American Horror Stories (FNDS 1304)

America has come to symbolize freedom, democracy, opportunity, and hope in the eyes of many.  

However, American history is filled with darker realities:  bloody revolutions and civil wars, violence toward an indigenous population, institutional slavery, and the exclusion of particular populations, such as women and LGBTQ people, from the full privileges of citizenship.

Taking Stegner’s notion of such “nightmares at the heart of the American dream,” as its foundation this course analyzes American culture through the lens of its horror industry, in film, literature, art, and other forms of artistic and popular culture. This course will explore these truths and theories by studying American horrors, real and imagined, in a way that contextualizes film, stories, art, and other forms of popular culture within particular social, political, and historical moments.

This course covers topics in the disciplines of English, Screen Studies, History, and American Studies.


Who should take this course?

If you love horror; if you want to understand American life; if you’re interested in diverse voices; if you want to understand how literature, film and art are influenced by society and culture — then you should take this class!

More about this course

Course number: FNDS 1304

Number of Credits: 3

Search UM-Dearborn Class Schedule to find out more.

Dearborn Discovery Core requirements met: Critical and Creative Thinking, Humanities and the Arts

Meet your faculty member: Shelly Jarenski, Associate Professor of English

One of the benefits of taking a Foundations course is gaining a faculty mentor that can support you throughout your college career. Get to know Shelly Jarenski, faculty member for American Horror Stories.

Shelly Jarenski
Shelly Jarenski


In addition to being a horror fan, I am fascinated by trying to understand the contradictions of American life, especially the contradiction between equality and hierarchy.  

In my free time, I love taking road trips around the country and looking for silly photo ops. 


Have questions about this course? Email Dr. Jarenski at [email protected].