Understanding Otherness: Educational Pack

Understanding Otherness and Embracing Difference: Adolescence, Literature and the Gothic

This educational pack is designed as a sequel to our ‘Redeeeming the Wolf’ educational pack, which was developed through intensive live use in several sixth-form schools and colleges before being made available on line. The original pack has been used by 16 sixth forms to date, in workshops facilitated by Dr Sam George and Dr Kaja Franck. Dr Sam George is Associate Professor of Research at the University of Hertfordshire. She specialises in the Gothic and in Literature and Folklore, including the representation of wolf children. She is joined for this pack by Dr Bill Hughes, whose research is centred on the interplay of genres in Paranormal Romance. Both packs are now available online here for the first time so that tutors can hold their own sessions. The running time for ‘Understanding Otherness’ is 3 hours and 30 minutes; it could best be carried out over three days. 

The packs are also developed as a taster session to show sixth-formers what it is like to study literature at university. Our aim is to demonstrate that literature is a living subject that feeds into current concerns such as otherness, difference, and prejudice, and so on. Students also gain an insight into how different literary forms and genres work, focusing on the Gothic.

The session is comprised of a mini-workshop, a lecture, and a seminar, with interactive tasks, to demonstrate how the teaching of literature is delivered in universities. Various fictional and poetic texts (or extracts from texts) are provided to be read by students. These have been researched and chosen carefully to show the Gothic mode in literature can foster creative discussion about difference and intolerance in society.

The pack has been put on line as a password-protected subsection of the OGOM website so that other institutions both nationwide and internationally can be encouraged to make use of them. To access this pack, you must first log in or join us as a member if you are not yet registered.

Pack contents:

Session 1  Combating Prejudice: Dramatising Gothic Teens

Workshop: 1 hour.

Aim: students gain an understanding of studying literature at university and how literature can influence and inform debates on prejudice, otherness, and identity.

Task 1: Engagement with critical and contextual material. Text: Sam George, ‘Black Roses, The Representation and Appropriation of Sophie Lancaster’ (Transcript of talk given at the Manchester Gothic Festival, 2010, to mark the ten-year anniversary of Sophie’s death).

Task 2: Close reading of Simon Armitage, Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster (Keighley: Pomona Books, 2012). Students are requested to buy this book and read beforehand in preparation. It’s not a lengthy text and one-third of all profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

Task 3: Engagement: An opportunity for students to record their responses to the texts and themes using our lively online form.

Combating Prejudice: Dramatising Gothic Teens

Session 2 Embracing Otherness: Young Adult Gothic Fiction

Lecture and discussion: 1 hour.

Aim: To have a brief experience of studying literature at university level through attending carefully to a short lecture and responding to it with a discussion guided by suggested topics. The lecture involves close reading of two Young Adult paranormal romance fictions where encounters with monstrous others is central, leading to the discussion on otherness. These texts make crucial references to Goth subculture, tying the strands of difference in society to the Gothic mode in fiction. Looking at the way these texts combine Gothic and romantic fiction leads to an awareness of how genre works in literature.

One fifteen-minute mini-lecture:
‘Goth Style and Gothic Mode’, presented by Dr Bill Hughes.

Task 1: Listening – students to respond to the lecture; note taking is encouraged to help in the discussion.

Task 2: Discussion around study questions and text extracts (45 minutes).

Embracing Otherness: Young Adult Gothic Fiction

Session 3 Overcoming Difference: Shapeshifters, Ballads, and the Adolescent Body

Seminar: 1 hour 30 minutes.

Aim: To gain an understanding of studying literature at university in a seminar situation. To develop a knowledge and understanding of the relationship between literature and folklore, and to explore the selkie as a shapeshifter that can represent adolescent identity in contemporary texts.

Texts: Anon, ‘The Great Selkie of Suleskerry’; Rachel Plummer, ‘Selkie’.

Task 1: What is a selkie? Students will engage with definitions of the selkie in Katherine Briggs, and search a resource on the folklore of the Orkney Islands.

Task 2: Close reading of a traditional folk ballad ‘ The Great Silkie of Suleskerry’ and a critical response to a musical setting of it.

Task 3: Close reading of the contemporary poem ‘Selkie’ by Rachel Plummer, focusing on adolescence, LGBT identity and ‘inbetweeness’.

This section has further information on OGOM and the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and suggestions on how students can get involved in issues about hate crime.

Overcoming Difference: Shapeshifters, Ballads, and the Adolescent Body


Thank you for participating! To take further part in our project and help us continue, please could you download the questionnaire form for each student and upload their responses, then fill in the teacher feedback form. The most interesting responses will be posted on the website so that students can see their involvement in the project.

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