Slavic R5B, Section 102: Little Monsters: Supernatural Short Fiction

SESSION D: M-Th 4-6, 106 Dwinelle. Instructor: TBA.

Units: 4

Course Control Number: 75110

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Narratives of the supernatural – from fairy tales to the Twilight films – represent a powerful and enduring facet of our popular culture as well as serious fiction and high art. A repository of our most secret wishes and darkest fears, the supernatural allows us to tell complex yet entertaining stories about human nature and society.

This R&C course will both examine the supernatural as a vehicle for storytelling. Together we will read short fiction (primarily Russian, with excursions into American, English, and German literature) from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (roughly three short stories per week) and have semi-weekly in-class screenings of contemporary films. By juxtaposing these modern movies with their literary forbears, we will observe how supernatural narratives flirt with both high art and lurid entertainment. In doing so, we will illuminate how fairy tales, ghost stories, and horror movies are actually narratives about ourselves, and how a spooky story can possess deep philosophical and artistic merit.

This class meets from 4 pm to 6 pm, Monday through Thursday. A typical class session will be split between an hour of close reading and discussion followed by an hour of writing workshops, tutorials, and grammar exercises. On select Thursdays, we will screen a film in class and use the remaining time for discussion and analysis (spilling over into next Monday’s session if need be). Weekly writing assignments (variously from 1.5 to 6 pages) will be due on Friday afternoons and will be returned, graded and with comments, on Mondays. The final paper (6-8 pages) will contain a research component, preparation for which will be undertaken during our writing workshops.

Required texts:
Michael Harvey: The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (2003) [Hackett, 978-0872205734]
course reader (available for purchase at Metro Publishing, 2440 Bancroft Way), which will  include:
-fairy tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful”
-Aleksandr Pushkin, “The Queen of Spades” (1834)
-Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the Hosue of Usher” (1839)
-E.T.A. Hoffmann, “The Sandman” (1816)
-Vladimir Odoevsky, “The Sylph” (1837)
-Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat” (1842) and “The Nose” (1836)
-Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Bobok” (1873) and The Double (1846)
-Oscar Wilde, “The Canterville Ghost” (1887)
-Anton Chekhov, “The Black Monk” (1894)
-Zinaida Gippius, “The Living and the Dead” (1897)
-Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)
-Edith Wharton, “Afterward” (1910)
-Mikhail Bulgakov, Heart of a Dog (1925)

Prospective list of films:
-F.W. Murnau, Nosferatu (1922)
-Elias Merhige, Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
-Tim Burton, Corpse Bride (2005)
-David Cronenberg, The Fly (1986)

Prerequisite:Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent.  The “A” course requirement (or its equivalent) is the prerequisite for the second half of this two-course sequence.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.