This site is the virtual home for the horror courses I teach at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. (By the way, I’m Gina Brandolino, a lecturer in the Department of English the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.) Those courses are ENG290 Horror, which focuses on popular and contemporary horror in a variety of media, including the latest blockbuster horror films, creepypasta, and comics; and ENG318 Literary Horror, which traces horror through the history of English literature, so focuses on novels, short stories, poems, and a couple of the most influential horror films.
Designing and teaching these courses has made me realize that, though texts that count as “literature” can make good horror, not all good horror gets counted as “literature.” Horror is usually seen as a lowbrow genre, not warranting serious thought or standing up to scholarly scrutiny. To be sure, people attach such assessments for more often to the likes of Slenderman, Leatherface, and Cthulhu than to Dracula, Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein, but in general, horror is easily overlooked as a worthy subject of study.
That’s a shame, because there’s a lot we can learn from a horror story. The great American writer Flannery O’Connor said that “in the long run, a people is known . . . by the stories it tells,” suggesting that stories reveal a great deal about the culture that tells them. This is interesting in and of itself, but especially when applied to scary stories; horrifying figures in stories can reveal what scares the cultures which produced them, can help us understand why something is considered frightening, and can also demonstrate the ways that dread is negotiated, surrendered to, and defeated. Of course, these aren’t the only ways that horror operates in a text, but they’re some of the most telling ways it does. This blog is one of the forums where my students and I will engage the questions horror raises; I hope others will follow and join in our conversations here.
Please join us and follow the Course of Horror!