American Gothic: the darker side of fiction

Course Dates: 20/09/22 - 29/11/22
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
Location: Keeley Street
Explore and discuss the work of great 19th and 20th century writers such as Hawthorne. Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson and Flannery O’Connor – and learn about the dark streak that runs through so much of the best American literature.
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Full fee £219.00 Senior fee £175.00 Concession £142.00

Course Code: HLT126

Tue, day, 20 Sep - 29 Nov '22

Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Lines open Monday-Friday 12:00-18:00

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

The course is an introduction to the genre known as American Gothic - classic fiction exploring the darker themes of American literature, from witchcraft in Puritan New England to psychological unease, from sexual oppression to racial anxiety and fear of the unknown.

Most of the texts studied will be short stories, with a few short novels.

What will we cover?

We will consider the social and cultural conditions of American society that produced such a range of impressive and disturbing writing such as Hawthorne’s tales of Puritan hypocrisy, Melville’s early portrayals of peculiarly American angst such as Bartleby the Scrivener, the psychological horror of Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic tale of a woman’s disintegration in The Yellow Wallpaper and the darkly humorous tales of Shirley Jackson and Flannery O’Connor.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Recognise recurring themes in American fiction
• Relate these to the wider world of Western culture
• Feel confident enough to explore further study of related fiction on your own.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is introductory. An enthusiasm for reading and discussion is all that is required.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course is an interactive mixture of tutor exposition and class discussion. Videos and clips will also be shown and discussed. You will asked to read the texts before the class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Most of the texts will be provided online by the tutor.

However students should buy/borrow the following editions:

Flannery O’Connor A Good Man is Hard to Find (Faber Modern Classics)
Shirley Jackson We have always lived in the castle (Penguin Modern Classics afterword by Joyce Carol Oates)

Apart from the reading material, you should bring pens, notepaper and file in which to store handouts and other course materials.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please see HLT170 The Golden Age of the British Short Story, 1890-1914 and HLT198 Great American Stories, tuaght by the same tutor.
Please see our range of Literature courses under History, Culture and Writing/Literature on the website at

Julian Birkett

Julian Birkett is a teacher and writer specialising in modern literature. He previously worked in the Arts department at the BBC as a producer of series such as The Late Show, Modern Poets in their Own Words, The Victorians and The Culture Show. He has taught in London and at the University of Mumbai.He aims to create a friendly but thoughtful atmosphere in his City Lit classes and to provide a stimulating variety of activities from tutor input to discussion to group work and video clips.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.