Mermaids: ballads, novels, films

Image result for edmund dulac little mermaidMermaids and related creatures such as sirens and selkies have a perennial appeal; we at OGOM love them and they have featured in quite a few posts here. There may be deep Freudian reasons for our fascination but we’re certainly not alone.

Here are some interesting mermaid-related links:

Sarah Hughes, in ‘Magical and gender-fluid … the enduring appeal of mermaids‘, attempts to explain the allure of mermaids and their resurgence in contemporary films and novels. She draws attention to the feminist possibilities of the mermaid figure and her reappropriation by women writers, and also to their gender fluidity

Kari Sonde’s piece ‘Imagining the modern mermaid‘ is another look at the contemporary mermaid of film and novel, concentrating on female sexuality.

Josh Jackman reviews the new TV mermaid series, Siren in ‘Meet the bisexual mermaid taking over your TV‘.

And Stephen Winick has a brilliant and fascinating account of the old ballad ‘The Mermaid’ and its variations from a folklorist perspective in ‘“The Mermaid”: the Fascinating Tail Behind an Ancient Ballad‘.

 

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CFPs: Popular Culture reviews, articles on urban Otherness, creative Gothic

Some invitations to contribute:

1. The Popular Culture Studies Journal is looking for Book Reviewers here.

2. The peer-reviewed e-journal Otherness: Essays and Studies is now accepting submissions for a special issue, forthcoming Spring 2019 – ‘Otherness and the Urban’; deadline 28 September 2018.

3. The University of Sheffield’s Reimagining the Gothic group are holding an Aesthetics and Archetypes Creative Competition (deadline 17 September 2018):

Each year as part of Reimagining the Gothic we hold a creative showcase: an opportunity to explore the theme through various creative methods. This year, that theme is Gothic Aesthetics & Archetypes – think everything from ruined castles, memento mori and gargoyles to Racliffean heroines, Byronic vampires and The Cure.
The aim of the creative showcase is to offer alternative insights and rethink Gothic conventions through a variety of creative mediums. In the past we’ve had photography series’, music videos, dramatic pieces and short films. Want to get involved? This years competition is now open!
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: academia and Gothic heroines

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a foundational text in many ways–not least, for OGOM’s origins, being the series which, with its wit, humanity, and dark imagination led me into vampire studies. It’s probably the TV series most written about by academics; the on-line journal Slayage, for example, is testimony to the serious thinking it has inspired.

Katherine Schwab, in ‘The Rise of Buffy Studies‘, analyses this field of cultural analysis and accounts for the attraction Buffy has for scholars.

And in a fine example of this academic interest, Dara Downey of University College Dublin discusses Buffy as Gothic heroine against the background of American Gothic in ‘Buffy and the Gothic Heroine‘.

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Fairy Tales: art, essays, and resources

Some more interesting links on fairy tales:

Margaret Carrigan, in ‘What Can Fairy Tales Tell Us About Today? Two Video Artists Offer Modern Takes‘, reviews the video art of Ericka Beckman and Marianna Simnett, showing at London’s Zabludowicz Collection through July; they ‘take up technology as a storytelling device for contemporary society, one that offers the same sense of magic, unknown, possibility—and even peril—for adults’.

Corwin Levi and Michelle Aldredge have compiled another contemporary visual reworking, Mirror Mirrored, reviewed in ‘A new look at fairy tales‘:

The book collects 25 Grimms’ tales, almost 2,000 vintage illustrations of those stories remixed into fresh collages, visual reimaginings of these stories by 28 contemporary artists including Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and a mix of other established and emerging artists, and a new piece of creative writing as introduction by Karen Joy Fowler.

Routledge have made The Routledge Companion to Media and Fairy-Tale Cultures available on line free for a limited period, so take advantage while you can!

Kate Forsyth has a fascinating article, ‘Suffragette Mary de Morgan: England’s First Feminist Fairy Tale Writer‘.

Holly Hirst, at Manchester Metropolitan University, has published an intriguing account of how the Gothic and fairy tale genres interact in the contemporary tales of Rana Dasgupta: ‘Gothic fairy-tales and Deleuzian desire‘.

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Night of the Literary Living Dead 26th August

It’s time to break the news of a very exciting battle of the books event that I (Dr Sam George)  am doing on 26th August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in the Spiegeltent with gothtastic writer Marcus Sedgwick. It’s an epic fight of the living/undead – Dracula V Frankenstein.  You can join us live for the ultimate gothic showdown;-). Here’s an interview Marcus and I did with Heather McDaid about the event which has just been published today in the independent cultural journal The Skinny Books Unbound: Dracula V Frankenstein 

Night of the Literary Living Dead! Edinburgh International Book Festival, Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square Gardens, Sun 26 Aug9pm

https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/unbound-94

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#The Fallen: OGOM Twitter Moment

Your chance to browse @OGOMProject’s Twitter moment on the theme of The Fallen

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Fairy Tales: Form and Language, PC Princesses

We at OGOM are fascinated by fairy tales, and there are many posts on the blog about them. My own research has been looking generally at how genres collide and intermingle to create new genres such as Paranormal Romance; in particular, how fairy tales have been reworked (as is well-known) in the fiction of Angela Carter, but also as YA Gothic and Paranormal Romance.

So here are a few links to articles about fairy tales. They vary as to scholarly depth, but should serve to provoke debate and as useful resources to anyone researching the contemporary value of the fairy tale.

On the formal devices of the fairy tale:
Anthony Madrid, ‘“Once Upon a Time” and Other Formulaic Folktale Flourishes’

On language and the Grimm brothers:
Chi Luu, ‘The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

Much contemporary debate about fairy tales concerns their function, rather than their form or aesthetic qualities. And it is very often concerned with gender, particularly the alleged harmful effects tales have on the development of the (female) child. There are questions here about social function and the aesthetic, of determinism and pedagogy, that too often become reductive (and often misrepresent the tales themselves). Here are a few links around this topic:

Lucia Peters, ‘10 Fairy Tale Princesses Whose Stories Are Way More Hardcore Than You Realized

Sadie Trombetta, ‘Fairy Tales Might Be Exactly What We Need In The Age Of #MeToo

Olivia Petter, ‘Hundreds of Parents Change Plots of Classic Fairytales Because They Are Politically Incorrect

Maria Tatar, ‘Then and Now: How Fairy Tales Continue to Invite Us to Think Harder and Smarter

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Vampire at the Crossroads

The intersection of roads and pathways are dark, dangerous, uncanny places, offering  two or more options at once. According to ancient superstitions crossroads are unhallowed ground, haunted by vampires, demons, witches and trolls. Malevolent spirits who like to lead travellers astray like Will’o’the Wisps (ignis fatuus) also hover mischievously around crossroads.

Crossroads are most definitely not the place to be at midnight when vampires rise from their graves. According to some superstitions they take their shrouds with them and station themselves at crossroads looking for victims. In Romanian lore, people who are destined to become vampires after death send their souls out of their bodies at night to wander at crossroads with reanimated corpses (Murgoci).

Crossroads also have a role in various funeral and burial customs, which keep the dead from returning to attack the living. An old Welsh custom calls for corpses to be laid down at every crossroads and prayed over as they are carried from the graveyard, in order to protect the dead from evil spirits and prevent the corpse from becoming a revenent itself (Guiley).

In many countries the victims of a murder or suicide are buried at crossroads. Until 1823 English law required that suicides be buried in the highway, crossroads were chosen and the corpse was often staked (Simpson and Roud). This was a ritual of public disgrace to deter others, and a sign that there was a possibility of the suicide returning as a vampire. Suicides who had sinned by taking their own lives were not permitted to be buried in consecrated ground in churchyards or cemeteries. Below is the grave of Kitty Jay an eighteenth-century orphan who sadly took her own life after falling pregnant to the local farmer’s son. She was buried at the intersection of a road and a moorland track in Dartmoor. A hooded figure is often seen kneeling at the side of the grave.  Kitty’s Grave was also the inspiration for a story by John Galsworthy called ‘The Apple Tree’ which was written in 1916. Thanks to Katie Taylor for reminding of this unsettling crossroads grave.

Murder victims were also taken to crossroads because it was feared their spirits would be restless and troubled and would return to take revenge on the living. Burial at a crossroads would supposedly keep them at peace.

Superstitions are often contradictory and so it is with the supernatural nature of crossroads. Vampires are believed to stalk their victims at crossroads, their place of power. Conversely, crossroads are said to neutralise malevolent beings and render them powerless. According to Eastern European lore, vampires become confused at crossroads, losing their prey.  The OGOLJEN is a Czech vampire that must be buried at crossroads in order to prevent in from continually returning. Earth from its tomb must be placed in its navel (Guiley). In Romanian peasant lore when a vampire first appears, it must be ordered by a family member to go to the village crossroads – ‘Go O Demonic power, the soul of the vampire to the crossroads, so that the wolves may tear you to pieces, there is no place here for you among Christian souls’ (Guiley).  This incantation is thought to banish the vampire!

Superstitions around crossroads have inspired music, poetry and film. Many of you will know Robert Johnson’s Crossroad Blues:

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees 
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees 
Asked the Lord above, have mercy now, save poor Bob if you please 
He’s standin’ at the crossroad.

And since I started researching the lore of the crossroad Victoria Carney has responded with her very own poem ‘Vampire Sojourn’ which she posted for me on Twitter.

In keeping with the folklore, the vampire has a very ambiguous relationship to the crossroads in this poem (thank you so much for this @DescendingAnge5). If others are reading this and are aware of lore relating to crossroads do let me know. In the meantime beware the unsettled intersections of roads and pathways, particularly around Midnight.

References:

Paul Barber, Vampires, Burials and Death (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988)

Agnes Murgoci, ‘The Vampire in Roumania’, The Vampire: A Casebook , ed. Alan Dundes (Madison: Wisconsin University. Press, 1998), pp. 12-35

Robert Johnson,  ‘Crossroads Blues’ (recorded 1936)

Jan L. Perkowski, The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism (Ohio, Slavica Press, 1989)

J. Simpson and S. Roud, A Dictionary of Folklore (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000)

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CFPs: iZombie, tropical Gothic

Two tempting CFPs to announce:

A Call for Articles for an edited collection on iZombie:
I’m Already Dead: Essays on The CW’s iZombie and Vertigo’s iZOMBIE
Deadline: August 30, 2018

Editors Szanter and Richards seek original essays for an edited collection on Rob Thomas’s television series iZombie as well as the show’s graphic novel source material, Roberson and Allred’s iZOMBIE. Currently under contract with McFarland Publishing, we’re requesting supplemental essays to a working collection. This particular series has begun to overhaul modern constructions of the zombie in popular culture and media. While scholarship on the television zombie is not in short supply, particularly in regards to AMC’s The Walking Dead, we believe this particular show and comic series speak to a growing trend in zombie culture whereby the zombie “passes” as human—fully assimilating into normalized society. The collection aims to explore how this new, “improved” zombie altered popular notions of the zombie monster and brought in a new group of viewers who may shy away from the blood and gore tradition of other popular zombie narratives. As each season of the series begins to take a more traditional approach to zombie narratives, we want to focus this collection on how the show tackles current power and political structures as well as asking questions about globalization and nationhood. With CW announcing that the final season will air in January, we’re looking for essays that address the entirety of the show.

A Call for Articles on tropical Gothic for eTropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics
Deadline: 30 December 2018

eTropic disseminates new research from Arts, Humanities, Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Social Sciences and allied fields on the variety and interrelatedness of nature, culture, and society in the tropics. Tropical regions of the world include: South and Southeast Asia, Northern Australia, Latin America, the Caribbean, tropical Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands, the Pacific, and the deep south of the USA.

Gothic studies that provide particularly interesting arenas of analysis include: culture, ritual, mythology, film, architecture, literature, fashion, art, landscapes, places, nature, spaces, histories and spectral cities. Within the fraught geographies and histories of colonialism, ‘tropical gothic’ may include subgenres such as: imperial gothic, orientalism in gothic literature, colonial and postcolonial gothic. In contemporary society neoliberal connections with the tropics and gothic may be investigated. While in popular culture, tropical aspects of gothic film, cybergoth, gothic-steampunk, gothic sci-fi, goth graphic novels, and gothic music may be explored.

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The Corpse Flower: One of Nature’s Monsters

This magnificent Corpse Flower is in bloom at New York Botanical Gardens. AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM smells of rotting flesh and resembles an enormous phallus. Proof that truth really is stranger than fiction. I see it as a symbol of my research appearing as it does at the threshold of two worlds – straddling botanical and gothic culture; it is one of nature’s monsters.  I recommend a trip to these gardens. I did some work with researchers there on Poetic Botany, A Digital Exhibition, in my guise as a botanist and they are magnificent!

 

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