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Tales of Terror and Wonder: Gothic, Horror and Science Fiction in Sociopolitical Contexts


Admission requirements

BA degree


In Tales of Terror and Wonder students will study classic works of Gothic, Horror and Science Fiction that have had an impact not only on the development of their respective genres, but that also reflect and engage with the wider cultural networks and socio-political contexts of their own day, and today. Gothic, Horror and Science Fiction have a popular reputation for offering an increasingly world-weary mass of consumers a welcome escape from the grim realities of everyday life. But academic scholarship into the potential agency of such fiction has revealed that offering such escape from the daily struggle and strife is only one of a myriad of ways in which genre literature is socially engaged. By reading a selection of key primary texts in relation to influential critical and theoretical works by (amongst others) the philosopher of aesthetics Noëll Carroll, the cultural philosopher and novelist Susan Sontag, and the literary theorist Alan Sinfield, we will debate the ways in which Gothic, Horror and Science Fiction can reproduce, but also potentially express dissidence towards the powerful ideological forces that underlie any individual’s, as well as a community’s, relationship to the larger institutions that govern society. The three themes on which the course focusses are: witchcraft, possession, and alien invasion. The period on which the course focusses is 1830-1980.

Course objectives

This course will give students:

  • Indepth knowledge of the form, function and development of Gothic, Horror and Science fiction as socio-politically engaged popular-culture genres.

  • The theoretical insight and analytical skills necessary to explore the relationship between artistic form and ideological signification in works of popular fiction. Beyond their academic studies, these skills will give students a more critical perspective of the popular culture they consume on a daily basis, which contributes to their overall development as independent critical thinkers in society, a crucial transferable academic skill.

  • The chance to further develop their academic reading, research and writing skills by means of a carefully developed research essay. Being able to construct and present coherent and persuavie analytical arguments is a key transferable skill needed in almost every academic-level professional career.

  • The course is also designed to address the importance of metacognitive aspects in the academic classroom and academic research. Students will be asked to reflect on their learning strategies within the course by means of keeping a course diary.

  • 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

Tales of Terror and Wonder is structured as follows:

  • One introductory lecture followed by in-class discussion.

  • Nine two-hour seminars in which study materials will be critically discussed by the whole group.

  • Based on the material discussed in the seminars, each student will develop a research project, for which they will write a research proposal and eventually an MLA style research paper. The deadline for submitting the research proposals is the end of week 10.

  • Between week 11 and 15, students will receive an individual tutorial of 30 minutes in which the research-essay proposal will be discussed.

  • A hard copy of the research paper (max. 4000 words) should be submitted to the tutor’s pigeonhole on the first floor of Eykchof 4, by the end of the first week of January. It should also be uploaded to turnitin via Blackboard for a plagiarism check and for safe-keeping.

  • A volunrayt excursion to the Witchcraft Museum, in Oudewater, during the study-week.

Course Load

10 ECTS= 280 hours of studytime. Approximate breakdown:

  • Seminars: 20 hours

  • Individual tutorial: 0,5 hours

  • Seminar prepertion, including journal: 100 hours

  • Developing research-project proposal: 39,5 hours

  • Research time: 80 hours

  • Writing time: 40 hours
    Note: this is an approximation. Some students read slow and write fast and vice versa.

Assessment method

  • Active engagement with the material in and outside of the classroom. This will be assessed in part by an informal journal that students will keep about their studies and the class discussions. The journal as well as class notes will help the tutor evaluate the student’s pro-activity.

  • A research proposal; this will be assessed and discussed, but will be graded wit a letter, rather than a number. The letter will indicate the scholarly quality of the research topic, the hypothesis, methodological framework and bibliography.

  • A research paper, presented and structured according to the conventions of the MLA style sheet. Following the MLA style sheet is a basic scholarly requirement for this course. Just as in any professional workplace, a academics need to learn to adapt their work to the demands of the field in which they work. The MLA style sheet is one of the most widely used stylesheets in the field of English-language literary studies, so learning to use this style sheet to structure and present your work is part of the skill set you need develop. Deadline: the Friday of the first week of January at 16.00. Resit Deadline: the final Friday of February at 16.00.

  • The final grade for the course will be determined mostly by the academic quality of your research paper, but the quality of the proposal, the journal and in-class participation will play a part in calculating the final grade. The feedback form that will be handed back with the essay will contain a full written explication of the final grade.

  • Research MA students will have to write an extra 3000 word paper on a topic to be decided in consulation with the tutor.


Blackboardwill be used for:

  • posting course documents and infromation.

  • contacting students via email.

  • archiving research projects.

Reading list

  • A selection of digital primary and secondary sources made available via Blackboard.

  • William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist, 40th anniversary edition (Corgi)

  • Ursula Le Guin, The Word for World is Forest (Gollancz).

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tales, 2nd edition (Norton Critical Edition).

  • George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (Penguin).

  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (Norton Critical Edition)

  • George Romero (dir), Dawn of the Dead, 139 minute version (DVD)

  • Sephen King, The Dead Zone (Hodder)

  • John Wyndham, Day of the Triffids (Penguin)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. You can register until two weeks after classes have started however students are advised to register as soon as possible and preferably before the start of the course. In the case of electives: please be aware that most electives have a maximum amount of students who can enroll. Do not approach the course instructor in case the class is full. You will automatically be put on a waiting list.

In case you have difficulties with registering for courses you may ask the student administration at Van Wijkplaats for assistance. Their e-mail address is Always include your name, student number, the course title and the concerning activity number (see schedule).

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher Dr. E.J. van Leeuwen.

Literary Studies departmental office

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA


The reading for Week 1 is:

  • Jules Verne, 20.000 Leagues under the Sea. The original Mercier translation (1872). E-text available in the course documents folder on Blackboard.