Gothic: From Otranto to Wuthering Heights

Module code: EN3131

Module co-ordinator: Dr Julian North

Gothic literature brings our fears and desires to the surface in tales of terror and the supernatural. On this module we will study the Gothic phenomenon in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century writing, with a focus on the Gothic craze of the 1790s. 

We will read some of the most influential Gothic fiction of the period, starting with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), arguably the first Gothic novel, and continuing with The Monk (1796) by Matthew Gregory Lewis and Frankenstein (1818; 1831) by Mary Shelley. We will also look at parodies of the Gothic novel, including Northanger Abbey (1818) by Jane Austen, and at Gothic ballads and theatre. We'll consider the context provided by contemporary periodical reviews and discussions of Gothic, as well as examples from the visual arts. The texts are likely to include:


  • Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764), The Mysterious Mother (1768)
  • Matthew Gregory Lewis, The Monk (1796) and The Castle Spectre (1798)
  • Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (1797)
  • Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818; 1831)


  • Gottfried August Burger, 'Lenore' (1796)
  • S.T. Coleridge, 'Christabel' (1798)
  • Keats, 'The Eve of St. Agnes' (1820)


  • Richard Brinsely Peake, Presumption: or, the Fate of Frankenstein (1823)


  • Twentieth-century film adaptations of Frankenstein (dir. James Whale, 1931, and dir. Kenneth Branagh, 1994)

Contextual materials

  • E.J. Clery and Robert Miles (eds), Gothic Documents: A Sourcebook, 1700-1820 (2000).


Students are required to prepare for weekly seminars, which will take formats appropriate to the problems addressed (debate, close reading, discussion). Seminar topics may include representations of the family, gender, and sexuality in Gothic writing; the meanings of terror, transgression, and the supernatural; Gothic settings and their symbolism; romance and realism in the Gothic novel; Gothic as a popular form; and Gothic and revolution. We will engage with recent critical reappraisals of Gothic writing, including feminist and psychoanalytical approaches. There will also be reference to film adaptations of Frankenstein.

At the end of this module, you will be able to...

  • Analyse a wide range of Gothic texts from the period 1764 to 1831
  • Describe and analyse the conventions of Gothic literature as they change between texts and across the period under consideration
  • Describe and anaylse the relationships between these texts and their cultural and historical contexts
  • Construct a clear, analytical, written argument based on an appropriate level of knowledge and understanding of the primary texts and secondary literature encountered on the module


  • One 5,000-word essay