In the first of our series of guest blog posts, Jodie Boast, recent English and Creative Writing graduate, introduces us to our final-year Gothic Narratives module – the ‘best module ever’!

Having graduated from The University of Bolton with a 2:1 in the joint degree, English & Creative Writing, I can say that the whole course was fantastic. While it was stressful and hard work, I achieved the goals I aimed for: further experience in different kinds of writing, progress on my personal portfolio, and a degree in the subject I love.

During the third year of my degree there was a lot more choice regarding which modules I could study. Looking at the different choices, I decided on things I was sure I would enjoy and could be incorporated into my own fiction writing. I instinctively knew I had to pick the Gothic Narratives module as I love writing thrillers and like adding a sinister tone to my writing, which I knew Gothic tales included. I also wanted to study and look at the novels that were assigned to the course, such as: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Collector, The Bloody Chamber, ‘A Rose for Emily’, The Shining & ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’. Some of these texts had been on my reading list for a while, so it was great to read and discuss them in depth.

In class, we looked at how Gothic texts can develop and change over time or maintain different elements. We considered classic texts such as Dracula (1897), followed by twentieth-century texts such as The Collector (1963). Both have similar Gothic conventions, but they each have their own narrative which reflects the time in which they were published. You also study theories, and of course the narratives of each individual text. Every text has a different narrative and you will look at how that influences the text and whether it maintains a Gothic theme or does not.

My favourite text studied on the module was The Collector by John Fowles. I love how the novel gives us our own perception of ‘the beast’ as the story is told – in part – from his point of view. Most Gothic texts follow a character referred to as ‘the beast’ – the baddie – the reason why things aren’t quite ‘normal’. I read this before the class, which is ideal to do as you can analyse and have your own opinions on class discussion. It can be difficult getting all the reading done with all the assignments but it is worth it and is easier in the long run, so you do not have to cram in all the reading before writing the essay! I read this on my own and could not put the book down, it was thrilling and exciting and I was eager to learn what was going to happen (don’t worry no spoilers!)

The classes were focused around Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’. Freud looks at how most Gothic texts follow similar conventions, looking at the representations of the beast and introducing us to the theory of ‘the uncanny’. ‘The Uncanny’ is the notion that something is no longer ‘homely’, something has made it ‘unhomely’, it is spooky, unusual… This can emanate from a character, setting, tone, or mood, etc… Within the classes, you will go on to talk about how Freud’s theory links in with the texts.

Frontispiece to Frankenstein (1831)
John Fowles, The Collector (1963)

Dracula and Frankenstein are classic tales that I always wanted to read and being able to study and analyse these novels was interesting. The Bloody Chamber is a fantastic text by Angela Carter, (read it even if you’re not taking the course!). Carter presents us with her own version of the Gothic tale, mixing it up slightly. ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is also a short story and a fantastic adaptation of Bluebeard and the Gothic qualities it holds are interesting. The texts are the best part of the module, Evan is a close second, as they are all enjoyable. Of course Evan Jones always finds a way to make the lessons more interesting and dare I say it… fun. Seriously consider Gothic Narratives for one of your modules, and find out why your favourite Gothic texts have an alluring unhomely feel to them…

Jodie Boast