Sweetland's Gina Brandolino piece "Lessons in Horror" about her experiences teaching Horror Stories (ENG 290) at the University of Michigan was featured in Concentrate. An excerpt is provided below along with a few cool, creepy pictures taken for the article. Please click through to read on.
Lessons in Horror
This semester, I'm teaching a course called "Horror." It's an English course—one I have taught several times before in recent years—and in many ways, this semester's course is like it has been in previous years, and like all the other English courses I've taught. I make lesson plans, lead class discussions, and assign and grade papers.
But I'm not ashamed to say that something is different about this semester's course, different in what is for me an unsettling way: I don't have the kind of mastery over the stories we study that I am used to having. When I first conceived of this course, I populated it with very literary terrors: Grendel fromBeowulf, the fearsome Green Knight from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, the goblins of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market, and the like.
These are undoubtedly frightening figures, but to me, they're sort of like animals in a zoo: years of scholarly interpretation haven't exactly made them docile, but did allow me to observe their motives and to understand their actions—and maybe most importantly, made it possible for me to judge them at a safe distance. I knew how to modulate and manage the horror in these stories with the tools of my trade, literary analysis. And my students saw this and called me out on it. They told me I needed to include more truly terrifying stories in the course.