L210 2056 LYNCH
Studies in Popular Literature and Mass Media

Lecture:
2:30p-3:20p MWF (70) 3 CR.

Required film viewing:
7:15p-9:15p M

TOPIC: “Monstrous Conceptions: The Gothic Tradition in Mass Culture” How do vampires make babies? How does Victor Frankenstein, though celibate, not only become a parent but also, through this monstrous conception, give life to his own (dead) mother? And, in a not so different vein, why do Hollywood movie makers so evidently suffer from what a psychoanalyst would diagnose as a case of repetition compulsion? These are just three of the questions that we will be asking as we spend the semester gorging on what a friend of mine calls “stories of the strange.” Our project will be to figure out what the “gothic” fascination with those who come back from the dead – with, e.g., ghosts, vampires, and “monsters” like the creature that Frankenstein, in his quest to be a parent, crafts from corpses – has to do with social anxieties about the generation of life or of what looks like life. Gothic novels and monster movies, this course will suggest, have provided societies with the space they need to manage their mixed feelings about procreation and imaginative creation, about biological reproduction and mechanical reproduction.

The books and movies we’ll study this semester reveal what is eerie about the home – the space where we “raise” a family. (This is why the houses in gothic worlds are always haunted). These books and movies also reveal what is eerie about “reproduction” in another sense of the term – they reveal what is eerie, that is, about modern machines and modern mass production, about technology’s powers to produce “remakes” and “replicants.”

Those books will include Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stoker’s Dracula and other specimens of the horror fiction of the nineteenth century, as well as some instances of the so-called female Gothic (likely including Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and Octavia Butler’s Kindred). We will also be reading secondary material that will help us to understand how notions both of creation and generation have been altered by the advent of new technologies and what one critic calls “the culture of the copy.” Films (screened Monday nights) will include examples of the horror cycles that mark the beginning of that medium’s love affair with the monstrous (James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein), as well as movies by Alfred Hitchcock and David Cronenberg, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, part of George Romero’s Dead cycle, and perhaps some episodes of Buffy the Vampyre Slayer.
Requirements: attendance, both of class sessions and the mandatory Monday night film screenings; two essays; midterm; and final exam.