Horror Story Spring 2013 Class Lecture & Discussion Notes

I'll update these as needed; latest material appears at the top.

For our discussion of "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper"

You may be interested in more information on the Ripper case. There's LOTS of information out there, so be careful! I can recommend:

London's Metropolitan Police: http://www.met.police.uk/history/ripper.htm

There are periodically new "breaks" in the case:

This one is from 2009, claiming that a morgue attendant named Robert Mann was the Ripper: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6261360/Jack-the-Rippers-identity-finally-uncovered.html

This one is from 2011, in which a research claims to have created an image of the face of a serious Ripper suspect -- a German man named Carl Feigenbaum later executed at Sing Sing for murdering his Manhattan landlady: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14207581

Some researchers have considered mapping the location of incidents to see where the Ripper perhaps lived: http://www.txstate.edu/gii/projects/jack-the-ripper.html

Several of the Ripper's letters are available here: http://www.casebook.org/ripper_letters/

For our discussion of "The Willows"

Here's a project that a previous student of mine did on this story.

Images of Willow trees were popular as ornamentation on cemetery grave markers, particularly between 1800 and 1860. You've probably seen some that look like this:


What do willows make you think of? Find some of Blackwood's descriptions of the willows.

We need to talk about the Sublime.

Edmund Burke's 1757 treatise, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful is an important starting point (that also conincides well with the Gothic, a term we discussed recently). Burke’s central tenant was the separation of the beautiful from the sublime, which he established as incompatible categories, and, more importantly, that the sublime was caused by terror. Below are two excerpts from his essay.

The s ublime was frequently associated with nature, particularly in Romantic-era paintings. We can take a look at a few from my lecture on Romanticism here.


For our discussion of "A Rose for Emily"


First Step for Opening Writing:

Who is responsible for the death of Homer Baron? We're going to convene a Grand Jury to consider Homer Baron's death. Your job is to come up with a suspect, and gather evidence that is is strong enough to hold your suspect for trial. What specific charge(s) will you set for this suspect?


Next Step: The Trial

Half the class will be prosecuting, half the class will be defending. We may have different accuseds.

Prosecution: What are this character's [the accused's] crimes? What evidence do you have to present? What witnesses (from the story or not) will you call? What will they say?

Defense: What is your character's/client's [the accused's] plea? What evidence do you have to present? What witnesses (from the story or not) will you call? What will they say?



For discussion of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Definition of the Fantastic"

A couple of key quotes from Todorov's essay:

From Todorov:

“The fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty. Once we choose one answer or the other, we leave the fantastic for a neighboring genre, the uncanny, or the marvelous. The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event” (15).

“‘I nearly reached the point of believing’: that is the formula which sums up the spirit of the fantastic: it is hesitation which sustains its life” (18).

What do you think of the distinctions among "Fantastic," "uncanny," and "marvelous"? How does HORROR fit with (or not) these ideas about the fantastic?


For our discussion of "The Rats in the Walls" by Lovecraft:



For our discussion of "Bird of Prey" by John Collier:

Please read the story BEFORE class!: Here's a link to a PDF of the story .

Below are links we'll use in class (no need to look prior to class):

Birds = scary, right? You've seen Hitchcock on our feathered friends, yes?

Birds + children singing = Creepy Scary.

Think birds are scary? They are.

Readings for upcoming class meetings

Below are links to readings that I will be handing out in class. If you miss class, or misplace your copy, you can use these. Please be sure to bring a hard copy with you to class for our discussion on the day the readings are due.

For Thursday, January 31st, you will need "The Lure of Horror" (in addition to the reading from Dark Descent - see syllabus).

For Tuesday, February 5th, you will need "Why we Crave Horror Movies" and "Introduction to Monstrous Imagination" [I don't yet have this electronically, so please get your hands on a hard copy!] (in addition to the reading from the Dark Descent).