ENG 255: Dead Bodies in Literature, or the Corpse in the Corpus
In our novels, movies, and television shows, the corpse has a leading role. From Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus to Hitchcock’s Psycho to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, dead bodies occupy positions of real power. We like to play with dead bodies, according to Fintan O’Toole, “spinning stories around them that can be austere or grotesque, tragic or farcical, haunting or hilarious.” Why are we so fascinated and simultaneously repulsed by the dead body in literature? How do writers treat dead bodies as characters, plot devices, and symbols? How are corpses represented by writers such as Stephen King compared to other writers such as William Faulkner or Mary Shelley? This course will use literature as its primary vehicle for discussion but will also include short nonfiction writings on the cultural anthropology of the dead and the business of death. Although this course is about corpses, students should anticipate lively discussions and a significant amount of writing.