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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

The Undead Souths: Southern Gothic and Francophone Mythologies in Film & Television


This course will explore themes of the Southern Gothic in works of Cinema and popular Televisual narratives. We will study the development of the lurid motifs of the Gothic that works affiliated with this genre often deploy to invoke a sense of horror and dread, moral corruption, and psychological abjection, all seemingly meant to assimilate the South and its citizens to the category of a degenerate and menacing otherness. The imagery of dismal landscapes, dark swamps, decaying architecture, fanatical and occult religious practices, and the often grotesque or monstrous figures and cultural tropes that aspire to associate the South with an imaginary medieval past, will be examined mostly as marks of an ambivalent ideological struggle surrounding the self-identity of America. Thanks to this regime of gothic tropes and insignia, America, on the one hand, heralds its own self-identity as culturally rich and historically continuous, and yet, it is, at least partly thanks to this same regimen of gothic tropes (understood as figures of otherness), on the other hand, that America also typically (or stereotypically) deals with anxieties arising from its attempts to define its own modern identity, and its identity as modern and exceptional. Such anxieties give rise to instances of negative stereotyping, and practices of cultural exclusion that the course critically interrogates. We also study several important ways in which the Gothic serves as an important voice for the marginalized, while enabling critical reflections on the social and cultural practices of exclusion we have alluded to. The history of slavery, the civil war, and its aftermath, as well as literature produced by certain Southern writers (such as William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Katherine Anne Porter, and others) since the late 19th century, will be identified as important defining contexts of emergence for the Southern gothic, and as the indispensable conditions that have made its deployment into 20th century film and television possible. Due attention will also be paid to the influence of French colonial adventures and interventions in shaping cultures and "gothic" mythologies of the American South, and the Caribbean, as well as the role played by America's own efforts to secure and maintain hegemonic influences on the region. The course is conducted in English, and requires no prior knowledge of the field. All films are streamed to your computer from the UMass library on demand. Required readings are provided online, and no book purchases are necessary. (Gen. Ed. AT, DU)
Course Details

Summer 2023


Jul 17, 2023 - Aug 25, 2023
Patrick Mensah
Base Cost: $2,100 ($525/credit)
Term Fee: $60
Start date: Jul 17, 2023
End date: Aug 25, 2023
Last day to add: Jul 21, 2023
Last day to drop: Jul 21, 2023
Last day to withdraw: Aug 09, 2023