Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Creative Paper: Gothic Storytelling

(at right: image by William Blake (the poet), "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With the Sun" (1810))

For this “paper,” I want you to write a creative response to the gothic stories, themes, or elements covered in class. However, this is not an “anything goes” assignment, since I want you to write a story informed by our class readings, writings, and discussions. In other words, if you could have written this class without reading a single book in class, without writing a single paper in class, or attending a single class, I will grade accordingly. Otherwise, it should be an exciting, challenging opportunity to write a bona fide Gothic creation.


The Sublime: a story where the sublime plays a crucial role in the story. Make sure you understand what the sublime is, and re-read passages (esp. Frankenstein) where the sublime almost becomes a character in its own right. The plot (or our understanding of it) should hinge on some aspect of the sublime.

A Missing Chapter: write a missing chapter to one of the works in class—either a missing ending, beginning, or something in the middle. This chapter should deal with characters and themes in the book, but should add its own “twist” that helps interpret the work from a modern perspective. For example, what might Elizabeth have said to the Creature? (besides AAGHGAHHGH!). Or, what did they do with the giant helmet in Otranto (and Conrad’s remains)? Etc…

A Modern Adaptation: a short story (or first chapter of an unfinished work) that “translates” one of the stories into a modern setting. Consider what elements could jump from one century to the next without losing anything essential, and revamp the story in an original yet faithful way. Make sure your readers would still recognize the work’s origin.

Gothic Letters/Diary: a set of “discovered” letters that either start in the middle or break off before the end. Experiment with the epistolary form and the voice of a single narrator, and consider what we see and what falls between the letters (or letters that the writer responds to but that we don’t get to see). Be sure that crucial information/elements are missing, and don’t create a complete narrative—have it seem incomplete and mysterious (and thus Gothic!).


 A short story (or poem) of no more than 6-7 pages. You can do more, but I can’t guarantee I can read it all given the sheer amount of students in class.

 A response to the assignment and the works in class. Nothing composed before this class will be accepted unless it works really well within the boundaries of the assignment. You can modify a previously composed work.

 We will read a few selected works during the last week of class. I will choose the works that I feel best address the assignment and lend themselves to class discussion. I will distribute these selected works in class.



  1. Dr G:

    Would it be possible to build a side story that tells a gothic tale of Lenore (from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" ??

    It's something I've been working around in my head and thought I would see if that would qualify.. thanks!

  2. That's fascinating, but again, I would rather you respond to the works from class if you're going to adapt or respond to a literary work. I want to make sure you've read and digested our novels enough to play around with them creatively; the Poe you obviously read on your own and could have written without the benefit of the class. So get inspired from Poe, but try to play more within the British Gothic framework.