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. In this module you will study the Gothic phenomenon in late 18th and early 19th 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, arguably the first Gothic novel, and continuing with The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. We will also look at parodies of the Gothic novel, including Northanger Abbey 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.

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. Texts are likely to include:


  • Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764) and 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)
  • Coleridge: 'Christabel' (1798)
  • Keats: 'The Eve of St. Agnes' (1820)


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


  • 20th century film adaptations of Frankenstein (dir. James Whale, 1931, and dir. Kenneth Branagh, 1994)

Contextual materials

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

Topics covered

  • Representations of the family, gender, and sexuality in Gothic writing
  • Meanings of terror, transgression, and the supernatural
  • Gothic settings and their symbolism
  • Romance and realism in the Gothic novel
  • Gothic as a popular form
  • Gothic and revolution




  • Essay, 5,000 words (100%)