This was the first thought which washed across my mind looking at the course objective of Topics in 18th Century Literature.
“I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like it Sam-I-Am” (Dr.Seuss).
The last time a class of mine ventured into dark Lit, the outcome was scathing; I was scarred by the wonton cruelty inflicted on my mind. I had no choice but to take this required course, as I’m graduating this year, and good friends had assured me my teacher was “sensitive” to his understudies. Surely this Doctor of Literature wasn’t going to relish in traumatizing his class as the last one had. Right? These high hopes, and a stubborn refusal to allow words to scare me, ushered me into class.
Perhaps I should back-track, take a moment to tell you who this author is, to let you feel the vantage point this blog is coming from for yourself. I am a fourth year Literature major. I will also graduate with a major in Political Studies. POLI was an after-thought bred from having all of the required courses and being terrified that I may not get into Graduate Studies at the school I wanted to go to with the English focus I was hoping to complete. I like theory. I’m in love with an artist who permanently bears a John Keats quote about Beauty and Truth on his sleeve. I like Jane Austen. I want to make the world a better place. I see the world painted in broad, universal strokes. Good strokes. Good in the biblical sense: fully functioning. I like happy endings and books with insight. Why would I read ghost stories? I don’t even like being scared.
Having little experience, I took the Doctors advice and read the “Introduction” to our textbook: Gothic Evolutions: Poetry, Tales, Context, Theory. Imagine my surprise when I read that Gothic Literature “began as both a reflection of, and a challenge to, Enlightenment emphases on secularization, commerce, and scientific method” (xxv). What? Gothic Lit’s scary themes “are manifestations of humanity’s deepest fears about the exercise of arbitrary power”? Hold the telegraph (because it hasn’t been invented yet). These are topics which interest me–across my studies (intended or accidental). Xenophobia, tyranny, revolution, irrational violence, capitalism and … gender (!) are themes associated with the tropes of the Gothic??! Be patient while I swoon.
Upon regaining my senses, I knew instantly I would rethink my playful judgements of Andrew – a good friend and colleague of mine for a number of years – with his Masters in History, his keen interest in my reading Frankenstein, and his Vampire tattoos. This was not going to be the Gothic Lit course I signed up for.