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The Art of Horror: A Formalist Approach to Monsters, Mayhem and the Supernatural


Admission requirements

BA diploma in relevant field of study.


The Art of Horror is concerned with the stylistic and structural techniques and generic conventions of British and American horror stories in prose and on celluloid. As a popular-culture genre horror has suffered from a bad reputation ever since the first wave of gothic terror novels in the 1790s. Despite this reputation, it has only gained in popularity, reaching a mainstream peak possibly in the 1980s. The rise and persistence of horror as a popular-culture genre has made it a fruitful research subject in the field of cutltural studies. Yet, the genre remains one of the most undervalued in terms of artistic merit and ingenuity. This course will focus specifically on developing formalist critical readings of horror stories in order to explore in great detail the development of various stylistic and structural techniques and generic conventions of British and American horror stories from classic gothic to contemporary children’s horror.

Course objectives

This course aims

  • to (re)introduce and further develop the close-reading skills of students.

  • to develop students’ understanding of, and critical insight into, formalism and popular-genre theory.

  • to give students insight into how formalist theory and practice can lay the foundation for ideological readings of popular culture.

  • to develop students’ understanding of the artistic techniques and artistic merit of horror in both its “classic” and “popular” forms.


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

Mode of instruction

  • (guest)lectures

  • Close-reading workshops

  • tutorials

  • roundtable sessions (depening on number of students involved)

  • independent Research

  • self-motivated study of assigned reading

Course Load

The course load is 280 hours.

  • 26 hours of tutorials, workshops, lectures

  • 150 hours of studying primary and secondary material in preparation for tutorials

  • 104 hours for independent research and writing of the essays

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

Assessment method

  • A roundtable presentation (depending on number of students enrolled).

  • A mid-term essay of 2000-2500 words on a topic chosen from a list of topics provided by the tutor (40%); minimum grade 5.

  • An end-of-term 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 horror as a popular genre and art form (60%); 3000-4000 words for regular MA students; 4000-5000 words for Research Masters Students. I expect RESMA students who have already completed the mandatory “approaches to literature” course to show their advanced knowledge and understanding of literary theories and critical practices in their essays; the minimum grade for the research essay is 6.

  • Both essays needs to be presented according to the rules of the MLA stylesheet.

All late coursework and coursework graded lower than 6 can be (re)submitted during the English Department’s resit period in June.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

A course reader containing methodological and theoretical chapters.

Prose Fiction:
A selection of short stories on Blackboard
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
Stephen King, Christine (2011)
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Merridian (1985)
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book (2008)

Moving Pictures:
James Whale (dir.), Bride of Frankenstein (Universal 1935)
Terrence Fisher, dir., (The Horror of) Dracula (Hammer 1958)
George Romero, dir., Night of the Living Dead (Independnet 1968)
John Carpenter, dir., Assault on Precinct 13 (Independent 1976)
Berman and Rich, dirs., The Black Cauldron (Disney 1985)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 527 225 or mail:

When registering students of the MA Literary studies take priority. The deadline for registration is January 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies: Ms S.J. de Kok, MA.

Contact details

Literary Studies student administration Van Wijkplaats 3, room 002. Tel. 071 527 2251 or

Coordinator of studies: Ms S.J. de Kok, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.