Victorian Gothic

Seminar in ELL2015S, Romance to Realism, 2013

The Gothic novel had its heyday in the late eighteenth century: the form was defined by the villains, hauntings and crumbling castles found in the works of writers such as Walpole, Reeve and Radcliff. In the nineteenth century Victorian writers continued to be influenced by the genre, creating supernatural and melodramatic fiction which operated in tension with realism, adapting and re-shaping it to reflect the anxieties and concerns of their time. This seminar will consider the ways in which various nineteenth-century writers employ the Gothic tradition in novels and short stories, and the social and cultural issues explored by motifs such as monsters, vampires and ghosts. As well as the novels and novellas listed below we will look at short stories by Poe, Gaskell and Nesbit.


Robert Louis Stevenson, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Edgar Allen Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”
E. Nesbit, “John Charrington’s Wedding”, “Man-Sized in Marble”
Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Old Nurse’s Story”

Sheridan LeFanu, “Carmilla”
Bram Stoker, Dracula

You will need copies of the novels, novellas and short stories, in any edition; you are likely to find the books in second-hand shops, in the cheaper Classics editions (Wordsworth, Penguin), or both books and stories online. (See website bibliography for links to online versions).


  • Two essays of 1500 words each.
  • Two short 500-word exercises.
  • One class exercise.

Each essay counts a third of your final mark.
The last third of your mark is an average of your marks for the two short exercises. If the class exercise improves your mark, I’ll count it, otherwise I won’t.
Please note that I reserve the right to refuse DPs to students who do not have an adequate attendance record or who fail to hand in essays or exercises.


There will be two essays required for this course.  They should be around 1500 words long. You will need to write one essay on each of two sections of the course, but will have a choice of texts and topics within the section.
Essays are due in the week following the last seminar on that particular topic – see schedule for detailsPlease pick topics which fit into your work schedule for other courses!
Both essays must be handed in for DP purposes: if you have an incomplete class record, you will not be permitted to write the 2015S exam.
If you have a good reason to need an extension, please make sure you request this IN ADVANCE!
Please note the “Common Student Essay Errors” page (see sidebar or top menu), and consult it when writing: I will become somewhat peeved if you make the errors I cover there.


These short pieces of work (500 words) require tightly-focused personal responses to issues of theory or background, often linking issues from the reading to primary texts; they are not simply summaries of the readings. Both short exercises are compulsory. I require formal English and not note-form responses, but I do not expect you to write much more than the designated 500 words.
The class exercise is a chance for you to write an exam-style critical analysis which I will mark, annotate and return to you – it offers you feedback on your exam technique.


The course aims at a balance between textual analysis and theoretical background.  Your essays should not simply repeat the critical background, however, but should engage actively with the texts themselves.
I have given you a reading list of useful material I have made available.  You are not obliged to read everything on this list (other than the short exercise readings and anything I set for a particular seminar); select what is appropriate to your topic, and you may also find other relevant material in the library, or in the online databases.

Comments are closed.