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GH 101: Chilling Tales and Cosmic Horror
Screams echo through the starless night. Terrifying otherworldly beings threaten to unravel humanity’s existence. From Edgar Allan Poe to the pulp magazines of the early 20th century (and beyond!), weird fiction gripped and haunted readers throughout the United States. From the pages of said magazines, the “big three of Weird [Tales]”—Clark Ashton Smith, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard—created and cultivated obscure, monolithic worlds which perpetually threatened to unleash horror upon humankind. The imaginative monstrosities, spectacular civilizations, and hideous pantheons—created by Smith, Lovecraft and Howard—are still explored and utilized as inspiration within culture today.
This course explores the legacy of the worlds that Smith, Lovecraft, and Howard cultivated alongside their individual contributions. Readings will include a curated selection of “the big three’s” most influential publications. We will explore the lives of each author, individual legacies, estate copyright issues and their influence on modern authors and filmmakers. As no writer exists in a vacuum, selections by contemporary authors during the early 1900s will be read. Modern films such as Alien (1979), Blade (1998), Cabin in the Woods (2011), Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987), The Thing (1982), and The Mist (2007)—all influenced by “the big three”—will be screened, along with others influenced by early weird fiction authors. We will examine how modern weird fiction authors are addressing problematic historical aspects of the “big three’s” legacies and the genre of weird fiction.
In line with GH101 curriculum goals, students will:
1. Learn to navigate and utilize library resources,
2. Expand and practice critical thinking skills,
3. Gain understanding of historical publication and archival practices,
4. Read contributions to the genre made by Hoosiers,
5. & understand how once obscure authors continue to influence today’s popular culture.
Mysterious cults, lost cities, the Necronomicon, and terrifying otherworldly beings—aliens/monsters conjured before the dawn of humanity—await those who sign up for this course. Our class will encounter them together, for there is safety in numbers . . . isn’t there?
Required text: Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom ISBN: 978-0765387868
Instructor: Professor Matt Bird
Matt Bird graduated from Indiana State University (B.S. in English) and IU—Bloomington (M.L.S. w/ Rare Books and Manuscripts specialization). He is the Student Research and Engagement Coordinator for the ISU Honors College. Matt’s historical Honors course offerings include the topics of classical mythology, America and censorship, book and library history, film/culture history, and weird fiction.
Greg Bierly, Dean
Pickerl Hall 110
Indiana State University
8:00 AM - 4:30 PM