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Supernatural Fiction: Belief, Horror and Wonder in Anglo-American Popular Culture


Admission requirements

A relevant BA degree. If in doubt, please contact the tutor.


In Supernatural Fiction students will explore the appeal, form and function of one of the most successful genres of popular culture since the late eighteenth-century: supernatural fiction. By means of close-textual analysis, classroom debate, brief presentation, as well as several reader-response assignments students will search for answers to questions concerning the relationship between supernatural fiction and forms of belief and faith; the relationship between the supernatural and society; the differentiation between supernatural fiction and other “fantastic” genres such as fantasy, horror and science fiction; the supernatural realm as an imaginary and creative environment; and the historical grounding of literary representations of the supernatural. This is a 500 level MA course, which means that students participating in the course are expected to have mastered the reading, writing and research skills taught at undergraduate level.

Course objectives

The objectives of Supernatural Fiction are:

  • To give students a thorough knowledge and understanding of the history and development of Supernatural Fiction in English

  • To give students greater insight into the broader cultural schema of the supernatural and its relations to other forms of fantastic fiction, forms of belief and society.

  • To challenge students to concretize their own imaginary (re-)productions of the supernatural realm, in relation to the idea of the supernatural realm as an environment, by means of several reader-respone assignments.

  • To teach students to develop their own critical theory of the form and function of supernatural fiction by means of brief presentation and a self-developed research project.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website.

Mode of instruction

  • Discussion and presentation seminars

  • Participation in reader-response assignments

Course Load

The course load is 280 hours:

  • 26 hours of tutorial

  • 195 hours of reading primary and secondary material, keeping a journal, and preparing the brief presentation

  • 59 hours for research and writing of the research paper.

The hours above are an approximate calculation only. Some students read fast and write slow and vice versa.

Assessment method

A mid-term essay (2500 words) on a topic chosen from a list of topics provided by the tutor.

An extensive research essay, in which the student shows the capability to independently research the chosen topic, to write a coherent analytical argument and to theorize about the appeal, form and function of supernatural fiction (5000-6000 words). The essay needs to be presented according to the MLA stylesheet (60%).


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Bulwer Lytton, Edward. A Strang Story (etext)

  • Bunyan, John, Pilgrim’s Progress, Part I (Oxford World’s Classics)

  • Carpenter, John. Prince of Darkness (DVD)

  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Marble Faun (Oxford World’s Classics)

  • Jackson, Shirley, The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin)

  • King, Stephen, Christine (Hodder)

  • Koontz, Dean, Odd Thomas (Harper Collins)

  • Neil Gaiman, Coraline

  • Victorian Supernatural Tales (a selection of etexts)


Students should register through uSis. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272251 or mail.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration via Contractonderwijs

Contact information

MA Literary Studies departmental office, Van Wijkplaats 3, room 002A. Tel. 071 527 2251 or mail.
Coordinator of Studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


The Reading for Week 1 is Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Part I.