidelines page for further instructions. Your final essay is due to ilearn by 9 am December 14. You are NOT required to turn in a hard copy. No late papers will be accepted under any circumstances barring a documented, life-altering emergency.

Final Essay (HUM415)

If you have any questions about the final paper, please direct them to this post.

Choose one of the novels. Your goal is to produce a thoughtful, creative, and informed ideology critique of your chosen text. To do this you will need to

  1. research your novel AND
  2. use at least three of the theoretical readings we’ve discussed this semester.

Notably, the novel itself functions as a kind of critique. In other words, in telling a story (in constructing a storyworld, creating characters, and inventing and organizing events in the form of a plot) the novel constitutes an effort to describe and criticize the society in which it was made.

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Spring Readings for HUM303

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899) 9780141441672

Like chattel slavery, colonialism is Gothic in the extreme. In projecting his own shadows onto the African landscape, the European is ultimately imprisoned by that which he attempts to master.

Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya, or The Moor (1806) 9780199549733

A Terror Novel written at the time of the Haitian Revolution. Incest, murder, supernatural evil, and miscegenation.

Nick Groom, The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction 9780199586790

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) 9780140437959

Jacobs is working in the vein of the Gothic Romance, influenced by a subgenre established by Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Thierry Jonquet, Mygale (1995) 9780872864092

A roman noir that slips into the nightmare territory of involuntary surgery and subterranean imprisonment.

Franz Kafka, The Castle (1922) 9780805211061

Kafka uses a core image and setting of the Gothic to explore the centerlessness of modernity.

Considered and deferred:

RL Stevenson, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca

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My Spring semester has already begun. I’m formulating reading lists for my courses, which is always an obsessive pursuit: do I pick Matthew Lewis’s notorious The Monk or Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya? What about a Gothic Romance? Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is clearly some kind of apotheosis of the modern Gothic, but perhaps Wuthering Heights is of greater historical interest? Hasn’t everyone already read Wuthering Heights? Why do I keep assuming anything at all about what students have read? What happens when heights wuther?

Ideally, a Humanities course on the Gothic would cast a wide net, encompassing not only canonical texts but pushing to the limits of the Gothic. Loosely construed, the Gothic could include novels, poems (“Christabel” or “The Goblin Market”), music, painting, architecture, gardening, and film over the course of, say, half a millenium and across several continents– Europe, obviously, and Asia and America, though Africa presents a problem.* It all depends on what we mean by the term itself, and formulating a viable definition relies, in turn, on how we use categories such as genre, mode, style, and discourse. Wallowing in these kinds of open-ended questions– We might ask, “What is a genre?”– is, essentially, the purpose of this project. Ultimately, you pick a subject in order to ask questions which have no definitive answers; it is in the attempt to arrive at this horizon that the work gets done.

Recently I heard someone say that the purpose of the Humanities as a discipline is to think about how people have thought about what it means to be human. There is no inevitable moral benefit to this line of inquiry, unfortunately. Studying philosophy and literature and history will not make you an ethically superior person. After all, some of the Nazi elite were great humanists, after a fashion, in that they possessed a thoughtful appreciation of certain cultural works. On the other hand, Hitler, a mediocre artist with a keen fashion sense, cherished the kitsch nudes of Ziegler (“the master of German pubic hair”) even as he deplored and destroyed some of the great paintings of European Modernism.




*If there is a case to be made for an African Gothic wouldn’t it emerge from the heart of darkness that was European colonialism? Imagine the barracoons at the Bight of Benin, tin pots and cloth traded for captives, King Leopold, “the wild and gorgeous apparition” of Kurtz’s mistress, the Scramble, Black Water Fever, hand-chopping, Chinese Gordon’s severed head placed at the Mahdi’s feet.

Readings (HUM415)

Try to answer these questions. On paper.

What does it mean to be locked out? What forms do the “logics of expulsion” take? What is the difference between sub-prime and super-prime? What does the situation Sassen describes mean for urban culture?

What is the difference between economy and chresmatics? What is the role of education under neoliberalism? How do Normand (long hair) and Omar’s (glasses) arguments, implicitly, conceive of ideology?

What “versions” of ideology have we encountered since August? How do they differ?

In what way is democracy the ideology of empire? What is imperialism? Historically, how has it been justified? What is “the US conception of democracy”? What does global capital need in order to function efficiently? What does the following analogy mean: citizenship: class society :: sovereignty : imperialism ?

Is “Without Sky” an allegory? What is an allegory? Or is it a kind of manifesto? What are the politics of this narrative?

What themes unite all of these readings?

The Democracy of Numbers

8,000,000 = number of dollars airbnb spent campaigning against Prop. F.

79,010 = number of voters (out of 142,564 voting) who voted against Prop. F.

$101.25 per no vote.

Essay 2 Prompts REVISED (HUM303)


I. The Golem: A Symptomatic Reading

Produce an interpretation of The Golem as a text which 1) is a symptom of its cultural-historical context and 2) operates within or alongside a gothic mode or register. In your essay be sure to use specific narratological concepts taken from Abbott which you are in command of and are perfectly suited to your project.

Consult the humanities database for journal articles and the catalog for books, including e-books which allow you to research in your pajamas at home. As a general rule of thumb for writing academic essays, there should be no source in your Works Cited page (note the plural form) with a .com in its information.

In the course of addressing the primary issues above, you may consider any of the following questions.

What makes Meyrink’s novel modernist? As what has been called a work of Expressionist fiction how might it relate to Expressionist film texts such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? or the work of visual artists such as Hugo Steiner-Prag? Are there thematic or methodological parallels between the Gothic and Expressionism?

II.The Haunting of Hill House: Adaptation

There are two film versions of The Haunting of Hill House, both of which are titled The Haunting. Consider the differences between either/both of them and their source-text, Shirley Jackson’s novel. How does the act of adaptation change your reception of the story? It’s clear enough that reading a book and screening a film are very different activities, but both of them are also narrative experiences. Are there differences in elements of the narrative discourse such as plot, focalization, etc. which ultimately influence the story? What is added or subtracted in the process of adaptation?

III. The Haunting of Hill House: Intertext

Kristeva’s concept of the intertext, as described by Abbott, is fairly capacious. Intertextuality, he writes, signifies “a pre-existing cultural web of expressive forms” (101). [And please note the preceding sentence: it uses a correct in-text cite and blends the frame with the actual quote.] Every text thus floats in a sea of other texts, though the relationship between them need not be conscious or intentional. A text’s direct, purposeful reference to another text, allusion, can be seen as a kind of intertextuality, but those two terms are not identical. In The Haunting of Hill House there are obvious allusions, including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The novel also resonates within a network of other narratives by virtue of its story and narrative discourse. Explain which texts are most suited to a particular reading of THHH. Are there certain cruxes in the novel which are resolved (or complicated) in light of its intertextual debts? How does elaborating THHH‘s intertextual environment (habitat?) influence your reading of it?

IV. Open Topic: The Golem or The Haunting of Hill House or both.

This topic requires instructor approval. Submit a developed, grammatically flawless proposal for your paper to me via email. It is expected that your essay will use secondary materials from the course readings including The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative.

The paper is due Nov. 16 (hard copy in class, ecopy to ilearn). If you would like to discuss this deadline please email me.




“Home” by Warsan Shire

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The Green Huntsman (HUM220)

I found this story in a book titled Tales and Legends of the Tyrol, written by Madame La Comtesse Marie A. von Gunther and published in 1874. It’s fairly gruesome as such legends tend to be. Note that there is no mention of the Huntsman’s complexion. You can download the whole thing, as a pdf, from google books.


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Schedule Changes (HUM415)

I’ve tidied up the schedule for the final five class meetings. You’ll note, I hope, that the assignment for next week, 11/3, consists entirely of readings that were already assigned.

  1. Holmqvist, The Unit
  2. Hawkes, Chs. 6-7
  3. Debord, “The Commodity as Spectacle”
  4. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control”
  5. IPC, “We Are All Very Anxious”

I want to revisit Hawkes, touch upon Debord and Delueze, discuss “We Are All Very Anxious,” and wrap The Unit. I expect that you will bring hard copies of all of these texts. This is not a suggestion; it is a requirement. In addition, 3 groups will be presenting their Film Analysis Assignments.

As you read Holmqvist’s novel look for the kinds of things we discussed in class: formal techniques, the narrative “focus,” and any commentary– explicit or implicit– on social and economic matters. Think about subjects and objects. Bring at least some of the ideas you’ve encountered in previous readings to this particular text. She is sending a message (some of which may be unconscious). What is it? Just how deep can you go? The final three readings– Debord, Deleuze, IPC– are quite short and somewhat dense. Give yourself time to read them carefully. I am going to test you on at least one of them.


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