EN7046: The American Nightmare: Horror in Fiction and Film

Lecturer: Dr Bernice M. Murphy

“The United States has given birth to most of our century’s dreams, and to a good many of its nightmares.” (J.G. Ballard)

slender man

This module introduces students to key tropes and trends in late twentieth and early twenty-first century American horror, with reference to both literary and filmic texts. We will be paying particular attention to the social, cultural and economic contexts associated with each text. The aim of this module is to familiarise students with some of the most important themes and tropes of modern American horror, in both fiction and film, and to contextualise these texts with reference to the social and cultural conditions from which they arose: i.e.: the rapid growth of suburbia during the 1950s, the impact of World War Two and the Cold War, the political and social upheavals of the 1960s, the economic downturn of the 1970s and the 2000s, the racial contexts of the 1990s urban horror film, and, finally, fears associated with the internet age.

Details of selected critical reading to be discussed in class will be forwarded to students throughout Hilary Term.

Schedule and Reading/Viewing List, Hilary Term 2016.

 Week One: The Monsters Next Door: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954) and The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney (1955).


Week Two: Motels, Madness and Mothers:  Psycho by Robert Bloch (1959).psycho.jpg


Week Three: Bad Places: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959). We’ll also be discussing recent haunted house films such as Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring and Insidious.


Week Four: Good Country People: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (F: 1974).


Week Five: Girl Trouble: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971) and Carrie by Stephen King (1974).


Week 6: American Zombies: Dawn of the Dead (F: 1978).


Week Seven: Study Week



Week Eight: Racial Nightmares: Candyman (F: 1992).



Week Nine: The New American Outlaw: Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer (F: 1986).




Week Ten: The Quiet Apocalypse: Bird Box by Josh Malerman (2014).



Week Eleven: Home Invasion and the Indie Horror Scene: You’re Next (F: 2011).



Week Twelve: Fears for the Internet Age: The Slender Man Mythos.

Critical Reading: ‘The Anatomy of a Monster’ by Tina Marie Boyer;

‘The Sort of Story That Has You Covering Your Mirrors: The Case of Slender Man’ by Jeffrey Tolbert.