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Gothic Worlds: Horror, History and Art

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Harassed heroines and debonair vampires are part of our image of ‘the gothic’, and the traditions of ‘gothic culture’ have proved so durable that today their influence can be felt in films and fantasy, games, cosplay and lifestyle choices.

Our fascination with vampires and werewolves, scheming magicians are a testament to human imagination and our delight in the uncanny.

On this module, you will be provided with an introduction to the many ways in which the multi-cultural themes of the gothic have affected popular culture, and how the gothic integrates a wide range of sources and influences. You will explore the origins and development of the gothic in popular culture and art, and examine works by writers like the Brontës, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley and Anne Rice.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through ten two-hour sessions via Zoom, made up of lectures, class discussions, small group work and debates. Class sessions will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central, including lecture recordings.

Topics may include:

  • the Historical Gothic in context and its continuing influence
  • Gothic tropes in architecture and art
  • the Medieval world and the gothic imagination
  • new Gothic forms – The Imperial Gothic, Horror gothic etc.
  • gender and resistance in gothic literature
  • Gothic characters from vampires to murderous cyborgs
  • Goth culture and contemporary gothic style
  • sleep, hypnosis and bedlam as gothic spaces
  • games, books and cosplay events: the commodification of the gothic world
  • a survey of gothic art and film.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will complete two written assignments for this course. You will write approximately 1500-2000 words in total.

Reading suggestions

Essential Reading:

  • Fred Botting, Gothic London (New York, 1996)
  • Derek Brewer, English Gothic Literature (London, 1983)
  • Jacqueline Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction (Oxford, 1994)
  • Darryl Jones, Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film (London, 2002)
  • Marie Mulvey-Roberts, The Handbook to Gothic Literature (Basingstoke, 1998)
    Victor Sage (ed.), The Gothick Novel: A Casebook (Basingstoke, 1990)
  • William Hughes, David Punter and Andrew Smith (eds), The Encyclopaedia of the Gothic (Chichester, 2012)

Recommended background reading

  • William Patrick Day, In the Circles of Fear and Desire: A Study of Gothic Fantasy (Chicago and London, 1985)
  • Alan Dundes (ed), The Vampire: A Casebook (Madison, 1998)
    Ken Gelder, Reading the Vampire (London and New York, 1994)
  • Mark Edmundson, Nightmare on Main Street: Angels, Sadomasochism, and the Culture of Gothic (Cambridge, Mass. 1997)
  • William Hughes, Beyond Dracula: Bram Stoker's Fiction and its Cultural Context (Basingstoke, 2000)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.