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​​Two Centuries of Horror Literature in English, 1818-2015
Fall 2015, TR 5-6:15 @ Greenlaw 301
Instructor: Doreen Thierauf
E-Mail: thierauf (at) unc (dot) edu
Office and Hours: Swain 212; office hours Thursdays 3-5, and by appointment
Course website
horrors.web.unc.edu (UNC login required due to copyright restrictions)


  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818), Penguin Classics, 9780141439471
  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings, Penguin Classics, 9780141439815
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897), Norton Critical Edition, 9780393970128
  • Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898), Penguin Classics, 9780141441351
  • John Fowles, The Collector (1963), Back Bay Books, 9780316290234 
  • Stephen King, Pet Sematary (1983), Pocket Books, 9780743412278
  • Octavia Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories (2005 ed.), 9781583226988​


In this course we will explore horror, one of the most enduring and provocative literary genres. We will read and discuss a wide—but by no means comprehensive—range of horror texts in order to examine their themes, conventions, formal structures, and historical contexts. Additionally, this class allows you to further develop your writing skills in a series of written assignments that lead up to a substantial research paper at the end of the semester. This assignment will enhance your ability to think critically, argue persuasively, and write vigorous prose that adheres to conventional standards of grammar and usage.

Throughout the semester, we will have an ongoing conversation about the problems (and pleasures) of defining a genre that attracts as much as it repels. For more than 200 years, horror has been a rich and flexible medium for addressing many usually taboo issues, such as death, sex and reproduction, madness, the body under duress, as well as what it means to be human—and what lies beyond. In keeping with the genre’s breadth, you will be encouraged to draw connections between the works on our reading list and other examples from the genre, whether they be other literary texts or different media types such as films, comic books, or games. It should be noted that there are no fairy-tale happy endings in this course, so be warned that some, if not all, of these texts can leave you frustrated, dismayed or, ideally, scared.

You should complete the assigned reading before each class. Please bring the day’s assigned text to class with you. Please note that all of our texts—four novels, two novellas, almost two dozen short stories, and a wide range of additional materials that we will read within less than 15 weeks—are fairly substantial. Hence, the reading assignments for our class will require much time and attention. You will find that the more time you put into reading and thinking about the assigned texts, the more rewarding and pleasurable they will be. If your schedule this semester prevents you from spending the necessary time on the readings, assignments, and class meetings, you should consider signing up for a different class instead.

Please refer to the semester schedule below. It notifies you ahead of time of the specific number of pages to be read before the next class meeting. Reading ahead of schedule is encouraged; just be careful not to spoil any plot details for those of us sticking to schedule. There will be ten (or more) unannounced reading quizzes or short responses throughout the semester to make sure everyone is keeping up with the reading. These quizzes will contribute 20% to your final grade (i.e. 2% per quiz) and cannot be made up.


I have posted a separate guide for your research project, but here are the facts: You will choose a text from our readings to work with, come up with a research topic that interests you (instructor’s approval required), and write 8-10 page research paper about that topic. In order to ensure that you work on this paper continuously and won’t resort to last-minute binge-writing on the night before the final deadline (which tends to result in low-quality work), there will be several smaller deadlines. I encourage you to see me regularly after class or during my office hours to chat with me about your paper ideas and your thinking about the texts that interest you most.

You will have a 75-minute midterm exam and a longer, 2-hour final exam. The midterm exam will cover all readings assigned up to that point, and the final exam will cover the entire semester. These exams will involve a combination of identifications, short essay answers, and/or extended responses to quotations or thematic prompts.

1. Leading an in-class discussion (10%)

Select one of the available time slots for leading class discussion. The purpose of leading a discussion is three-fold:

  1. Identify one (or more) quotation or passage from the day’s reading that you think is most important in connecting the day’s reading to one of the larger themes of the text or the overall course.
  2. Justify that importance by showing us something we can understand about the themes of the text or the overall course by investigating and paying closer attention to your chosen quotation that we couldn’t have understood otherwise.
  3. Engage the class in a brief but productive discussion about your chosen quotation and/or its relation to one or more of the text’s or the course’s broad themes. You will be responsible for posing a question (or two, or three) to us that you think your classmates will be able to answer and whose answers you think will foster a brief class discussion.

All presentations will be peer-graded according to a pre-defined rubric by five students.

2. Participation (includes attendance and in-class participation in discussions, group work, etc.) (10%)

  • Participating actively in class discussions and showing respectful and tolerant classroom demeanor throughout the semester—almost needless to say, the works we will be discussing contain sensitive issues;
  • Completing the assigned reading before each class;
  • Arriving on time (before class begins) every day: two lates equal one absence;
  • Attending each class meeting. You are allowed two absences without penalty; each additional absence will lower your final grade by 1/3 of a letter grade. Seven absences will earn you an automatic F in the course. Use allotted absences wisely (e.g. for illnesses or minor emergencies), and please discuss any special circumstances (emergencies, participation in officially scheduled UNC events such as athletics, etc.) with me as early as possible.
  • Disruptive or disengaged behavior—cellphone use, sleeping in class, studying or doing homework for other classes, unapproved laptop use—will result in an automatic absence for that day. I require that you take notes by hand (mainly because of this).

3. Quizzes and responses (20%)

10 quizzes/responses assigned randomly at 2pts each, cannot be missed or made up.

4. Research paper (8-10 pages) (25%)

Send me your paper idea (one or two paragraphs) before class starts on October 22 via email.

  • Annotated bibliography due November 10 in hard copy. (10%)
  • Full essay due December 1—please bring your paper in hard copy. (15%)

5. Midterm exam (15%)

Thursday, October 1, 5-6:15pm. Please bring one book to the exam. 

6. Final exam (20%)

Tuesday, December 8, 4-7pm.  Please bring two blue books to the exam. 

All work that you submit for this class is subject to the rules of Carolina’s Honor Code. This includes papers, exams, and short responses. Anytime you quote, paraphrase, borrow, or reproduce text or ideas that are not yours, you must document and attribute each source correctly according to MLA style (an easy online tutorial for MLA can be found on the UNC library website). You will have committed plagiarism if you reproduce someone else’s work or ideas without acknowledging the source (i.e. citing)—whether or not your intention was to plagiarize. If you have questions about how or whether something needs to be cited and you have exhausted your resources independently, check with me before submitting your work. I am obligated to report any infringement of the Honor Code (cheating, plagiarism, etc.) to the University. Any instance of plagiarism or cheating will result in an automatic F for that assignment and, in most cases, for the course as well. For more information, consult UNC’s website on the 
Honor Code and the Writing Center’s handout on plagiarism.


Weeks 1-3: Gothic Amalgamations 

  • Session 1, Tue, Aug 18: Introduction: Syllabus and Policies, Overview of Texts and Themes; Robert Bloch: "A Toy For Juliette" (1967)
  • Session 2, Thu, Aug 20: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818), finish volume I (pp. 5-90 in the Penguin edition); Janet Fang: "Russian Man Will Become Subject Of First Human Head Transplant Ever Performed" (2015)
  • Session 3, Tue, Aug 25: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein, finish volume II (pp. 93-151); Key Concept #1: "Taboo"
  • Session 4, Thu, Aug 27: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein, finish volume III (pp. 155-265); Key Concept #2: "Sublime"
  • Session 5, Tue, Sep 1: E. A. Poe: “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843); “The Black Cat” (1843); “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842); Key Concept #3: "Uncanny"
  • Session 6, Thu, Sep 3: E. A. Poe: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839); “William Wilson” (1839); “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842); “Ligeia” (1838); Key Concept #4: "Dreamwork"

Week 4: The Yellow Nineties  

  • Session 7, Tue, Sep 8: Charlotte Perkins Gilman: “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892); Jane Thrailkill: "Doctoring the Yellow Wallpaper" (2002)
  • Session 8, Thu, Sep 10: Arthur Machen: The Great God Pan (1894); Key Concept #5: "Abject"

Weeks 5-6: Fin-de-Siècle Vampires  

  • Session 9, Tue, Sep 15: Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897), chapters I-VIII (pp. 9-98 in the Norton edition)
  • Session 10, Thu, Sep 17: Bram Stoker: Dracula, chapters IX-XIII (pp. 98-160)
  • Session 11, Tue, Sep 22: Bram Stoker: Dracula, chapters XIV-XXIII (pp. 160-273)
  • Session 12, Thu, Sep 24: Bram Stoker: Dracula, chapters XXIV-XXVII (pp. 273-327); Franco Moretti: "The Dialectic of Fear" (1983)

Week 7: A Ghost Story  

  • Session 13, Tue, Sep 29: Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898); Key Concept #6: "Gothic"​
  • Session 14, Thu, Oct 1: Midterm Exam—Please bring at least one blue book to class!  

Week 8: Post-War Horrors  

  • Session 15, Tue, Oct 6: Elizabeth Bowen: “The Demon Lover” (1945); Shirley Jackson: “The Lottery” (1948); Key Concept #7: "Dominant, Residual, Emergent"

Week 8, Cont’d: Southern Anti-Fairy Tales  

  • Session 16, Thu, Oct 8: William Faulkner: “A Rose for Emily” (1930); Flannery O’Connor: “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (1953); "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction" (1960); "On Her Own Work" (1963)

Weeks 9-10: Psychological Horror  

  • Session 17, Tue, Oct 13: John Fowles: The Collector (1963), part 1 (pp. 3-120)
  • Thu, Oct 15: Fall Break – NO CLASS 
  • Session 18, Tue, Oct 20: John Fowles: The Collector, part 2 (pp. 123-251); Laura Mulvey: "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1976)
  • Session 19, Thu, Oct 22: Research Paper Idea DUE; John Fowles: The Collector, parts 2-4 (pp. 252-305)

Weeks 11-13: Stephen King's American Horror  

  • Session 20, Tue, Oct 27: Stephen King: “The Moving Finger” (1980); “Survivor Type” (1982); “The Raft” (1985)
  • Session 21, Thu, Oct 29: Stephen King: Pet Sematary (1983), chapters 1-22 (pp. 3-139)
  • Session 22, Tue, Nov 3: Stephen King: Pet Sematary, chapters 23-32 (pp. 140-210); Susan Sontag: "Notes on Camp" (1964)
  • Session 23, Thu, Nov 5: Stephen King: Pet Sematary, chapters 33-49 (pp. 211-344)
  • Session 24, Tue, Nov 10: Annotated Bibliography DUE; Stephen King: Pet Sematary, chapters 50-Epilogue (pp. 345-424)

Weeks 13-15: Aliens and Media Futures 

  • Session 25, Thu, Nov 12: Octavia Butler: “Bloodchild” and "Afterword" (1984); “Amnesty” and "Afterword" (2003)
  • Session 26, Tue, Nov 17: Octavia Butler: “Speech Sounds” and "Afterword" (1983); “The Evening, The Morning, and the Night” and "Afterword" (1987) (We're watching It Follows in class today--if you have to leave at 6:15, that's fine; otherwise, we continue until ca. 7:30pm. If you have to leave, make sure to watch the movie independently. If you stay, bring snacks!)
  • Session 27, Thu, Nov 19: David Robert Mitchell: It Follows (2014); Carol J. Clover: "Her Body, Himself" (1987); Jesse David Fox: "A Horrorphobe Is Forced to Watch His First Scary Movie: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (2014)

  • Session 28, Tue, Nov 24: Mark Danielewski, excerpt from The House of Leaves (2000); Horror Writers Association: “What Is Horror Fiction?”
  • Thu, Nov 26: Thanksgiving—NO CLASS  
  • Session 29, Tue, Dec 1: Research Essay DUE; Last Day of Class: Review  
  • Tue, Dec 8: Final Exam, 4pm-7pm, in Greenlaw 301