This course material © 1994 Russell A. Potter. It may be reproduced for non-profit, educational uses, but publication in any profit-making form or in any book or magazine form must first be cleared with the author.

Russell A. Potter,, Colby College

EN 271: "The Transit of the Fantastic: From the Gothic to the Postmodern"

This course will introduce students to the ongoing explosion in cultural theory that continues to reform (and deform) studies in English (as well as in philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and other disciplines). Rather than merely act as consumers of this theory, however, we will actively produce it -- beginning with the questions raised by consumption itself. The crooked path of literature and film that can be loosely denoted as the "Gothic" will serve as out itinerary, but the conclusions drawn will be our own. Through weekly response papers and seminars, we will actively theorize and debate what the Gothic might be and mean to us today.

Written Work: Each Monday, I will ask each of you to submit a one-paragraph response to the week's readings. These "papers," however, will not be printed on paper, but will be "posted" to an electronic bulletin board on Colby's VAX computer, where everyone can read them (and respond to them as well). If you haven't done it before, the process is really quite easy to learn; I will have explanatory handouts, and the Computer Services office in Lovejoy offers support as well. For this reason, it is imperative that you activate your vax account in order to fully participate in this course. The formal mid-term paper, due Friday October 23rd, will also be posted, though a paper copy should also be submitted; the final paper, due on or before Friday December 18th, will be due in paper copy only (though you may also post it electronically if you wish).

Note on course books: The Eagleton book is required, though I am assigning only the Introduction; its main purpose is to serve as a reference for certain terms and theories we will encounter during the semester. We will be using only selections from the Nietzsche and Foucault volumes.


Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (critical edition)
Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction
Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations
Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice
Jean Baudrillard, Simulations
Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles
Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
William Gibson, Neuromancer


(screenings will be held on Monday evenings from 6:30 - 8:30 in Lovejoy 202 )

Frankenstein (1931 version)
Bride of Frankenstein
Edward Scissorhands
Total Recall
Lawnmower Man
Terminator, Terminator 2

Week-by-Week Schedule:

Week 1: (Sept. 9, 11). Wednesday: Introduction to the Course/handouts & student survey. Friday: discussion, "What is Literature?" Reading: For Friday, read Eagleton, Literary Theory, introduction: "What is Literature?"

Week 2: (Sept. 14, 16, 18). Monday: Lecture/discussion, "In the Wake of the Author."Wednesday: Lecture/discussion, "The monstrous birth(s) of the Gothic" Friday: Seminar 1, "How do you read a book?" Readings: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, chapters I-XVII; Foucault, "What is an Author" (LCP); Barthes, "From Work to Text" (handout). Film: Frankenstein

Week 3: (Sept. 21, 23, 25) Monday: Lecture/discussion, "The Many Lives of Frankenstein."; Wednesday: Lecture/discussion: Frankenstein. on film. Friday: Seminar 2: Your own personal Frankenstein. Shelley, Frankenstein, chapters XVIII-XXIV [end], along with "A Critical History of Frankenstein" (pp. 189-204) and Lee Heller, "Frankenstein and the Cultural Uses of Gothic" (325-341). Film: Bride of Frankenstein

Week 4: (Sept. 28, 30; Oct. 2). Monday: Lecture/discussion: Gothic dreams and the society of the spectacle. Wednesday: In-class video: Michael Jackson's Thriller . Friday; Seminar 3: The spectacle in/of everyday life. Readings: Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Greil Marcus, excerpts from Lipstick Traces (handout). Film: Metropolis

Week 5: (Oct. 5, 7, 9). Monday: Lecture/discussion, "Gothic and Postmodern Simulations" Wednesday: discussion, "Partial Bodies and Body Parts" Friday: Seminar 4: Living in your body. Readings: Baudrillard, Simulations; Potter, "Edward Schizohands: The Postmodern Gothic Body" (handout). Film: Edward Scissorhands

Week 6: (Oct. 12, 14, 16). Monday: Lecture/discussion: "History vs. Amnesia." Wednesday: Lecture/Discussion: What is genealogical history?. Friday: Seminar 5, "Visits to the museum: History as dead Spectacle" Readings: Nietzsche, "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life"(in Untimely Meditations); Foucault, "Nietzsche, History, Genealogy" (LCP). Film: Westworld

Week 7: (Oct. 21, 23) Wednesday: Lecture/discussion, "Dreams of Science: From Body to Cyborg." Friday: Seminar 6: Are you already a cyborg? Readings: Donna Haraway: "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" Formal Paper #1 Due Friday. Film: Blade Runner

Week 8: (Oct. 26, 28, 30) Monday: Lecture/discussion, "A genealogy of cyberpunk." Wednesday: Discussion of the first half of Neuromancer. Friday: Seminar 7: Science Fiction: The Uses of the Unreal. Reading: Gibson, Neuromancer, first half, Larry McCaffrey, "The Desert of the Real" (handout) Film: Total Recall.

Week 9: (Nov. 2, 4, 6) Monday: Lecture/discussion, "Cyberspace as metaphor and reality." Wednesday: Discussion of second half of Neuromancer. Friday: Seminar 8, "At the Video Arcade: Social Space and Cyberspace." Readings: Neuromancer, second half, Allucquere Rosanne Stone, "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up: Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures" (handout) Film: Lawnmower Man

Week 10: (Nov. 9, 11, 13) Simulation and the Unreal City: Los Angeles 1992. Friday: Seminar 9, "The Urban Landscape: Gothic Ruins of the '90's?" Mike Davis, City of Quartz, Prologue (1-14), "Sunshine or Noir," "Power Lines" (15-144). Films: Terminator, Terminator 2

Week 11: (Nov. 16, 18, 20) Mike Davis, City of Quartz, "Fortress L.A," "The Hammer and the Rock" (221-317); "Junkyard of Dreams" (375-435). Friday: Seminar 10, "Robocops and Terminators: Fantasies of Law Enforcement." Film: Robocop.

Week 12: (Nov. 23) The return of the Gothic. Readings: Batman comix (issues to be announced). Film: Batman

Week 13: (Nov. 30, Dec. 2, 4) Making your own family tree of horror: Putting the Gothic together (only to tear it to pieces again!). Friday: Final Seminar, "The Genealogy of the Gothic."

Week 14: (Dec. 7, 9, 11) Review and work on final paper.

NOTE ON FINAL PAPERS: The final paper will be due on or before Friday December 18th. No later papers will be accepted, and there will be no extensions or incompletes (with the sole exception of a bona fide emergency for which written documentation must be supplied via the Dean of Students Office).