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ENGLISH 5I: WISE: Science, Seances, Specters: The Victorian Ghost Story

Ghost stories permeate myth, theater, literature, film, and folklore; they assume many forms and wear many faces, but they endure generation after generation. In this course, we will explore the Victorian ghost story, from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol to Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Tracing the parallel evolution of science and spiritualism over the 19th century, we will study the development of the ghost story alongside the fields of psychology, anthropology, forensics, and criminal investigation. We will also draw on feminist thought, queer theory, and cultural studies to explore the role of gender and sexuality in tales of the supernatural and in Victorian notions of mediumship and spectrality. Throughout the quarter we will ask: Why did tales of the unexplainable proliferate during this period, just as tremendous advances in science were making the world more explainable? In what ways were ghost stories gendered for Victorian readers, and why? If ghost stories from d more »
Ghost stories permeate myth, theater, literature, film, and folklore; they assume many forms and wear many faces, but they endure generation after generation. In this course, we will explore the Victorian ghost story, from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol to Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Tracing the parallel evolution of science and spiritualism over the 19th century, we will study the development of the ghost story alongside the fields of psychology, anthropology, forensics, and criminal investigation. We will also draw on feminist thought, queer theory, and cultural studies to explore the role of gender and sexuality in tales of the supernatural and in Victorian notions of mediumship and spectrality. Throughout the quarter we will ask: Why did tales of the unexplainable proliferate during this period, just as tremendous advances in science were making the world more explainable? In what ways were ghost stories gendered for Victorian readers, and why? If ghost stories from different time periods represent the fears of different generations, then what were the Victorians afraid of? (Note: This Writing-Intensive Seminar in English (WISE) course fulfills WIM for English majors. Non-majors are welcome, space permitting. For enrollment permission contact vbeebe@stanford.edu.)
Terms: Aut | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II
Instructors: Douris, S. (PI)
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