American Ghost Literature from Morrison to Nguyen

Course: LIT 2000
Course Title: Introduction to Literature
Course Credits: 3 hrs
Instructor: Preston Taylor Stone
Instructor email: pstone@mdc.edu

Course Description

Black As the Most Exquisite Color (2019), Kenturah Davis
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery (houldsworth.co.uk)

From Hamlet to Turn of the Screw, the ghost has been a consistent part of literatures written in the English language. What appeals about them depends upon who you ask and about which era or movement you inquire. Unlike previous eras, in contemporary times, ghosts are figures that most think are likely not real—even if we are fascinated by their representation in novels, poems, stories, and film. Indeed, we even use ‘ghost’ in our relationship slang, as in “He ghosted me after one date.” This course begins with this observation and asks why? Why do we so love the figure of the ghost? What appeals to authors in their construction of their own stories about the ghost? What sort of metaphorical work does the ghost do in stories or films in contemporary time? While encountering a variety of cultural texts—including films, novels, stories, poems, television miniseries, and paintings—from the 1970s through the present, this course will focus on pieces that contain the ghost in some form to answer some of the above questions. Students will, therefore, be exposed to a variety of genres of cultural production and will learn and employ the literary critical tools as they develop argumentative writing for the course. All students, regardless of major or familiarity with literary texts listed below, are encouraged to join the course. This course fulfills the Gordon rule.

Untitled (parade) (2016), Kevin Beasley
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM.org)
  • Sula by Toni Morrison
  • “Slaveships”; “lost baby poem”; “sorrow song”; “far memory” by Lucille Clifton
  • The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
  • Prietita and the Ghost Woman; “The Postmodern Llorona”; “The Presence” by Gloria Anzaldúa
  • Tracks by Louise Erdrich
  • Rose Red series (based on Stephen King novel)
  • Part One: The United States of America in Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
  • Candyman (1992), dir. Bernard Rose & Candyman (2021), dir. Nia DaCosta
  • “Of Ghosts and Shadows” by Roxane Gay
  • “The Woman Hanging in the Thirteenth Floor Window” by Joy Harjo
  • “Blue Dementia” by Yusef Kumanyakaa
  • “Black-Eyed Women” by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • La Llorona (2019), dir. Jayro Bustamante