The Department of English in the University of Utah’s College of Humanities will offer students four new classes this fall exploring horror media, video games, the roles of African-Americans in film and the connection of law and literature.
“In addition to our core courses — which range from our popular classes in traditional literature like Shakespeare and Jane Austen to classes that explore newer forms of cultural production like fantasy and digital media studies — our faculty are always developing innovative courses,” said Scott Black, chair of the English department. “Our new courses this year are especially exciting, thought-provoking and wide-ranging in their topics.”
Horror (ENGL 2245) tackles horror texts such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the AMC TV series “The Walking Dead” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Students will explore what horror is and learn to identify the key ingredients, contents and formulae. They’ll discuss why people read and write horror texts and consider the ways they appear to respond to psychological, cultural and political anxieties and desires. Students will also uncover how horror works, including how literary and cinematic techniques produce certain responses in viewers and how these texts shape ideas about identity, bodies and monsters.
Exploring the connections between the institution of the law and Western literature, Law and Literature (ENGL 5070) will investigate how the law relies on literature for many of its structures and themes (such as narrative forms of storytelling and theatrical notions of witnessing). It will also consider how literature draws from the law (in genres like the “courtroom drama” for example). Over the semester, students will explore law and literature as symbiotic and occasionally synonymous.
Literature and Video Games (ENGL 5090) isn’t just for gamers, but will entice anyone looking to increase their understanding of narrative focused video games. As an interactive medium, video games have the ability to produce emotions that are rarely found in any other artistic media, such as responsibility or guilt. This course will examine such concerns and pair literary texts with video games in order that each medium might illuminate the other. As an upper division course, this class not only requires extensive study of literary texts (ENGL 2090: Video Games and Storytelling, is a prerequisite), it also requires students to play the notoriously challenging game “Dark Souls.”
Providing a historical overview of the African-American cinematic tradition, African-American Film (ENGL 5845) also explores how African-American storytelling has shaped and been shaped by film history at large. Students will learn not only how film differs from other media, but also how the history of film in the U.S. is filled with what Toni Morrison calls “the Africanist presence.” Students will learn the basic language of film analysis and composition while also thinking about how actors and filmmakers respond to and transcend the limitations of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia.