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The Supernatural: A Complete History

5. The Uncanny

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore Freud's concept of the uncanny, focusing in particular on how the uncanny manifests itself in literature.

Reading list:
– Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796)
– Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (1797)
– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
– Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1866)
– Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)
– Sigmund Freud, 'The Uncanny' (1919)
– Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography (1928)
– 2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. Stanley Kubrick) (1968)
– Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989)


In this course, Professor Nick Groom (University of Exeter) explores the history of the supernatural in English and American literature. The course begins by thinking about two of the key sources of supernatural literature, looking in the first module at the popular ballad tradition in Renaissance England, and in the second at the genre of Revenge Tragedy that flourished on the English stage in the late 16th and early 17th century. In the third and fourth modules, we turn to the figure of the vampire, looking first at the earliest vampires in Classical and Judaeo-Christian mythology, before turning in the fourth module to the vampire in Victorian England – culminating with Bram Stoker's Dracula at the end of the 19th century. After that, in the fifth and sixth modules, we think about the experience of the uncanny, first in general terms and then in relation to Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the seventh module, we think about the presentation of ghosts in English literature, before moving on in the eighth and final module to think about how supernatural literature developed in America – and looking in particular at Toni Morrison's 1987 novel, Beloved.


Nick Groom is Professor of English Literature at the University of Exeter, a critically acclaimed author on subjects ranging from the history of the Union Jack to Thomas Chatterton, has edited several books and regularly appears on television, radio and at literary festivals as an authority on English Literature, the ‘Gothic’ and ‘British’ identity.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Groom, N. (2018, August 15). The Supernatural: A Complete History - The Uncanny [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Groom, N. "The Supernatural: A Complete History – The Uncanny." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,