The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival & the Black Horror Aesthetic
Prof. Tananarive Due
(Students choose topics)
DUE DATE for final paper via MOODLE: MARCH 7
LENGTH: 1,500 words (approx. 6 pages; word count is more important than the page count) –
FILM: 6 minutes or longer
MINIMUM NUMBER OF SOURCES (Essay only):
• Discuss TWO works from class (you may add ADDITIONAL works, either from inside
or outside of class, but you must include at least two works from class.)
• And at least ONE secondary source. (An outside article/blog/opinion that supports your
argument or you refute in your paper. Wikipedia and dictionaries are not appropriate
You may choose between three types of assignments:
a.) Essay OR:
b.) Creative Writing OR:
c.) Short Film
Based on the books, literature and films we have studied so far—or similar horror works
you find during your research—craft an essay discussing your understanding of the themes in the
black horror aesthetic and their meaning, context and/or effectiveness. You should refer to the
course work and at least two sources—which would include quoting from the works themselves.
(Outside scholarship is required—and article or blog post, for example—but you must discuss at
least one class work.) Be as specific as possible.
POSSIBLE APPROACHES: You may write a compare and contrast essay about two or
more of the works we have studied (or comparing a work we have studied to another outside of
class); an analysis of two or more works; or present a specific argument (i.e. argumentative
essay) that you then use your analysis of works to bolster.
You should have a thesis statement in your first paragraph and lay out your subtopics.
Each paragraph introducing a new subject or idea should have a topic sentence.
FORMAT: Assignments MUST be emailed as a Word document (or Word compatible)
of PDF. You must write DOUBLE-SPACED in a 12-pt font, preferably Times New Roman. The
word count will be weighed more heavily than the page count, so do not rely upon specialty fonts
to increase your page count. Again, it is best to use Times New Roman. Essays may be formatted
in MLA or APA style, but all citations should be cited in a Works Cited page.
DEADLINE: You will receive full credit for turning your paper in on time as long
as I receive it by midnight PST on March 7. Late papers will be marked down.
Here are some prompts (though you may choose your own topics):
• Expand on the midterm question: Jordan Peele’s film Get Out illustrates white
supremacy by using a horror/science fiction premise to show African-Americans
hunted by whites who literally steal their bodies. Discuss real-life issues facing
African-Americans addressed in Get Out, whether directly or indirectly, and HOW
they are addressed. (Issues may include—but are not limited to—slavery, cultural
appropriation, interracial dating, the coveting of black bodies, liberal racism, and
• Expand on the midterm question: Compare the use of vodou in the class works.
Discuss the difference in ways vodou is used to evoke fear as opposed to depicting
• Expand on the midterm question: Discuss the ways zombies are used in class works.
What do zombies represent? How is race used within storytelling about zombies?
• RACISM plays a role in several works, including “Wet Pain,” Tales from the Hood,
The Good House, Beloved, “The Devil in America,” etc. Discuss the role of
racism/white supremacy as a monster.
• Discuss the role of BLACK WOMEN in horror films and works.
• Discuss the role of SLAVERY in horror films and works, i.e. “Vulcanization,”
• Discuss vampirism in black horror, including works like Fledgling, “Loneliness is In
Your Blood” and/or Ganja and Hess.
• In Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling, an ancient cabal of vampires is willing to destroy its
own social order to kill a black vampire because of fear of adaptation. Discuss the
role of race and adaptation in Fledgling.
• Discuss the role of HAUNTING in black horror works we have studied, as in
Beloved, Tales from the Hood and/or “Vulcanization.
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