Accessibility statement

Gothic Bodies - ENG00118M

« Back to module search

  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Deborah Russell
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2020-21

Module summary

One way of defining the Gothic as a mode of writing is to say that it is about fear. The Gothic uncovers, explores, and fosters terrors – and perhaps also offers an escape from them, or a new way of understanding them. This module thinks about how the body functions as the locus of fear, and how it is imagined as the site of both monstrosity and suffering. It explores the depiction of embodiment and corporeality in Gothic fiction, poetry and drama from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (roughly 1790-1830). This turbulent period saw immense political upheaval, important medical and scientific advances, and a literary and cultural shift that we now call Romanticism. The boom in Gothic writing at the time responds to these developments; looking at Gothic bodies, then, allows us to trace how such contexts are written on the self.

The module will cover a range of texts that focus on different aspects of embodiment, considering them in relation to contemporary medical, aesthetic, and political commentary. We will ask how bodily pain is imagined, explore attitudes to pleasure and desire, think about anxieties surrounding contagion and madness, and look at how the Gothic treats specific figures like the mother or the mute. We will also examine how Gothic literature works on the reader’s body: how do ideas of the terrifying sublime relate to and rely on an understanding of embodiment, for example? How are ‘the passions’ and ‘the senses’ imagined, and how are they stirred up? Finally, we will examine the ways in which the texts’ focus on the corporeal can expose the operations of power, interrogating dynamics of gender, sexuality, race, (dis)ability, nationality, and class.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module aims to offer an advanced introduction to how the body is imagined in Romantic-period Gothic literature. It will expose you to a range of approaches to embodiment and to the Gothic, and will help you to examine the political, social, philosophical, and scientific anxieties that underpin Gothic corporeality.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with a range of Gothic texts.
  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the literary, social, scientific and/or political contexts of the Romantic period.
  3. Evaluate key debates within relevant critical fields, especially in relation to corporeality and embodiment.
  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas that demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

Indicative reading

Texts studied on the module are likely to include:

Joanna Baillie, De Monfort (1798) and Orra (1812)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘Christabel’ (1816, written c.1797-1800)

Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya (1806)

James Hogg, Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

Thomas Holcroft, Deaf and Dumb (1801) and The Tale of Mystery (1802)

John Keats, ‘Lamia’ (1819)

Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796) and The Captive (1803)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)

Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman (1798)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.