Slavic R5A, Section 3: It’s Coming From Inside the House: Horror Literature in Russia and the West

MWF 8-9, 187 Dwinelle. Instructor: Karina McCorkle.

Units: 4

This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Horror is often considered a frivolous genre, but it is also a place ripe for the exploration of deep philosophical questions, where we can uncover the hidden fears and anxieties of a particular society. But what happens to generic norms when they are displaced into a different culture, or over the passage of time? Is a haunted house from nineteenth-century England still haunted in the same way as a haunted house in nineteenth-century Russia? Or a haunted house in Massachusetts in the 1950s?  In this course, we will trace a history of the horror genre and the “gothic” in Great Britain and the United States through a series of influential texts, starting with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and ending with Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier. From there, we will look at Russia’s parallel course in horror literature, examining both native elements of horror and those borrowed from the Western gothic. We will read famous nineteenth-century texts by Pushkin and Gogol alongside more modern horror stories from the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. In addition to our cross-cultural comparison, we will try to answer questions like: Where does horror come from? Why are women centered in horror literature and what does or does not change when women are writing it? How has horror literature influenced the production of contemporary horror film?

This course is primarily intended to develop college writing and critical reading skills. Over the course of the semester, students will write several expository essays and practice developing strong arguments through close reading.

Most texts will be provided in a course reader—however, the following novels should be purchased:

The Turn of the Screw, Henry James (978-9176370650)

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (978-0380730407)

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson (978-0143039983)