So I am beginning a unit on Gothic literature. We are going to be studying and comparing Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray, but before we start these novels, I want to give my students with a few short stories representative of the genre that will present them with the main themes of Gothic literature before we dive in to the novels. I am starting with "Markheim" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Any other suggestions that aren't already covered in most Literature programmes?
11 Answers | Add Yours
When I think Gothic, I immediately think of American authors like Poe. He is such a master of the short story genre and the Gothic story! The other good thing about Poe is that the students may be familiar with the 'standards' like "Tell-Tale Heart," but stories like "Masque of the Red Death" or "The Pit and the Pendulum" are much more challenging for plot, length, vocabulary and complexity. Poe is so prolific you can probably find a story that the majority of students are not familiar with, but can capture their attention because he is, for the most, very well liked.
I like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce - short and pithy. There are others in his Collected Works that are worth a read. Poe would be my number one choice though, too.
China Mieville has a short story called "Details," which is published in his short story collection Looking for Jake. It tells the story of a woman that has begun to see a "devil in the details" (literally) of every pattern. Unfortunately, it is trying to catch her, but she attempts to evade it by hiding in rooms with white paint so that it cannot emerge from any pattern. It would be good for introducing many of the motifs that we associate with gothic stories and would free you from the 19th century (as if anyone actually wants to escape it).
I almost think you cannot get away with teaching "Gothic" literature and ignoring EA Poe. If you are looking for stories outside of a regular curriculum, choose one or two of his lesser well known/taught stories.
He tends to provide the initial framework for Gothic elements and comparison back to Poe (in my opinion) is a must in any Gothic unit.
Another idea (perhaps not rare where you are from, but certainly rare in my experience) is Washington Irving.
One of my favorites is "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is rich in gothic elements--death, nature, beauty--and the story centers around fantastic supernatural events. It would be a natural to study in relation to Frankenstein because of the issues it raises about science in regard to man's playing God. I think it a perfect story for your unit.
"The Black Cat" by Poe is a good one with all the traditional Gothic elements, and I know that most teachers at my school don't teach it because they stick to the more traditional Poe stories. I also like "The Birthmark" by Hawthorne.
If you would like a more modern Gothic story, "The Feather Pillow" by Horacio Quiroga is one that I found a couple of years ago, and my students love it. Here's a link to its text.
I just finished a great lesson on Flannery O'Connor and her short stories, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," "Good Country People" and "Revelation." My kids loved the stories and her writing is often characterized as "Southern Gothic." "A Rose for Emily" is also relevant to the gothic genre.
"The Birthmark" by Hawthorne will fit nicely into this unit. It lends itself to the themes of friendship and beauty, as well as the responsibility of a parent/spouse which you will find in Frankenstein. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Gilman is also a good choice dealing with obessession and control, gender issues, mental health.
Thanks everyone! In the end we did a comparison/contrast with "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Oval Portrait," both by Edgar Allen Poe. "The Oval Portrait" in particular is very important for the study of The Picture of Dorian Gray as it explores the relationship between art and life in a very accessible way.
I think that "The Monkey's Paw" is a great introduction to gothic stories. It has many of the elements of Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The story is short and very creepy, but easy to understand. If your students have not read other gothic stories, it will blow them away. I also second what others have said, and I like just about anything from Poe. Dickens also has some fantastically gothic short stories, such as "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole the Sextant" a shorter version of A Christmas Carol in a way.
How about "The Signal-Man" by Charles Dickens? (May be more ghost story/supernatural than horror). It may not have all the characteristics of the Gothic novel, but it's a great scary tale. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson) is good, and not too long. Poe is a great choice: The Gold Bug; The Fall of the House of Usher is great, creepy stuff. I don't know what grade you're teaching, and it's not a Gothic tale, but horror, I think it would suffice: "A Rose for Miss Emily."
Love the Gothic stuff, and Frankenstein especially. What fun!
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes