Aguirre, Thomas. “Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure: The Case of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Gothic Studies. 15.2 (2013): 1-18. Modern Language Association International. Web. 13 July 2015.
Aguirre’s article traces Gothic fiction from its current status as a viable literary genre back to its origin as a tradition rooted in mythology and folktale. The framing of the Gothic in such terms serves the article’s greater purpose, which is to illustrate the ways in which the genre inspired reflection and contemplation by presenting seemingly conflicting ideas (i.e., binary opposites). Since once of the goals of creating a genre studies class is to inspire students to dig deeper into assigned texts, including the Gothic is certainly justifiable when viewed from Aguirre’s perspective. After all, students will have to engage with a form that “sets up and simultaneously problematizes a number of oppositions…” (Aguirre 1).
Back to the Future Part II. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Perf. Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd. Universal Pictures, 1989. DVD.
The sequel to Zemeckis’ classic Back to the Future sees Marty McFly time-travelling to various decades in the hopes of ensuring the best timeline possible. After believing that he has finished his job, McFly returns to his “home year” of 1985 only to find that it has been mutated into a grim dystopia. To right the ship, per se, McFly must go back to the 1955 seen in the first film and smooth the wrinkles that led to the dystopian nightmare. As a lighthearted take on what can sometimes be a serious genre, Back to the Future II is included in this project as an attempt to entice the high school students for whom this curriculum is being designed.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young. Warner Bros, 2007. DVD.
Ridley Scott’s masterpiece sees Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard trying to hunt down a set of rogue replicants – androids so sophisticated that they actually believe themselves to be human. The film is rooted in a dystopian version of Los Angeles, with rain constantly falling and neon lights glimmering incessantly. The neo-noir plot grapples with serious questions about consciousness, ultimately reaching a crescendo in which the viewer realizes that Deckard cannot be sure that he himself is not a replicant. Although this movie is an integral part of the project’s dystopian section, the connections between replicants and Frankenstein’s creature suggest that it will operate as a more-than-serviceable bridge text.
Blau, Sheridan. The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, Heinemann: 2003. Print.
Sheridan Blau’s 2003 book challenges educators to reconsider the ways in which literature is taught. Although English teachers often connote “workshop” with writing activities, Blau advocates for workshop-styled reading; what this means is that students are encouraged to not consider the literary exploration done after reading a text once, but to reread while reflecting upon previous interpretations and sources of confusion. Blau suggests that a great deal of antipathy to assigned readings may stem from the fact that students “might have mistakenly regarded their first readings as finished or the best they could do…” (198). Consequently, Blau’s spirit of active engagement and willingness to return to a text will be an absolute asset when constructing a genre studies elective.
Bradbury, Ray. The Illustrated Man. New York: Bantam Books, 1951. Print.
Bradbury’s collection titled The Illustrated Man contains “The Veldt,” a short story about children spending time in a virtual-reality playroom that takes on the deadly form of an African veldt. “The Veldt” is rife with anxieties about parents losing control of their children, the inability of escaping the allure of new technology, and the becoming replaced by a new generation. Although this text is set in the future and therefore could be framed as dystopian, the playroom operates as a reimagined Gothic castle – consequently, “The Veldt” will be included in the Gothic section of this project.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Bantam Books, 1953. Print.
Fahrenheit 451 imagines a future in which literature is outlawed, mass distraction is pervasive, and professional book-burner Guy Montag has begun to wonder why it is that people risk their lives to hold onto their books. After encountering Clarisse McClellan, a neighborhood girl whose idiosyncratic ways inspire intrigue, Montag begins thinking outside of the box and yearns to read books. After being discovered, Montag flees, ultimately falling in with a group of exiled professors and intellectuals who vow to redistribute stories as a means rekindling society’s spirit. Fahrenheit will be included in the final exercise as one of the two extended texts (per the PARCC standards adopted by Wakefield Memorial High School) in the dystopia section of this project.
Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York: Bantam Books, 1950. Print.
“Usher II,” one of the stories in The Martian Chronicles, is Ray Bradbury’s homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Bradbury’s story follows William Stendahl, an admirer of horror and fantasy who moves to Mars after those genres are censored on Earth. With the help of a Hollywood special effects expert, Stendahl creates a facsimile of Poe’s house, complete with robotic versions of the author’s most infamous-and-deadly plot devices. Before all is said and done, the reader is led through new visions of Poe’s classics, with the antagonist’s unwillingness to read leading to his demise. For the purposes of this final project, “Usher II” is to follow (and be examined in tandem with) “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
Bradbury, Ray. Zen in the Art of Writing. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. Print.
Although primarily intended for aspiring writers, Bradbury’s book of essays offers many of the author’s perspectives regarding his writing, specifically his speculative fiction. These perspectives are especially approachable, perhaps serving to convince those skeptics unsure of the value of science fiction (i.e. dystopian literature) beyond entertainment. Fortunately, Bradbury clarifies that “the entire history of mankind is problem solving, or science fiction swallowing ideas, digesting them, and excreting formulas for survival….No fantasy, no reality” (102). Zen in the Art of Writing is included as a rationale via an author whose work is heavily featured in this project.
Bruns, Cristina Vischer. Why Literature?The Value of Literary Reading and What It Means for Teaching. New York: Continuum, 2011. Print.
This book serves as a fantastic guide for any educator with even a passing interest in teaching literature. While still honoring the daily realities and practical concerns of classroom teachers, Bruns’ text makes a compelling case for the often-overlooked but truly transformative power of literature to help students reflect upon themselves and the world at large. Bruns argues that “literary reading temporarily blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality, between self and other, between inner and outer experience” with a depth and sophistication that eludes other written forms (e.g., nonfiction). As such, Bruns’ work serves as crucial pedagogical foundation for the project at hand.
Bukatman, Scott. Blade Runner. London: Palgrave Macmillan on Behalf of the British Film Institute, 2012. Print.
This addition to the BFI Film Classics series gives insight into the production, reception, and influence of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Writer Scott Bukatman investigates the film through the lenses of media theory and cultural theory, thereby presenting film analyses of a more nuanced, sophisticated sort than those found in run-of-the-mill movie reviews. In fact, passages could be presented to high school students as a means of helping elevate their examinations of film. Consequently, the sixth lesson of the unit plan presented in this project asks students to respond to an excerpt of Bukatman.
Claremont, Chris, and John Byrne. “Days of Future Past.” Uncanny X-Men. 141-2. New York: Marvel Comics, 1981. Print.
In two issues of Uncanny X-Men, Claremont and Byrne offer a landmark Marvel Comics story in which heroes must travel back in time to thwart the dystopia in which they currently reside. The X-Men are able to complete their mission, but a cliffhanger suggests that the dystopia hoping to be avoided could still be a possibility. Additionally, Bryan Singer directed a (loose) adaptation of this storyline in 2014, which could paired with a reading of the comic.
Common Core State Standards Initiative. English Language Arts Standards:Introduction – Key Design Consideration. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is at the forefront of both education reform and the debate by which it is surrounded. While many elements of the CCSSI have inspired varying degrees of skepticism, the contested component relevant to this curriculum project is the privileging of informational texts over literature. This website provides an “at-a-glance” overview of the English Language Arts standards developed by the CCSSI. More importantly, this site explicitly details the justification for weaning students off literature (with only 30% of high school seniors’ reading consisting of literary texts), stating that “the motivation behind the interdisciplinary approach to literacy promulgated by the Standards is extensive research establishing the need for college and career ready students to be proficient in reading complex informational text independently in a variety of content areas.” However, articles presented in this curriculum unit project – and the course it intends to create – argue that the CCSSI has not adequately demonstrated that reading informational texts do not better prepare students for academic (or personal) success than literary texts.
Ellis, Warren. Cunning Plans: Talks by Warren Ellis. Summon Books, 2015. Kindle file.
This ebook collects a variety of essays that Warren Ellis originally wrote as speeches and public presentations. As such, the topic of science fiction is examined from a number of different angles. The section “A talk for dConstruct, Brighton” is most pertinent to the project at hand, as it sees Ellis contemplating the social role of science fiction. In fact, Ellis stakes the claim that a work of dystopian literature can become especially relevant when the reader considers the possibility that it addresses is a product of its time. By offering the adage that “1984 was always about 1948” Ellis thwarts the criticism that science fiction is nothing more than wild speculation.
Ellison, Harlan. “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. 315-324. Print.
“Shattered Like a Glass Goblin” is Ellison’s depiction of a modernized Gothic castle – a dilapidated house occupied by burnt out drug addicts. Ellison casts Gothic castles as the abnormalities found in modern cities, writing that “It was gothic hideous, with the grass half-cut and the rusted lawnmower sitting in the middle of an unfinished swath. Grass cut as if a placating gesture to the outraged tenants of the two lanai apartment building that loomed over the squat structure of either side” (315). With this setting established, Ellison summons the spirit of the Gothic’s fascination with psychological uncertainty and describes protagonist Rudy’s descent into a drug-fueled madness in which human beings transform into monsters.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. 182-190. Print.
“A Rose for Emily” is a story framed around the death of small-town heiress Emily Grierson. Emily is cast as having a complicated romance to Homer Barron end with his leaving her, or so it seems – however, the twist at the end reveals that Emily had killed her beau and had been sleeping with his corpse for years: “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him” (190). Faulkner’s story is a prime example of the Southern Gothic, thereby illustrating the branching possibilities of the genre.
Felski, Rita. Uses of Literature. Malden, Blackwell Publishing: 2008. Print.
Felski’s 2008 book turns over a new leaf in the investigation of why it is that we read, rallying against the reliance on any single preexisting approach to literary theory. Using the introduction to come out swinging, Felski argues that even literary theories that are drastically different are unified by “a conviction that literature is fundamentally different from the world and our other ways of making sense of that world, and that this…is the source of its value” (4). The book then succeeds in describing the motivation behind reading in terms both practical and philosophical, making the case that readers should be encouraged “to combine a willingness to suspect with an eagerness to listen; there is no reason why our readings cannot blend analysis and attachment, criticism and love” (22). Felski then divvies the analysis into four types of investigation – recognition, enchantment, knowledge, and shock. For the purposes of this project, it is recognition, or the “flash of connection [that] leaps across the gap between text and reader; an affinity or an attunement [that] is brought to light” that will be most fully explored (23).
Gattaca. Dir. Andrew Niccol. Perf. Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman. Columbia Pictures, 1997. DVD.
Niccol’s Gattaca, not unlike Huxley’s Brave New World, explores the implications of a reality in which genetic manipulation contributes to the dynamics of social hierarchy by essentially engineering the class structure. Vincent Freeman, like Bernard Marx (or even John Savage) of Brave New World, is differentiated in the sense that he is not perfectly engineered genetically. Gattaca offers a bit more of an optimistic approach to the vision of a genetically-manipulated future (suggesting that those who defy the engineering may have hope after all), and is included in this project as a supplement to Brave New World.
Hedges, Chris. “2011: A Brave New Dystopia.” Truthdig. 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
In this article, published at the end of 2010, journalist Chris Hedges explores the possibility that we are actually living in the sort of dystopia that was once relegated to speculation. Hedges appeals to the reader by comparing the present social/political climate to those of Huxley’s World State and Orwell’s Oceania: “Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left.” This article is the very sort of writing that will help students consider the value of using dystopian fiction as a critical lens, and thus is will be considered during the creation of the final project at hand.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World & Brave New World Revisited. New York: Harper Perennial, 1965. Print.
Huxley’s seminal Brave New World and “Revisted,” the accompanying set of reflective essays, is one of the most well-known works of dystopian fiction available and offers a counterpoint to Orwell’s 1984. While Orwell sees the dark future manifesting in the form of violently oppressive totalitarian regimes, Huxley’s novel imagines a future in which the masses are exploited by means of incessant entertainment, distraction, and indulgence. By the novel’s conclusion John Savage has committed suicide, suggesting that there is no hope for those hoping to escape the ubiquitous vices and drug-fueled bliss offered by the “brave new world.” Huxley’s novel will be included in the final exercise as one of the two options for an extended text (per the PARCC standards adopted by Wakefield Memorial High School) in the second dystopia section of this project.
Irving, Washington. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. 19-44. Print.
In Irving’s original rendition of a story that would be retold countlessly, Ichabod Crane is cast as a slightly unlikable protagonist futilely vying for the affection of Katrina Van Tassel. Moreover, Brom Bones – unlike his counterpart in most of the aforementioned retellings – is not a vile villain or even a bully, but a prankster who uses the “headless horseman” folklore to poke fun at Crane. This story is included in the final project as it serves as a Gothic argument for the power of storytelling to influence the culture of a particular region.
Lovecraft, H.P. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” HP Lovecraft.com. August 2009. Web. 4 April 2015.
With H.P. Lovecraft having earned his own cult following (pun intended), “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” is a worthwhile read to engage with the author’s unique brand of Gothic-derived tales. The story features a narrator speculating about whether or not he has actually learned secrets about a lost civilization and hybrid-species organisms, ultimately relying on Gothic-ambiguity: “I am not even yet willing to say whether what followed was a hideous actuality or only a nightmare hallucination.” Although not a featured text of this project, inclusion as a student-choice text seems appropriate.
Melville, Herman. “The Tartarus of Maids.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. 65-77. Print.
This short story by Melville uses Gothic imagery to depict the wretched working conditions in a paper mill, with the juxtaposition serving as social commentary. Melville sets the stage for this commentary by establishing a Gothic-toned setting: “By the country people this hollow is called the Devil’s Dungeon…These rapid waters unite at last in one turbid brick-colored stream…They call this strange-colored torrent Blood River” (65). This horror is further developed when the mill’s workers said to “not so much seem accessory wheels to the general machinery as mere cogs to the wheels” (70). By integrating this text into the Gothic portion of the project, the end goal will be to encourage students to use literature as a lens for assessing social conditions.
Motherboard. “How to Hack a Car.” Phreaked Out. Online video clip. YouTube. 29 May 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
This featurette illuminates the fact that the vast majority of cars presently manufactured operates via computer systems, and as such are susceptible to hacks. Through the course of the video, demonstrations are given to illustrate how cars can be manipulated using relatively low-level technology (such as a laptop with wireless access), with the implication being that more sophisticated systems could infiltrate with even more ease. This video will serve as a supplement in the dystopia portion of the final unit project, encouraging students to think/write about the aspects of our own lives that we may not recognize as being more vulnerable than we realize.
“The Obsolete Man.” The Twilight Zone. CBS. Netflix. 4 Apr. 2015.
This episode from the second season of The Twilight Zone sees protagonist Romney Wordsworth defying the totalitarian government’s declaration that he, as a librarian, is obsolete. Wordsworth proves that there is tremendous value to be found in not only books, but their conveying of individuals’ ideas and expressions, and the episode ends with an empowering sentiment from narrator Rod Serling: “Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man, that state is obsolete.” With poignant dystopian themes and a clear connection to Fahrenheit 451, “The Obsolete Man” will serve as a supplemental text in this unit.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classics, 1961. Print.
Orwell’s 1984 presents a vision of the future in which a totalitarian government reigns supreme, suppressing individual freedom with endless war, powerful rhetoric, fear mongering, and the prosecution of dissenting ideas. As a work of social commentary/speculation, 1984 creates many concepts which still resonate today, such as the “Big Brother” figurehead, “thoughtcrime,” and “Newspeak.” Moreover, 1984 is also considered one of the most foundational texts in the tradition of dystopian fiction, with many future works taking (at least some) cues from the novel. As a result, 1984 will be included in the final exercise as one of the two options for an extended text (per the PARCC standards adopted by Wakefield Memorial High School) in the second dystopia section of this project.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.” Project Gutenberg. June 2010. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.
Told from the perspective of a murderer, this story thrusts readers right into the heart of darkness that keeps the Gothic blood pumping ferociously. By the conclusion, it is clear that Montresor has guaranteed that Fortunato will die miserably while ensuring his own escape; in other words, the Gothic’s inevitability of horror and terror has been reaffirmed. In addition to these qualities, the story also includes typifying catacombs, and as such “The Cask of Amontillado” is a superb introduction to a Gothic mini-unit regarding Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Project Gutenberg. Dec. 2010. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is a must-see site on the tour Edgar Allan Poe’s works, but is most pertinent to this project as an exemplar of the Gothic setting. With the house representing both the actual physical structure as well as the family construct, this tale provides readers an opportunity to explore the psychological horror for which the Gothic would come to be celebrated. Consequently, the inclusion of this tale in the project serves as a means of helping students understand the depth and importance of settings in the Gothic tradition.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Masque of the Red Death.” Project Gutenberg. June 2010. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.
Poe’s story about hedonism and carefree temperaments trying to survive within a “castellated abbey” while pestilence reigns outside is a tremendous example of Gothic literature. Not only does Poe frame the story in a Gothic setting, but he also speaks to the genre’s fascination with royalty, class issues, and the inexplicable. Moreover, “The Masque of the Red Death” will serve as one text within a Poe mini-unit framed within the project.
Punter, David, and Glennis Byron. The Gothic. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print.
The Gothic by Punter and Byron offers a comprehensive overview of the genre’s defining characteristics and origins. One helpful feature of this text is its organization, with essays addressing different, discrete aspects of the Gothic. Although Punter and Byron are (ostensibly) writing to readers at the college level, portions their work can certainly be provided to high school students, thus serving as a tool for this particular project. For instance, students could be intrigued by Punter and Byron’s assertion that twentieth century technologies revived Gothic anxieties, with modern warfare representing the end of the world and artificial intelligence operating a sleek version of Mary Shelley’s creature (24).
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Signet Classics, 2013. Print.
While Mary Shelley’s novel presents two figures – Victor Frankenstein and the creature he manifests – that have become firmly affixed staples of pop culture, they often bear very little resemblance to their original conceptions. With that being said, there is a clear continuity to be followed from Shelley’s vision to those enjoyed today, and as such Frankenstein can be read as both a wonderful work of literature as well as a text that has turned into something else entirely (perhaps like the creature). Frankenstein will serve as the second of the two extended texts for this project’s Gothic section, with its integration aiming to inspire student engagement with the idea of ever-evolving genres. Additionally, Frankenstein will also operate as a bridge-text to the project’s dystopian section.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003. Print.
Stoker’s Dracula is one of the most celebrated of all Gothic texts, solidifying many of the modern conceptions of the titular figure (and his vampiric race as well). In addition its well-known plot and characters, Dracula offers an absolute glut of subtext, such as the notion of liminality that pervades Gothic fiction: “The instant, however, that I had stepped over the threshold, he moved impulsively forward, and holding out his hand grasped mine with a strength which made me wince…more like the hand of a dead than a living man” (22). With so much material contained within, Dracula will serve as one of the two extended texts (per the PARCC standards adopted by Wakefield Memorial High School) for the Gothic section of this project.
Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto. Project Gutenberg. May 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2015.
Walpole’s novel tells the tale of the confused bloodlines and supernatural phenomena found within the confines of a castle with secret passages and a secret history. The Castle of Otranto is not only one of the earliest examples of Gothic literature but of the novel form as well; consequently it serves as a great means of introducing Gothic literature. The novel will be operate as a benchmark text of the unit, establishing genre conventions and serving as reference for future texts.
Weller, Sam. Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews. Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2010. Print.
Weller’s book of interviews with Ray Bradbury offers a number of key moments in which the writer addresses his perspectives on science fiction and dystopia literature. Although dystopian fiction is often perceived as a bleak genre crafted by high-strung alarmists, Weller presents a vision of Bradbury that looks at his work (and the world at large) in a hopeful light. For instance, Weller recounts when Bradbury cheerfully assessed modern medicine as an example of humanity’s potential: “We’re going to make it. We’ve already made it this far…but before that we died from the simplest things. So we conquer things. We survive. We always have. We will live on” (264-5). By including such optimistic passages in the final project, the curriculum developed will adopt an a tone of optimism and encouragement.
Wilkinson, Rachel. “Teaching Dystopian Literature to a Consumer Class.” The English Journal.99.3 (2010): 22-6. Print.
This article provides wonderful insight into one teacher’s experiences presenting dystopian literature to high school students. Wilkinson uses the article to argue why the current generation of student stands to benefit from reading dystopian fiction more than any previous, as the genre’s critical lens addresses modern dilemmas. To that end, Wilkinson is mindful of the fact that students want to be assisted in (re)evaluating their own realities, instead of feeling as though they are being condemned by the texts at hand: “Young people love advertising, consuming, entertainment, and technology. If we attack these trappings of modern life, we risk nurturing defensiveness” (22). By marrying literary theory and practical pedagogical strategy, Wilkinson article can serve as a superb reference point for the project’s rationale.
Zunshine, Lisa. “The Secret Life of Fiction.” PMLA 130.3 (2015): 724-31. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Zunshine’s article goes head-to-head with the increasingly popular notion that informational texts should comprise the majority of high school students’ reading. More specifically, Zunshine points out although that the Common Core State Standards Initiative has made the assertion that reading more informational texts will lead to increased academic achievement by means of enriched vocabulary, there is no research suggesting that informational texts are better than literary texts for building lexicons (724). From this point, Zunshine correlates the reading of fiction with the “theory of mind,” arguing that “Literary texts always function on a high level of sociocognitive complexity than do informational texts” (729). Zunshine’s articulate assertions are of tremendous value to this project, which is rooted in arguing on the behalf of adding a literature elective to a program of studies whose attention has been toward the informational.