Frankenstein Schools Programme

On February 27th  I will take part in a Q&A on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with sixth forms in Hertfordshire in collaboration with the St Alban’s Abbey Theatre. We will mark 200 years since the novel’s publication in 1818 and spend time talking to the students about adapting Frankenstein in the twenty-first century, following  a performance of Patrick Sandford’s adaptation of  Frankenstein on stage. You can find out more about the educational programme here.

The performance starts at 8pm. There will be an interval of about 20 mins and the performance will finish just before 10pm. We are hoping to go straight into the post-show talk, which Conor Gray will host. We will also be joined by Sinead (the director), Dennis (the designer), Gavin (‘Frankenstein’), Dewi (‘The Creature’) and Georgia (‘Elizabeth). Gothtastic!


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Angel Calendar #FebruaryAngels

Thanks to everyone who is contributing to OGOM’s collaboration with Folklore Film Festival on #FebruaryAngels. You can view our glorious and heavenly Angelic Moment here and contribute to it daily throughout the month.

The Book of Hours, the devotional book made popular in the middle ages, uses angels and archangels in interesting ways, associating them with daily, weekly, and monthly calendars of worship. I like a good list so I wanted to share these angel emblems and provide you with a Calendar of Angels:

Angels For the Months of the Year

January: Gabriel; February: Barchiel; March: Machidiel; April: Asmodel; May: Ambriel; June: Muriel; July: Verchiel; August: Hamaliel; September: Uriel; October: Barbiel; November: Adnachiel; December: Anael

The Seven Archangels as related to the Seven Days of the Week

Gabriel (Monday), Raphael (Tuesday), Uriel (Wednesday), Selaphiel (Thursday), Raguel or Jegudiel (Friday), Barachiel (Saturday), Michael (Sunday).

Angel of the Month

Barchiel (invariably spelled Barakiel, Barkiel, Barbiel), is the Angel of the Month of February; one of the 7 Archangels, ruler of Jupiter and the month of February, and of the zodiac signs of Scorpio and Pisces.



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Call for Articles: Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies

Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies are inviting articles for their June 2018 issue, deadline 5 March 2018.

Aeternum is an open-access biannual online journal of peer-reviewed academic articles on all aspects of the contemporary Gothic. The purpose of the Journal is to provide an emphasis on contemporary Gothic scholarship, bringing together innovative perspectives from different areas of study. Aeternum are currently seeking submissions for the next general issue, which has a planned publication date of June 2018. Prospective articles must be submitted by March 5th, 2018

Aeternum publishes English language articles of 4000–6000 words in length, and uses the authordate version of Chicago Style referencing. All manuscripts should be submitted in electronic form in Word format. All articles should be accompanied by an abstract of 200-250 words. All abstracts
should be followed by a maximum of five key words. Please e-mail your finished articles to Articles will go through the peer-review process to determine acceptance or rejection.


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Stranger Things: Flower-Headed Monsters

New addition to OGOM doctoral studies,  Daisy Butcher, has just published an interesting article in the Medical Health and Humanities Journal entitled ‘Stranger Things: Maternal Body Horror

The monster in Stranger Things, the demogorgon, who resides in the ‘Upside Down’ that mirrors and shadows the town of Hawkins, Indiana, has a head that opens up like an orchid flower. But this is no ordinary bloom: the demogorgon’s flowering orchid reveals labial lips with teeth as it captures and feeds on children.

This article is timely as it is the season of the foul-smelling and hugely phallic Corpse Lily (seen below).

My own botanical leanings make Daisy’s flower-headed demon fascinating reading and I recommend this article to those interested in hybridity and interdisciplinarity within gothic studies. There is lots of interesting folklore around the Orchid too, which builds on its aphrodisiacal properties and sexual symbolism. In Hungary for example, the yellow roots of the spotted Orchis maculata, are gathered at midsummer and mixed with menstrual blood, to cause symptoms of hopeless love in the desired one (See Margaret Baker, The Folklore of Plants, 1996).  As far as the demogorgon goes it is a long way from Peter Gabriel’s whimsicle flower heads, but strangely reminiscent of them for any early fans of prog rock!

As a research student Daisy has a promising future and is unlike her namesake, that little disregarded flower! Don’t you just love floral names!


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CFPs: Dracula, Frankenstein, and Bodily Fluids

Three CFPs for conferences that might be of interest:

Children of the Night: A Cross-Platform Dracula Conference, Transilvania University of Brașov, 17-19 October 2018.

Frankenstein – Parable of the Modern Age 1818 – 2018, International Symposium of the Inklings-Society, Ingolstadt, 28-29 September 2018.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Bodily Fluids in the Long Nineteenth Century, 27 July 2018, Aston University, Birmingham

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The Northern YA Literary Festival: Holly Black, Samantha Shannon, Alwyn Hamilton

The Northern YA Literary Festival is hosted by the University of Central Lancashire at Preston, 24 March 2018. This looks a great event: the wonderful Holly Black (probably my favourite author in YA paranormal romance) being interviewed by Samantha Shannon (whose novels of an alternative London with a magical underworld, complete with convincing criminal argot, are brilliant). There’s also a talk by Alwyn Hamilton, whose Rebel of the Sands trilogy is an exciting meld of Western and The Thousand One Nights, and a paranormal romance that takes on radical political uprising as its theme. There are also talks on Getting into Publishing (with authors Teri Terry, Danny Weston, and Anna Day) and Feminism in YA (with Katherine Webber, Annabel Pitcher, Lauren James, and Matt Killeen).

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There Must Be An Angel #FebruaryAngels

A special announcement – in February OGOM will team up with the ever innovative, entertaining and educational FolkLore Film Festival on Twitter for a month of Angel-inspired fun, heavenly connections and celestial interventions. Join us on Twitter @OGOMProject @FolkloreFilmFes using the hashtag #FebruaryAngels. It’s  going to be divine!! Discover more about OGOM and angels here

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Big Bad Humans and Benevolent Wolves

Followers of OGOM will know that we have been at the forefront of debates around the cultural representation of the wolf since the Company of Wolves Conference in 2015. We went on to collaborate more fully with the UK Wolf  Conservation Trust and stage our Being Human event ‘Redeeming the Wolf‘ in 2017.

If we needed more evidence that wolves still need to redeemed here it is: Harmless or Vicious Hunter: the Uneasy Return of Europe’s Wolves. Marcus Sedgwick, friend of OGOM, and writer of many fine books which represent wolves and wolf children, has alerted me to the above article which appeared today in The Guardian.  It appears to be influenced by the work we have done in the media forging a relationship between the big bad wolf of fairy tale and the wolf’s troubled return (‘Little Red Riding Hood Hampers Wolf Debate Says Academic’).

I despair at the fatuous and androcentric way humans continue to control the planet and its inhabitants, signing the death warrant of thousands of animals and their young because they have an irrational fear of them, or because they might ocasionally pose a threat to livestock preserved for humans only to kill and devour. Wolves continue to be slaughtered and persecuted all over Europe whilst they struggle to return. Such wolves are only doing what wolves do, but murdering humans are far from being redeemed. I am continuing to research and popularise benevolent representations of the wolf in the hope that we can create a new narrative for the twenty-first century.


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Exploring Gothic Romance

As part of my research into the formal qualities of Paranormal Romance, and how different genres encounter each other to generate this new kind of novel, I’m immersing myself into one of its forbears. Gothic Romance (sometimes known as fantasy romance or romantic fantasy) has affinities with Jane Eyre (1847) and Wuthering Heights (1847) and is perhaps epitomised by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938). Subsequent writers such as Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, and Madeleine Brent proliferated from the 1950s to the 1970s.

These novels rarely embrace the supernatural; it may be suggested but it is usually resolved in the manner of Ann Radcliffe’s novels. But key motifs of moonlight, darkness, and shadows; subterranean passages and caverns abound. The protagonists are endangered, vulnerable (though often plucky) young women—orphans, governesses, or companions. The hero will be brooding and have dark secrets. There may be indecision by the heroine in her choice of love object between two men, one who seems more benign than the other (but appearances are often deceptive). Often an antiquated family home is central; abbeys or castles may appear. The covers of these novels are highly atmospheric and portray those Gothic themes; likewise, the gloriously kitschy illustrations in the Reader’s Digest anthology I found, A Gothic Treasure Trove (2001).

This collection is laden with paratextual markings of the Gothic, from the cover (above) and the illustrations below to the blurb on the back of the dust jacket, which characterises the anthologised works as ‘A Gothic novel which fulfils the old traditions of brooding atmosphere, suspense and romance’, ‘remains taut as it moves from castle to cave to scaffold and from disaster to deception’, and ‘suspenseful and bewitching’.

Incarceration is a common theme in the original Gothic; Madeleine Bright’s heroine Lucy meets her lover while both are imprisoned in the exciting adventure of Moonraker’s Bride (1973). Lucy is particularly unconventional, resourceful, and courageous (which may not be surprising to those who know the Modesty Blaise spy stories by Peter O’Donnell, who also wrote as ‘Madeleine Bright’).






Lucy has an explosive first kiss at a fireworks party:

Any Gothic heroine worth her salt must encounter a creepy monk at some point in her career; Catherine, in Victoria Holt’s Kirkland Revels (1962), is nearly sent to the madhouse because of this one:

And men must fight to protect their womenfolk, as in Barbara Michaels’s Wings of the Falcon (1977):




Mary Stewart, in Thunder on the Right (1957), deliberately invokes Ann Radcliffe, acknowledging her Gothic origins. Here, the heroine visits a convent in France in quest of her vanished friend: and encounters a young door-keeper:



But her eyes, still staring as if fascinated, held in them some uneasiness that Jennifer by no means liked. Under that childish china-blue brightness it was as if dismay lurked—yes, and some obscure horror. Something, at any rate, that was not just mere shyness and fear of strangers; something that was beginning to communicate itself to Jennifer in the faintest premonitory prickling of the spine. Something, Jennifer told herself sharply, that was being dragged up out of the depths of the subconscious, where half a hundred romantic tales had contributed to feed the secular mind with a superstitious fear of the enclosing convent walls. This, she added with some asperity, as she stepped past the staring orphan into a tiny courtyard, was not a story in the Radcliffe vein, where monastic cells and midnight terrors followed one another as the night the day, this was not a Transylvanian gorge in the dead hour of darkness. It was a small and peaceful institution, run on medieval lines perhaps, but nevertheless basking in the warm sunshine of a civilized afternoon. (26)

Yet this deflation of Radcliffe is a narrative ploy, of course, as the discerning reader will know, and ironises the heroine’s innocence of what will follow. And note Stewart’s Radcliffean use of Continental Europe as otherness, including a Catholicism that is in opposition to Enlightened progress, is still potent.

I must admit I’m enjoying these novels enormously. They’re well-crafted, with gripping plots and often engaging characters. Among other things, they capture well the intensity of first love and the utopianism of mutuality between the sexes that is found in YA paranormal romance. They are not as ideologically regressive as one might expect. Stewart’s novels in particular explore ideas of masculinity and heroism, and have a distinctly feminist strand of female autonomy together with a critique of masculinist values. I’ll be presenting some of this research at the forthcoming IGA Conference.

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Ursula Le Guin: Tributes and Analysis

Some more valuable links to material on the wonderful Ursula K. Le Guin who, sadly, died on Monday (22 January 2017).

Tributes from her fellow writers in SF and fantasy: ‘The Science Fiction and Fantasy Community Remembers Ursula K. Le Guin‘.

John Freeman commemorates her in ‘My Last Conversation with Ursula K. Le Guin‘.

Gabrielle Bellot writes about the fluidity of genre and the ethical questioning of Le Guin’s work in ‘The Amorphous Fictional Spaces of Ursula K. Le Guin‘.

The political radicalism of Le Guin’s writing is well known; the following pieces of analysis highlight this:

Verso Books have posted Le Guin’s essay in their edition of Thomas More’s Utopia, ‘A War Without End‘.

Nicole M. Aschoff writes in the Jacobin magazine about Le Guin’s critical utopianism: ‘Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929–2018‘.

Finally, the great Marxist critic Fredric Jameson analyses Le Guin’s technique and use of genre as a process of ‘of radical abstraction and simplification’ in his essay ‘World Reduction in Le Guin‘.


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