This course explores one of the richest seams in British and Irish cultural life – the creation of some of the greatest works of Gothic, of children’s literature, of the fantastic, and of science fiction. Why do we enjoy the fantastic? What are the cultural meanings of dreaming? How does British literature and film represent the supernatural, the fabulous, the uncanny, the numinous and the strange? How do such texts illuminate our sense of British and Irish culture and history?
Using the insights of psychoanalysis, political theory, and literary theory we will attempt to answer these questions and others. The course will include children’s books, ghost stories, Gothic fictions, science fiction, dystopias, and the fantasy film. We will examine the following themes in fantastic fictions made in Britain from the 1840s to the 1970s: the production of fear; the imagination of childhood; nostalgia; the double; transgression and containment; kitsch; the fictionalization of reality; the uses of the unreal; the representation of dreams and fugitive states; the critique of science; frontiers and otherness; conformity and individualism; innocence and corruption.
This course will extend and deepen the power of students’ literary critical analysis through in-depth consideration of texts. Students will explore critical debates surrounding the fantastic. In so far as this course deals with film, it will aim to provide for literature students the critical skills necessary for the analysis of visual texts. Regarding both literary and cinematic art works, it will also aim to extend the students’ skills in the reading of narrative and the understanding of the relationship of a text to its cultural/social context. Students will be encouraged to share analytical and critical views on the texts ascribed in class discussion, including short presentations, and will focus research skills in the writing of a final research paper, on a relevant subject of their own choice within the parameters of the course.
Course objective 1
This course will extend and deepen the power of students’ critical analysis through in-depth consideration of texts.
Course objective 2
Students will explore critical debates surrounding Gothic, ghost stories, children’s literature, the fantastic, film theory, and television studies.
Course objective 3
The course will aim to provide for literature students the critical skills necessary for the analysis of visual texts. This will involve an understanding of: basic film theory; the uses of the frame and editing; the place of the ‘star’; the nature of genre; and the ‘auteur theory’.
Course objective 4
Regarding both literary and cinematic art works, it will also aim to extend the students’ skills in the reading of narrative and the understanding of the relationship of a text to its cultural/social context.
Course objective 5
Students will be encouraged to share analytical and critical views on the texts ascribed in class discussion, perhaps including short presentations, and will focus research skills in the writing of a final research paper.
Course objective 6
In their papers, the students will show that they have developed the relevant skills for researching and writing on literature or film.
Research MA students should reveal in their coursework a more nuanced understanding of the complex relationship between social formations and cultural productions by means of a more detailed and thorough theoretical/methodological framework.
The timetable is available on the Literary Studies website.
Mode of instruction
Research and writing
12 seminars of three hours each.
12 weeks of class preparation of twelve hours per week, including study of compulsory literature.
Research and writing of one or two well-researched and considered essays – approximately one-hundred hours.
Paper. Either, two essays of 2750 words (50% each); or, one longer essay on a comparative subject (dealing with at least two texts featured on the syllabus) of 5500 words (100%). Both essays must contain a significant element of research. Research MA students will have to write an extra 3000 word paper on a topic to be decided in consultation with the tutor.
All essays will be expected on a date (to be announced) during the exam period. Late / resit essays will be graded, but will not receive any comments.
Blackboard will be used to provide students with information/reading material and as a communication tool.
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass (ed. Hugh Haughton) (Penguin Classics).
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World’s Classics or Penguin Classics).
Bram Stoker, Dracula (Oxford World Classics).
H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr Moreau (Penguin Classics).
H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man (Penguin Classics).
J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Other Plays (ed. Peter Hollindale) (Oxford World’s Classics).
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908). (any edition that contains the illustrations by E. H. Shepherd – i.e. Egmont Books).
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (HarperCollins).
George Orwell, 1984 (Penguin).
Muriel Spark, Memento Mori (Virago Modern Classics).
William Golding, The Inheritors (Faber & Faber).
Philippa Pearce, Tom’s Midnight Garden (OUP).
Doris Lessing, The Memoirs of a Survivor (Flamingo).
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and other Christmas Writings (ed. Michael Slater) (Penguin Classics).
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, A Matter of Life and Death.
Nigel Kneale, The Year of the Sex Olympics. (There will be a screening of this film.)
Dr Who: The Green Death.
Dr Who: The Genesis of the Daleks.
Ghost Stories from the BBC: The Signalman / Stigma / The Ice House.
When registering students of the MA Literary studies take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies: Jurjen Donkers.
Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs
For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher: Dr. M.S. Newton
Coordinator of studies: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please read for the first class both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
Provisionally the timetable is as follows:
WEEK 1: Lewis Carroll’s Alice books;
WEEK 2: Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray;
WEEK 3: Bram Stoker, Dracula;
WEEK 4: H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man;
WEEK 5: Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows and J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan (the play version);
WEEK 6: J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit;
WEEK 7: George Orwell, 1984, and Nigel Knaele, The Year of the Sex Olympics;
WEEK 8: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, A Matter of Life and Death;
WEEK 9: William Golding, The Inheritors and Muriel Spark, Memento Mori;
WEEK 10: Doctor Who – The Green Death and Genesis of the Daleks;
WEEK 11: Philippa Pearce, Tom’s Midnight Garden and Alan Garner, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen;
WEEK 12: Doris Lessing, The Memoirs of a Survivor;
WEEK 13: Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and the BBC Ghost Story for Christmas, The Signalman.