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English Literature   >   The Supernatural: A Complete History


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The Supernatural: A Complete History

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.


In this module, we think about the influence of the popular ballad in the development of the supernatural in literature, focusing in particular on the importance of the English Reformation, the kinds of ballads that were recited or sung in the Early Modern period, and the importance of explicit and extreme violence in these ballads.

Reading List:
– 'Lamkin', F. J. Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, No. 93
– 'The Unquiet Grave', ibid., No. 78
– 'The Cruel Mother', ibid., No. 20

Cite this Lecture

APA style

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

MLA style

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


Prof. Nick Groom

Prof. Nick Groom

Exeter University