I agree wholeheartedly with Carol about Richard Weaver, and I think that the ethical climate that texts and teaching foster is cause for concern at times. I stopped after noting the basic Virginia Tech courses – looking on, most of the upper-level courses seemed comparable innocuous. Now, course titles often suggest alarmingly little about what will occur within, but this did not seem stuff, for the most part, that could tip anyone closer to madness, no matter how much Foucault was leavening their Jane Eyre.
Now, previous commentary seemed like complete supposition on the classes that Cho was taking – I had not seen the “Contemporary Horror” offering cited. Now, that seems a manifestly horrible course for Cho, and evidence of the sort of soft pop things that are marginalizing more serious studies (The Vanishing Shakespeare, anyone?). The “Fear Journal” sounds macabre, but I’m still not sure that this class is something more broadly sinister. While it’s a crime that English majors have abundant chances to make a degree out of Dawn of the Dead instead of Dostoyevsky, it’s not clear that such studies as “Contemporary Horror” are completely worthless. Through a frame of instructional nihilism, this might certainly do harm, but much of such studies seems to consist of reflections on age-old themes. Zombies and malformed creatures have been held as evidence of suppressed societal discontent since Frankenstein – Slashers as embodiment of puritan sexuality since Jack the Ripper. Poe, Matthew Lewis, H.G. Welles, Lovecraft, and others have raised similar questions in far more serious works for centuries. “Contemporary Horror” might very well be taught very differently, but these sort of studies, in my experience, tend to draw heavily upon the precedent of criticism of their superior predecessors (look to Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film by a former professor of mine). I agree that the manner in which the course was taught could prove harmful for students, and certainly for Cho, but again, in his state of mind, I wouldn’t want him near the “Imp of the Perverse”, or any number of Poe stories either.
I am acutely concerned about the influence of theory which steadily seeks to undermine any pretenses of reason and truth, and which often seems devoted to painting a portrait of Western society as irredeemably depraved and corrupt. The real cause for concern in these areas is the gradual, subtle influence that they produce – I think that serious attention to this problem is undermined with conjectural connections to such a deeply deranged individual as Cho, who possessed a world of problems far beyond theory.