In the Open Graves, Open Minds Project, we unearthed depictions of the vampire and the undead in literature, art, and other media, before embracing shapeshifters and other supernatural beings and their worlds. OGOM opens up questions concerning genre, gender, hybridity, cultural change, and other realms. The Project extends to all narratives of the fantastic, the folkloric, the fabulous, and the magical.
call for proposals for papers on how forms of the Gothic deal with the critical issues arising from racism, social injustice, populism, mass infection, and the relation of each of these to contagion in at least one of its many forms – the most pressing issues of our current moment — now and throughout world history.
In the world of High Fantasy, authors create fictional worlds that often reflect human religiosity and theological themes in new and creative ways. Through theological and religious analyses of high fantasy and fantasy series, the editors invite paper proposals for a volume on the intersection of fantasy and theology.
This major interdisciplinary international conference aims to examine and expand debates around vampires in all their many aspects. We therefore invite researchers from a range of academic backgrounds to re/consider vampires as a phenomenon that reaches across multiple sites of production and consumption, from literature and film to theatre and games to music and fashion and beyond. What accounts for this Gothic character’s undying popular appeal, even in today’s postmodern, digital, commercialized world? How does vampirism circulate within and comment upon mass culture?
Supernatural Studies invites submissions for a special issue, inspired by the current crisis, on supernatural engagements with disease, broadly conceived. We welcome essays that explore this theme through explicitly monstrous tropes, e.g. zombies, vampires, parasitism, haunting, and other uncanny embodiments of sickness and contagion. We also invite investigations of narratives that deploy the supernatural to engage existing cultural “maladies” that infectious diseases routinely expose and exacerbate: e.g., economic precarity, healthcare inequities, media mis/disinformation, science skepticism and denial, environmental challenges, and experiences of alienation
5. Finally, we’d like to welcome and congratulate the new Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. To launch the Centre, there will be ‘a lecture by acclaimed fantasy author Ellen Kushner, and a discussion panel on fantasy with Terri Windling, Professor Brian Attebery, and Dr Robert Maslen.’ This is an online event on 16 September 2020–use the link above to book.
The Open Graves, Open Minds Project began in 2010, in part as a response to Stephenie Meyer’s hugely successful Twilight series; a Young Adult vampire romance series, the first of which was Twilight (2005). We launched the Project with an exciting conference on the role of the vampire in culture, out of which came our first edited collection, Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (2013). Since then we have explored a host of other supernatural creatures in all modes of fantastic and Gothic writing but centred upon the paranormal romance, frequently that for YA readers, and with the vampire always lurking in the background. Now, Meyer’s sparkling revenant Edward Cullen is back, with her new book, Midnight Sun, which tells the paranormal romance between the mortal Bella and Edward in the latter’s voice. The first chapters of this appeared on line in 2008 but Twilight fans have had to wait twelve years to get the full novel.
The release of Midnight Sun has inspired some useful articles on vampire romance. On Goodreads, there are some very interesting interviews about YA vampire romances, with Meyer herself, and with Renée Ahdieh, author of The Damned; Caleb Roehrig, author of The Fell of Dark; Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, editors of Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite. They discuss why there has been a resurgence in the genre and what directions it might take.
Of course, the vampire has a history from way before Twilight. In this BBC Radio 4 broadcast, ‘Vampires in Gothic Literature‘, Greg Jenner, Dr Corin Throsby, and Ed Gamble ‘look at the role of vampires in Gothic Literature of the 19th century and the effect on modern day pop culture.’
One of the reasons why a negative view of hybridity has developed (apart from those taxonomies which outlawed anything that was not ‘pure’ stock labelling them ‘monstrous’) is because of the iconography surrounding demons. The process of cross-fertilisation can of course create something new, more than the sum of the original parts. It moves us away from notions of identity which are either/or, either one thing or another. Demons work against this positive idea of hybridity because they are shown to be flawed, malformed, and akin to the devil, and also because they are cast out and forever in a state of exile or unbelonging.
In Christianity demons have their origins in the Fallen Angels who follow Satan when he was cast out of heaven. As Christianity spread, Pagan gods, goddesses, and nature spirits were incorporated into the ranks of demons. Descriptions from antiquity portray demons as shapeshifters who can assume any form, animal or human or hybrid. Some theologians and witch hunters say that demons have no corporeal form, and only give the illusion that they are in animal or human form (they create voices out of air that mimic people, for example).
In Judaic lore, demons are invisible, but can see themselves and each other. They cast no shadows (linking them to Dracula). They only assume bodies to copulate. In Christian lore demons assume forms that are black, such as black dogs, and other animals. Because they are evil they are imperfect, shown in flaws such as malformed limbs and cloven feet. Demons are described as unclean, if they make their bodies out of air, or occupy a living body, they exude a stench. Throughout history the activities of demons has been thought to cause illness and disease. Demons can send bad weather, pests such as armies of rats and mice and swarms of locusts. Such belief holds that humankind is in constant danger of demonic attack in some form, and constant vigilance is required. The greatest danger occurs at night when sleeping humans are at their most vulnerable, births and deaths are perilous times, as are nights on which marriages are consummated. At these times demons are better able to wreak havoc!
Demons were believed to aid witches during the inquisition, they acted as familiars, taking the form of animals, participating in sabbats. They can also assume beautiful and seductive forms, acting as sexual predators. By the C14th it was accepted that demons had sex with humans, in the form of Incubi and Succubi, or even as Satan himself. They are organised into hierarchies, according to GRIMOIRES or inquisition writings. Such magic books give the names, duties, seals, incantations and rituals around summoning and controlling demons.
The DICTIONNAIRE INFERNAL describes demons which are organised into hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There are several editions of the book; perhaps the most famous is the 1863 edition, which included illustrations by Louis Le Breton depicting the appearances of several of the demons. I am excited to say that the Bibliothèque nationale de France has scanned this book and made it available for download here
This work together with James, George Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1890) and a used copy of Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology (2009), inspired my initial interest in demons. My research is not about poltergeists or demonic possession, it is instead focused on discovering wonderfully hybrid, magical creatures. You might like to browse some of my favourites below:
MARCHOSIAS. Fallen angel and 35th of 72 Spirits of Solomon. He is a marquis ruling 30 legions of demons. He appears as a she-wolf with griffin wings and a serpent’s tail. A shapeshifter he will take human form. Once a member of the angelic order of dominions, he is set to return after 1,200 years.
ADREMLECH. A Chieften of hell. Grand Chancellor of Demons, President of the Devil’s General Council. Governor of the Devil’s Wardrobe. Often portrayed as a mule with a peacock’s tail.
ANDRAS. Fallen angel and 6rd of the 72 Spirits of Soloman. Wonderfully hybrid, he appears in the form of an owl-headed demon who rides a black wolf! He creates discord and kills his enemies with a gleaming silver sword.
AMDUSCIAS. Fallen angel 67th of the 72 Spirits of Solomon. Appears first as a unicorn. He will take on human shape but this will cause musical instruments to be heard but not seen. Trees sway at the sound of his voice He gives humans the power to make trees fall and he gives excellent familiars!
HALPAS. Fallen angel and demon. He is an Earl who appears in the form of a giant female stork and speaks with a croaky voice. He burns whole towns and takes a sword to the wicked. He rules over 26 legions of Hell.
BAAL. Fertility deity now a fallen angel and demon. 1st of the 72 Spirits of Solomon. A King ruling 66 legions of demons. He is triple-headed with a cat, human and toad head. He can bestow the gift of invisibility and wisdom.
GAAP. Fallen angel and 33rd of the 72 Spirits of Solomon. Prince in Hell, ruling 66 legions of demons. Humanlike, with huge bat wings, he can make you insentient or move you from place to place. Takes familiars away from magicians!
The editors of The Swan’s Egg invite submissions for the journal’s first issue. Essays on Hans Christian Andersen by undergraduate, MA, and PhD students written in English or in Danish are welcome, and should be around 4,000 words in length.
The Chichester Centre for Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction seeks articles, book reviews and creative writing relating to literary and historical approaches to fairy tales, fantasy, Gothic, magic realism, science fiction and speculative fiction for Gramarye, its peer-reviewed journal published by the University of Chichester.
This call for papers reaches out to scholars interested in working on interpretations of the CBS series The Vampire Diaries. This American supernatural teen drama features a diverse set of characters, both dead and undead, while touching on topics such as friendship, romance, adulthood, as well as depression, and aging. So far, no book length work has dealt with this complex series, and it is our aim to publish an in-depth analysis consisting of 10-11 chapters that offer critical and creative readings of this series
It is with great pleasure that I announce the promotion of Sam George to Associate Professorship. I’ve known Sam for many years and for the last ten we have worked together founding and developing the Open Graves, Open Minds Project.
Sam’s current research is exploring Gothic fairies, with the prospect of a book on the topic (see, too, our forthcoming ‘Ill met by moonlight’ conference). She is also formulating ideas towards an ethical Gothic; this is included in an impact case study for REF entitled ‘Open Graves, Open Minds: Promoting empathy and interrogating difference through public engagement with Gothic narratives’ and there will be a symposium and publications. And she is conducting an investigation into the cultural significance of the shadow, which will bear fruit as her next monograph, In the Kingdom of Shadows; Optics, Dark Folklore and the Gothic.
I am very proud of what Sam has achieved with OGOM; it has been immensely rewarding to work with her and it is wonderful that her work has been recognised in this way.
We also have created a new page for general online talks and interviews under the Resources menu. Here, you can find my recent interview with Brian from Toothpickings on vampires and werewolves, the folklore of these creatures and its transmutation into literature.
Congratulations to Prof. Owen Davies who has just become the new President of The Folklore Society. The Folklore Society is a learned society devoted to the study of traditional culture in all its forms. It was founded in London in 1878 and was one of the first organisations established in the world for the study of folklore.
Owen, a historian with expertise in witchcraft, magic and ghosts, is my mentor and esteemed colleague at the University of Hertfordshire; he’s a long standing friend of OGOM. We are excited to announce that he will be joining us for our fairy conference ‘Ill Met by Moonlight’ 8-10 April, 2021. His plenary talk is entitled ‘Print Grimoires, Spirit Conjuration, and the Democratisation of Learned Magic’. We wish Owen success and happiness in his new role and look forward to future collaborations.
Those who are wondering how the Gothic might respond to the current crisis will be interested in this new event. It is called Coronagothic and it is an online flash conference hosted by @UMGothic (Gothic Research Network at the University of Macau in China). It takes place via Zoom 10am BST Tues 30 June. I will be one of nine academics from Asia, Europe, and the UK and we will discuss the cultural implications of Covid-19. It is free to register but there are limited places .
My paper is entitled ‘Analysing Amabie: A fragment in the Life of the monstrous mermaid revived to ward off coronavirus’.
I will draw on Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s seven theses of monster culture to examine Amabie, a Japanese mermaid monster from the Edo- period, revived to ward off Coronavirus in 2020. I argue that in cultural moments such as this, our understanding of crises is best understood via the hybrid creatures they engender.
So who is Amabie? Japanese Twitter is currently inundated with depictions of this yōkai , a squat, duck-billed creature with a scaly body, long hair and three webbed feet. But why? For the answer, you have to go back to mid-May 1846, when a town official from what is now Kumamoto prefecture on the island of Kyushu went down to the sea to investigate reports of glowing lights. There he encountered a strange mermaid-like creature. “I am Amabie who lives in the sea,” it said. “For the next six years, there will be abundant crops across the land, but there will also be epidemics. Show my picture to people as soon as you can.” Then Amabie was gone.
Continue reading about the pandemic defeating monster here
If you are intrigued, please do register and keep an eye on @UMGothic on Twitter
The Proposed Schedule
Prposed 30 June 2020
30th June 10 a.m. British Summer Time / 5.p.m Macau time
09.55 – Welcome from Prof. Victoria Harrison (University of Macau)
10.00 – Prof. Nick Groom (University of Macau)
10.10 – Prof. Bill Hughes (University of Macau)
10.20 – Questions
10.30 – Prof. Mariaconcetta Costantini (G. D’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara)
10.40 – Dr Sam George (University of Hertfordshire)
10.50 – Questions
11.00 – Prof. Steve Hinchliffe (University of Exeter)
11.10 – Prof. Darryl Jones (Trinity College, Dublin)
11.20 – Questions
11.30 – Prof. David Punter (University of Bristol)
11.40 – Prof. Corinna Wagner (University of Exeter)
11.50 – Questions
12.00 – Closing questions/remarks from Prof. Victoria Harrison (University of Macau)
A mixture of CFPs, calls for articles, and events concerning the Gothic and the fantastic. 1. Gothic in a Time of Contagion, Populism and Racial Injustice, Online March 2021 (date to be confirmed), Simon Fraser University (SFU), Vancouver, Canada. Deadline: … Continue reading →
The Open Graves, Open Minds Project began in 2010, in part as a response to Stephenie Meyer’s hugely successful Twilight series; a Young Adult vampire romance series, the first of which was Twilight (2005). We launched the Project with an … Continue reading →
Hybridity is something that I have always found interesting to explore in relation to the gothic. I’ve blogged about fairy tale hybridity in relation to Beauty and the Beast and commented on the Wellcome’s ‘Making Nature’ exhibition on faux taxonomy and hybrid creatures as well as … Continue reading →
Despite everything, research goes on and there are some calls for submissions here that have come to our attention. 1. The Swan’s Egg: A Student Journal of Hans Christian Andersen Studies. Deadline: 15 January 2021 The editors of The Swan’s Egg invite … Continue reading →
It is with great pleasure that I announce the promotion of Sam George to Associate Professorship. I’ve known Sam for many years and for the last ten we have worked together founding and developing the Open Graves, Open Minds Project. … Continue reading →
We’ve added some useful links to various resources from the website. These appear in the Related Links and Journals sections on the right-hand side of the Blog and Resources pages. The International Fairy-Tale Filmography is a fantastic database of film … Continue reading →
We’ve added some new links to the website for online talks and so on. I have a short talk for Manchester University Press, describing our In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children book. A link to this … Continue reading →
Congratulations to Prof. Owen Davies who has just become the new President of The Folklore Society. The Folklore Society is a learned society devoted to the study of traditional culture in all its forms. It was founded in London in … Continue reading →
Dr Joan Passey has written an excellent review of the recent online CoronaGothic conference organised by the Gothic Research Network at the University of Macau in China. Sam’s earlier post with further details of the conference and the paper she … Continue reading →
Those who are wondering how the Gothic might respond to the current crisis will be interested in this new event. It is called Coronagothic and it is an online flash conference hosted by @UMGothic (Gothic Research Network at the University … Continue reading →
We are delighted to announce an addition to the guest speakers at our ‘Ill met by moonlight’ Gothic Faery conference. Betsy Cornwell, the esteemed author of YA fantasy, will be talking about her creative adaptation of fairy lore in her … Continue reading →
Some wonderful news to stave off all the gloom, OGOM’s Kaja has given birth to twins named Frederick Ewen Franck-Howells and Casper Wolf Franck-Howells. Big names for little people!! On behalf of OGOM I’d like to send huge congratulations to … Continue reading →
the fae are the mythical creatures of the hour. Sometimes they’re portrayed as monstrous, sometimes as tricksters, sometimes as sensuous love interests So says Samantha Shannon, who is herself a superb fantasy novelist. So the next OGOM event, our conference … Continue reading →
We recognise this is a very uncertain time and we at OGOM hope everyone is well and safe. Despite the barriers, academic life goes on and we have a few CFPs to advertise, plus some new resources added to the … Continue reading →
University of Hertfordshire, 8‒10 April 2021 The Open Graves, Open Minds (OGOM) Project was launched in 2010 with the Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture conference.We have subsequently hosted symposia on Bram Stoker and John William Polidori, unearthing depictions … Continue reading →
I am being interviewed here by Brian from Toothpickings. I talk about vampires and werewolves, the folklore of these creatures and its transmutation into literature. I also make some very tenuous links between this, the Enlightenment, Jane Austen and paranormal … Continue reading →
‘We live in Gothic times’, said Angela Carter. Gothic narratives are one powerful way of facing oppressive darkness. But the fantastic mode in general can also reveal utopian possibilities, new worlds beyond the darkness. We are living through a bleak … Continue reading →
I am delighted to announce that I will be speaking at a two-day symposium on fairy folklore organised by Holly Elsdon at the Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic in Todmorden in May. You can see a brief glimpse of … Continue reading →
OGOM would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who found themselves in the company of wolves at our book launch for Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children at the Odyssey Cinema, St Albans on 29 February. The book … Continue reading →
February is said to be ‘Otsaila’ – ‘month of the wolf’; on 29 February we are inviting you to join us for a special event to celebrate ten years of the Open Graves, Open Minds project and to launch our new book In the Company … Continue reading →