Have you ever thought of teaching Stephen King to college students? During my graduate work, I took an amazing class taught by Dr. Karen Sloan called American Gothic. It was one of my favorite classes of all time because it’s just right up my alley. I took it concurrently with Dr. Ross’s British Gothic and I learned so much about the roots of horror. Here’s 5 reasons why I teach “1408” in my English composition class.
1. It’s a great example of a short, well-written horror story that perfectly fits the Contemporary Gothic genre. King is the master of horror, and as much as I would like to teach an entire novel (The Shining, Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile would be great to dissect!), I just don’t have enough time in a composition class to cover it.
2. It’s a perfect King bite. A bit scary, but not too scary for the faint of heart and those who hate horror. “1408” is a delicious sample, like the ones they give away at Sam’s Club on Saturdays. I might not really WANT to buy a whole lasagna, but a bite or two is perfect!
3. I love surprising students with King’s literary depth. Many people underestimate King’s writing–even he does–as simple, popular mass market paperback books. Not so. They are chock full of well-crafted characters, action-packed plots and quotable lines. His works are so much more.
4. If there’s a literary device I want to teach (symbolism, foreshadowing, point of view, unreliable/reliable narrators), I have a full arsenal in “1408.” It’s densely packed with everything I need in less than 30 pages, and students who balk at traditionally taught literature seem to be more open to the Kingster. Yes, I just called him that.
5. Reading “1408” automatically gives me an excuse to watch John Cusack at his best. Enough said.
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