ENG 327 The British Novel – Gothic and Sensation

Histories of the English novel typically emphasize the evolution of literary realism from its origins in the late seventeenth century to novels today. Realist writers like Defoe, Dickens, and Ishiguro tend to employ devices like psychological interiority, dialect, or regionalism to advance character development and plausible plots among relatively banal settings. This course assumes you’ve been introduced to literary realism and introduces you instead to the implausible characters, settings, and events of gothic and sensation fiction. Such texts feature medieval romanticism, exotic settings, supernatural events, and powerful villains who seduce and/or torture fainting victims. These stories are as important to British literary history as those in the realist tradition, as they explore English fears and anxieties about national and bodily boundaries, the invasion of the domestic sphere by various horrid elements, and the tenuousness of gender, race, and class hierarchies.


The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole
Vathek, William Beckford
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary E. Braddon
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

This course counts as an elective for Women and Gender Studies majors and minors.