Inquiry into Horror: UT English Class is Ghastly … and Students Love it

Book Of Horror,Chapter 1 Reading The DeathWith Halloween just around the corner, it’s a horror-ably good time to talk about being frightened.

UT Graduate Teaching Associate Jeremy Locke gets to do that four times a week, as part of his job.

Locke teaches Inquiry Into Horror, a section of English 102, a general education course that focuses on intensive research and writing. There are two sections of the horror class and each has about twenty-five students enrolled.

Students read a selection of short stories and books. They do research about horror and write several papers.

“It is a class that students take interest in and commit themselves to pursuing interesting questions that they may never again have a chance to consider in a formal setting,” he said. “This makes the class something special, and I believe that this is the reason why when I meet students a couple of years after taking it, they often ask, ‘Are you still teaching the horror class?’ Something has gone right if you remember English 102 vividly. ”

“I’ve been a fan of horror films since I was a small child,” Locke said. “I watched my first one, The Critters, when I was just shy of five years old.

“As a kid, I enjoyed watching horror films just for the sake of getting scared. I prided myself that few of them ever startled me and none ever gave me nightmares,” he said. “By the time I reached college, I had become more interested in the social messages that some horror films seemed to convey.”

As a PhD student, Locke is intrigued by the links between horror novels and historically great literature.

“I see horror as a place where the literary and the popular meet from time to time,” Locke said. “Several works of canonical literature use elements of horror … and some authors of popular horror, such as Stephen King, identify classic fiction writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain as influences on their particular brands of horror.”

Locke designed the horror class a few years ago, and it’s become quite popular with students in just about every major.

Class member Torie Buche, a junior in architecture, said she’s been a horror book buff since high school. She enjoys scary books a lot more than movies.

Gory movies, slasher films, and other horror flicks tend to be a little “cheesy,” she said. But with a horror novel, you can’t rely on someone’s special effects. “You fill in the images,” she said. And that heightens the fear.

So, if you want a good scare from a book, Locke offers his class reading list as a start:

Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown — “This gothic novel features spontaneous combustion, a creepy ventriloquist who’s up to no good, and a man who believes that God has ordered him to murder his family.”

“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne—”In this short story, the title character goes into the woods for what he says will be his last night of sin and has a horrifying experience that leaves him a changed and bitter man.”

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe—Few texts can rival this poem’s portrayal of the fragility of the human psyche, the power of grief, and the descent into madness.

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates—”This short story tells of a fanciful teen who wants to escape her boring life at home and the sociopath with whom she crosses paths.”

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King—”This novel brings a Dracula-esque vampire to rural Maine and offers a great conspiracy plot with a small-town gossip feel.”

“The Witness” by Ann Petry—”This short story focuses on a retired professor who takes a teaching job in an effort to bring racial diversity to a rural high school and becomes both a victim of and a witness to an unspeakable crime.”

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)