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Victorian Gothic

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 17th January 2024 (Code LI137-205) Add to Basket Wednesdays from
17th January 2024 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
G38 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: David M. Wingrove AB (Magna) MA BFI Cert
£165.00 Concessions and discounts

Course Summary

Beneath its surface of bourgeois propriety, the psyche of Victorian Britain was in thrall to forbidden dreams and haunted by gruesome nightmares. Come and explore this dark heritage with works by writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Bram Stoker, Sheridan Le Fanu and others!

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge is required. Previous students on this course will enjoy returning to study the new titles.

Content of Course

This course will examine the ways in which Victorian writers challenged social taboos and explored the underlying anxieties and neuroses of the era. Why were our ancestors so obsessed with ghosts and why was no home complete without one? What was the allure of the beautiful and vampiric femme fatale? How could children be innocent and dangerous at the same time? We’ll read authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Wilkie Collins, Sheridan Le Fanu, George MacDonald, Vernon Lee, Henry James and Bram Stoker. As we search their pages for answers, we may wonder if our life today is as different as we would like to think.

Teaching method(s)

Lecture based with class discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Explain how Victorian fantasy challenged the taboos of its era;

  • Describe the ways in which fantasy writers subvert social norms;

  • Identify cultural trends across the English-speaking world;

  • Relate Victorian fantasy to contemporary fears and taboos.


Core Readings

Students are advised to wait until the course has been confirmed to run before purchasing any of the recommended books.

  • Collins, W. (2018) The Woman in White. London: Penguin Classics

  • Hawthorne, N. (2009) The House of the Seven Gables. Oxford: World’s Classics

  • James, H. (2011) The Turn of the Screw. London: Penguin Classics

  • Le Fanu, J. S. (2008) In a Glass Darkly. Oxford: World’s Classics

  • Lee, V. (2022) The Virgin of the Seven Daggers and Other Stories. Oxford: World’s Classics

  • MacDonald, G. (2016) Lilith. London: Parker Press

  • Stoker, Bram (2008) The Lair of the White Worm. London: Penguin Gothic Classics

Class Handouts

Discussion questions for each session. Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.