As the Puritan colonialist John Winthrop said at Holyrood Church in Southampton before embarking for Boston, American was to be ‘as a city upon a hill’, a beacon of progress and enlightenment for the world. But from the beginning, America has been shadowed by an opposite set of possibilities. Poised on the cusp between rationalism and madness, freedom and claustrophobia, progress and decay, inclusivity and violence, the American dream has always had the potential to turn into a nightmare. This module investigates the anxieties that produced American Gothic literature, at its apex in the nineteenth century, exploring themes such as religious fanaticism, landscape, normativity and monstrosity, experiments in democracy, and reckoning with race and racism. We will consider not only the distinctive characteristics of American terror in literature, but also what those fears can tell us about what it means to be an American.