Early Modern Fantasies and Fears

Module code: EN3203

Although horror and fantasy only grew into distinct literary genres in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they have deep roots. The early modern period gave rise to a number of texts recognisably anticipating this later literature, sharing its focus on the macabre, outlandish, eerie, and grotesque. On the one hand, the popular book-market gave rise to a string of sensationalist prose narratives, dealing with forbidden knowledge, the return of the dead, and the influence of the demonic world. On the other, utopian literature, born out of humanist belief in the perfectibility of social order, allowed these same forces to be explored from a different angle, as problems that can be resolved and fulfilled. This module will survey this fascinating material, in order to lay bare the larger social anxieties and deep-seated wishes in early modern culture. 

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