English | Topics in English and American Literature and Culture
L208 | 22341 | Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison

22341 - 11:15a-12:05p MWF (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  "The Weird Tale—Literature of Cosmic Fear"

A mode of speculative fiction flourished in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries that was partly science fiction, partly
horror, and partly fantasy—but ultimately none of the above.  The
Weird Tale explores the range of psychological states invoked by
confronting the utterly alien—moving always toward a moment when the
world reveals itself as unspeakably different from what one had
understood.  As a primary practitioner of the form H. P. Lovecraft
famously put it, “A certain atmosphere of breathless and
unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present.” The
Weird Tale is both an earlier form of later fictional genres and a
response to a rational world-view that discounts the presence of the
supernatural. While reading some of the key practitioners of the
form (Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany and Lovecraft
among others) we’ll read some precursors (E. T. A. Hoffman and Poe)
as well as dipping into the “New Weird.”  We’ll work together as a
class to define the contours of the genre, place it in historical
context and consider the questions it raises about human psychology
and the nature of reality.