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Marvellous Horrors: Monsters, the Supernatural and Society in Anglo-American Fiction

Course 2015-2016

Admission requirements

A BA degree in English Language and Culture or equivalent degree


Marvellous Horrors is concerned with:
1) the formal aspects and genre conventions of British and American horror stories in prose and on celluloid;
2) the reception and function of horror in contemporary (Western) society. Even though “horror” has suffered from a bad reputation, since the first Gothic craze of the 1790s, it has only gained in popularity, reaching a mainstream peak (possibly) in the 1980s, which is also the decade in which academic scholarship on the subject first blossomed. 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, “horror” remains one of the most undervalued popular genres in terms of artistic merit and ingenuity. This course will focus on developing students’ knowledge of, and insight into, the relationship between horror’s formal characteristics, genre developments, and its reception and function as a form of popular entertainment in contemporary Western societies. Research topics explored in this course are, for instance, horror’s relationship to the Romantic sublime, the development of horror’s plots, the symbolic potential of monsters, the ideologically subversive and/or affirmative nature of horror texts and its complex relationship to religious, political, economic, scientific and gender discourses.

Course objectives

This course aims to:
• further develop students’ textual “close-reading” skills.
• enhance students’ understanding of, and critical insight into, the relationship between, formalism, genre theory and the concept of ideology as understood and applied within popular-culture studies.
• Raise awareness of how popular horror is often a vehicle for the expression of and reflection on important socio-political concerns within a particular era and culture.
• Facilitate students in the development and completion of an academic research paper on a self-devised topic concerning the form and function of horror as a popular-culture genre.



Mode of instruction

• (Guest) lectures
• Interactive seminars and workshops
• Independent study of theoretical, methodological and literary/cinematic texts.

Course Load

The course load is 10 ECTS = 280 hours of study.
• ±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 coursework
This is an approximation; some students read quickly and write slowly and vice versa.

Assessment method

• A roundtable presentation (depending on number of students enrolled).
• A mid-term paper of 2000-2500 words (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. RESMA students who have already completed the mandatory “approaches to literature” course are expected 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 coursework essays needs to be presented according to the MLA stylesheet.
• If the average grade for the two coursework papers is lower than 6, the coursework paper graded lower than 5,5 has to be revised and resubmitted during the English Department’s resit period in June.


The course syllabus, e-texts, and other signifiance material will be posted on Blackboard will be used to provide students with additional information/reading material. For the reading assigned for week 1 see the comments sections below.

Reading list

• A series of classic tales, available as e-texts on Blackboard
• A selection of theoretical and methodological texts available via the university-library databases; shorter excerpts from chapters may be available on Blackboard.
• Bram Stoker, Dracula (Penguin)
• Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin)
• William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist (Corgi)
• Stephen King, The Dead Zone (Hodder)
• James O’Barr, The Crow (Titan)
Films you should watch because they will be discussed in some detail:
• Whale (dir), Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
• Fischer (dir), [Horror of] Dracula (1958)
• Romero (dir), Night of the Living Dead (1968)
• Carpenter (dir), The Thing (1982)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 527 2251 or mail”

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: Mr. J. Donkers, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs



Cours coordinator Dhr. Dr. E.J. van Leeuwen.

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

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.


The literature assigned for week 1 will be available in the course documents folder of the Blackboard site two weeks before the first tutorial, which is when the university makes Blackboard sites available to students. So keep your eye on Blackboard. If in doubt, email the cours coordinator Dhr. Dr. E.J. van Leeuwen.