Literature of Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Course Blog for LMST345 Ringling College of Art

This week we are considering the sub-genres of J-Horror and K-horror as well as supernatural tales from South Asian cinema. This is a type of storytelling often with its roots in traditional ghost stories. The novels and films featured this week often embody a sense of the emptiness of contemporary life, representing a world in which the protagonists are having a great deal of trouble finding their place. A sense of existential crisis pervades these stories, a crisis not only shared among the central characters but a crisis in the fabric of the reality they inhabit.

The reading for this week is Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase. This novel is a ghost story in the manner of traditional Japanese ghost stories in which ghosts are material phenomena, real and tangible in this world, not spectral. It's this sort of ghost that inhabits J-horror and is in part developed out of traditional dramatic forms like the puppet theater, or the Noh theater tradition. The style of these traditional types of ghost stories is well represented in the movie, Kwaidan, which we will see a part of during class this week. Alternatively, you may want to read Kwaidan, the collection of traditional ghost stories or read the novel on which the movie Battle Royale is based by Koshun Takami.
Double Page spread from the third volume of the Battle Royale Manga

The featured movie for this week is Audition by Takashi Miike. The violence in this film is very graphic, you might want to consider any of the alternatives listed on the syllabus.

You can see more details on this week's assignment on the assignment page for this week on the syllabus here.

Over the last hundred and fifty years the representation of the vampire has shifted from merciless monster of the evil dead, through suave continental lover, to troubled boyfriend from a dysfunctional family. What makes vampires so sexy? Is it because they want something more than sex? Has the vampire become the representation of a male who really understands women and will listen to what they want? What's with all the high school girl vampires these days? The Vampire seems to have completely evolved into a gender neutral concept.

Reading Assignment: This week's featured novel, Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, transformed and familiarized the concept of the vampire and radically altered the context of the vampire story. 
If you have read Anne Rice or you wish to sample the vampires of the moment, alternatively, you can try reading Vampire Academy, the first work in two series of books and a recent film based in the vampire world of Richelle Mead. These are the featured works we are discussing this week along with a number of vampire movies.

The contemporary vampire tale has become a means of exploring a relationship with a complex and contradictory character, revitalizing the plot of forbidden love. In your reading for the week what pairs of  ideas or representations does the author place in opposition to one another? Does the author seem to privilege one set of ideas or values over the other? What set of values does the vampire represent? Are those the dominant or privileged ideas advanced in the work? How does the story you read embody larger arguments about values in human society? Does the work seem to express a simple morality on the surface, but a more complex moral environment once one considers the issues at more depth? What values does the work really seem to portray? 

This week's required movie is Only Lovers Left Alive directed by Jim Jarmusch or alternatively, Neil Jordan's Byzantium which we will be seeing a selection from in class. Please check the course resources page and the syllabus for alternative texts. 

If you have not yet created your blog and/or sent me the url for it so I can link it to this course blog, please do so now.

The image above is by Edvard Munch is often called "The Vampire" because of a critic who saw that theme in the work. But Munch's title for the work was "Love and Pain," the woman comforting the man whose head she cradles, not sucking his blood.

This Semester this is a celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Frankenstein at New College and at Ringling with a number of Frankenstein movies being shown on our campus.  Here is a link to the schedule.

Well-respected Fantasy and Childrens/Young Adult Writer, Jane Yolen will be on campus Tuesday, Jan. 23rd. This is a great opportunity to hear an established voice in this genre. You have to get tickets although they are free at this link.

Next week we will talk about J-Horror, the various themes of horror and macabre events that we associate with storytelling from Japan, especially the recent wave of popular horror films. The featured work is a contemporary ghost story by Haruki Murakami, one of Japan's major writers, entitled A Wild Sheep Chase. The recommended alternative choice is Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn. Another possible book to read might be Battle Royale: The Novel by Koushun Takami.
Panels from Joss Whedon's Buffy The Vampire Slayer Comic

The Monster Gazes Into a Pool from Lynd Ward's illustrations for Frankenstein
Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein is a text that is frequently used to start a discussion of speculative fiction. It is often pointed to as the first "science fiction" novel, a category that is invented some hundred years after the novel was published. It is also considered a significant work of "gothic" fiction. The name "Frankenstein" is still associated with the genre of horror as every Halloween, thousands of children quite readily attempt to personify and embody the monster of Mary Shelley's imagination. What better place to start our own perambulation through speculative fiction, so I would like to request that you read as much of the novel as you can before we meet for the first time on Thursday morning.

Reading Assignment: Read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. You can access an electronic version of the text on the course resource page which is linked here and in the box in the upper right of this page. To access the course resources use your Ringling username and password.

In class this week we will discuss Frankenstein, the beginnings of horror fiction, the formulations of the gothic and the nature of the sublime. You may wish to attend class before attempting this week's written assignment.

Writing Assignment: Post a response (approx. 250 - 350 wds.) on your blog page discuss some of the "gothic" aspects of Frankenstein or whatever text you read for this week. If you have read Frankenstein before please choose from among the alternate texts for something to read for this week.

During the semester I will expect you to read at least 7 novels or long reads, this can count as one of them. To see further what is required in this course and what will undertake please click on the link at the right to go to the course syllabus. I will update you during our first class meeting. The general requirement for the class is that you read each week and write about what you have read.

Please bring your notebook computers or tablet to class; they will be used for in-class reading and writing. Your writings will be required to be posted on your own class blog which I will link to this page. You should set up a blog for this class on Blogger or similar blogging network and send me the url for your blog as soon as possible. Remember to include in your email the link to your blog and indicate which course you have signed up for since all my courses have blogs.

Some readings and other materials will be available on the Course Resource Page which is linked to this page in the Course Links box. You will prompted to enter your Ringling username and password to enter the Resource area. You will find a copy of a text of Frankenstein there as well.

You may wish to write about Frankenstein before coming to the first class, but you may wait to do so until you understand more about the course. You can always revise your post at any time. Most students who take this course enjoy the readings and find they can manage the course load within the demands of their schedule.  Individualized reading programs are readily constructed for students who need one.  If you have issues that effect your ability to read or write please talk to me as soon as possible. See you in class..

Dr. Steiling

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