These short pieces of work (500 words) are focused around issues of theory or background, and are usually due at the start of a new section of the course (see schedule for dates). They should be personal responses to the set reading, often linking issues from the reading to primary texts; they are not simply summaries of the readings. Both short exercises are compulsory. Look at these more as tutorial exercises than actual essays; while I require full answers (i.e. formal English and not note-form responses) I do not expect you to write much more than the designated 500 words.
Please note that I cannot grant you extensions on these exercises: they need to be handed in on the day, as we will immediately discuss the exercise in class, and if you hand them in thereafter it will not be your own insights you rely on.
(due date Monday 5th August)
Set reading: Fred Botting, “Gothic Returns in the 1890s”, Chapter 7 of Gothic. Pages 135-143 (i.e. leave out the final section on vampires, we’ll get to that later).
What does Botting consider to be the important characteristics of the double, both in general and in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”? What particular aspects of Victorian society, and particularly Victorian fears, does he suggest the motif speaks to?
(due date Monday 19th August)
Melissa Edmundson, “The ‘Uncomfortable Houses’ of Charlotte Riddell and Margaret Oliphant”, Gothic Studies 12 (1), May 2010. First section only (ends on p. 52).
Diana Wallace, “Uncanny Stories: The Ghost Story As Female Gothic”, Gothic Studies 6:1 (May 2004). Pages 57-59 only, up to the second paragraph which ends “as the most ‘literary’ of all genres.”
In the view of Edmundson and Wallace, what particular uses are made of the ghost story by the female writers of Gothic in the nineteenth century? What is the particular significance of the haunted house for these writers? Suggest how these critics’ ideas are relevant to any one of the haunted house stories set for this section.
Due date: Monday 9th September
With detailed reference to particular passages in the novel, discuss the operation of either Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or The Hound of the Baskervilles as a Gothic text. How does its treatment of Gothic themes and elements reflect specifically Victorian concerns?
With detailed reference to particular passages in the novel, discuss the figure of the monster in either Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or The Hound of the Baskervilles. How does the construction of the monster reflect particularly Victorian fears, anxieties and/or desires?
How does either Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or The Hound of the Baskervilles reflect Victorian attitudes to science? How does the Gothic mode influence the way in which the powers and effects of scientific enquiry are depicted? Support your argument with detailed reference to particular passages in the novel.
Due date: Monday 23rd September
With detailed reference to specific passages from the text of a short story or stories by Nesbit, Gaskell or Poe, discuss the author’s use of Gothic elements to explore and problematise Victorian notions of domesticity and domestic relationships. How are these Gothic tropes particularly powerful in exploring issues of gender?
With close reference to relevant passages from the text of a short story or stories by Nesbit, Gaskell or Poe, discuss the text’s presentation of the haunted house via particularly Gothic tropes and techniques. Why are supernatural presences powerful in exploring notions of the past?
With close reference to relevant passages, discuss the depiction of strong emotions, and to the tension between emotion and rationality, in a short story or stories by Nesbit, Gaskell or Poe. Your discussion should pay some attention to the Gothic mode’s interest in melodrama and in issues of identity.
Due date: Monday 14th October
Jonathan Harker notes that, “unless my senses deceive me, the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which modernity cannot kill”. Discuss either Carmilla or Dracula in terms of their exploration of a Gothic notion of the past, and the tension between the past and Victorian notions of science and progress. In an age of scientific discovery, what was the appeal of the Gothic genre, and of the figure of the vampire in particular? You should support your argument with close analysis of relevant passages from the novel.
As a haunting figure from past narratives like legends and folklore, and as an irruption of unavowable energies from the primitive past of human sexuality, the vampire remains disturbingly ambivalent. The female vampires … display the effects of desire and horror attendant on the dangerous doubleness of sexuality.
What is the particular significance of the female vampire in the Victorian context? Supporting your argument with close reference to relevant passages, discuss the figure of the female vampire in either Carmilla or Dracula, suggesting how it embodies a specifically Victorian awareness of, and anxiety about, female identity, agency and power.
The vampire myth is perhaps the highest symbolic representation of eroticism
Discuss the figure of the vampire in either Carmilla or Dracula in terms of its ability to represent particularly Victorian attitudes towards sexuality. What particular aspects of sexuality are symbolised by the vampire’s bite, and why are these a source of anxiety and fascination for the Victorians? You should support your argument with close analysis of relevant passages from the novel.