Spring Class Profile: “The Gothic: Ghosts and Vampires”

Scary stories aren’t just for Halloween. This spring, William Peace University will be offering an English course all about ghosts and vampires from the 19th century. The Gothic: Ghosts and Vampires is a three credit hour course with a required prerequisite of a 200-level literature course. 

According to the course catalog, The Gothic: Ghosts and Vampires course studies the genre of the Gothic, a fascinating blend of monsters, psychological trauma, and cultural hauntings, through classic texts in the British and American tradition.

The course will be taught by Dr. Wade Newhouse, program director of theatre and professor of English. According to Newhouse, this course is not a writing class, but a literature class about the tradition of vampire novels and ghost story novels from the early 1800s to 1990s that delves into the Gothic and how it relates to society and psychology.

“The Gothic is a fun subject to teach because even in the old fashioned time period, the topics are still kind of breathless,” said Newhouse. “Repressed sexuality, repressed racism, it’s all repression and the ghosts or vampires are a way to talk about that stuff.”

Students are also looking forward to the opportunity to study a darker genre.

“What draws me to this era of literature specifically is how the Gothic identifies and dramatizes boundaries and their arbitrariness,” said WPU freshman Mary Hanna. “In Gothic Literature, the boundaries are between the living and the dead and the human and the non-human.”

But what creates the desire to explore such a fantastical and melodramatic genre?

“I was doing Gothic things from the time I learned to read,” said Newhouse. “I also lived in Germany, so I learned to read in an environment where ghost stories and legends and the black forest and castle ruins  and all that kind of stuff was the daily vocabulary.”

While studying the role Gothic literature plays in society and psychology, the ability to read, write and argue things well is the main point of the course by university standards. However, deep down Newhouse would like to hope that reading books and stories of a different genre make people more eager readers of culture.

“I want people to leave here and go out in the world being able to talk with their friends, colleagues and coworkers about video games, superhero movies, romance novels and reality TV shows with the same  precision and enthusiasm that old time dead professor people talked about,” said Newhouse.

Students who have taken classes with Newhouse can attest to that. How he teaches allows students to look at these books through new and different perspectives, which in turn creates a more lively discussion with friends and peers.

This is the second year this class will be offered as a combination of ghost and vampire subjects. If students want to catch a glimpse of what the course will be discussing, be sure to go see Dracula which opens on Oct. 16. 

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