‘Fairy Lepidoptera’ at The Dark Side of the Fae: A Fairy Symposium, 30-31 May, 2020

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 the line up below. The venue is Todmorden Town Hall and the Golden Lion for the evening events. Tickets are on sale now via www.thefolklorepodcast.com . Twitter @CentreMyth

‘Titania’, John Simons, 1866

The title of my talk and an abstract is given below:

Dr Sam George –  ‘Fairy Lepidoptera: the Dark History of Butterfly-Winged Fae’

Today, fairies are often viewed as benevolent nature spirits, a consolation for modernity or the loss of wild environments, but this has not always been the case. In 1887, Lady Wilde gave voice to the Irish belief that fairies are the fallen angels, cast out of heaven. Fascinated by angels, ghosts, and vampires, Victorians, then Edwardians, saw fairies as souls of the dead. In an age of widespread religious doubt, thought turned to the persistence of the dead and to occult methods of communicating with them, and, rather than dispelling fairies, memories of the dead in WWI heightened a belief in airy spirits and spirit photography. 

It was in this climate that the Cottingley fairy photographs emerged in 1917. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s defence of them was influenced by Theosophical views of fairies as evidence of a shadowy spirit world. Dell-dwelling and butterfly-winged, the Cottingley fairies were important too because they seemingly confirmed that fairies were allied to the Lepidoptera or butterfly order (an idea that became an established part of Theosophical thought).  

Thomas Stothard’s 1798 illustrations to The Rape of the Lock are reputedly the first to give fairies butterfly wings, establishing a convention. Stothard’s images appear to be derived from putti but he followed his textual source in placing his insect-winged sprites halfway between angels (disembodied) and fairies (embodied). Such butterfly-winged fae provide another link to fairies as spirits of the dead. The butterfly is thought to be the shape assumed by the soul when it leaves the body during sleep or at death. In Joseph Noel Paton’s The Pursuit of Pleasure: A Vision of Human Life (1885), the daughter of Cupid and Psyche, is represented by a fairy with butterfly wings.

Joseph Noel Paton, ‘The Pursuit of Pleasure’, 1885

Representations of fairies shift from disembodied angels to manifestations as insectile Lepidoptera and shadowy spirits of the dead. In tracing this history, I anticipate ways of thinking about fairies in the present in narratives such as Carnival Row (2019). Here the fae’s insect wings and delicate beauty mask their dark history as fallen and endangered descendants of the Tuatha de Danann (taking us back to Lady Wilde’s accounts).

Carnival Row (2019)
Amelia Jane Murray ‘Fairy Standing on a Moth’
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Company of Wolves Book Launch, The Odyssey Cinema 29 February, 2020. A Roaring Success.

Event in lights at The Odyssey

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 sales were off the scale and just look at the werewolf cake – probably the most awesome cake you are likely to see. Kaja really excelled in delivering this beast – woo hoo!

OGOM werewolf cake

I was honoured to be invited to introduce Neil Jordan’s Company of Wolves film prior to the book launch. You can read a transcript of my intro here.

poster advertising event

Our presentation on the book followed the screening in the auditorium. My half was on the OGOM project, the werewolf conference that had inspired the book, and my own research on wolf children, or children raised by wolves, for the chapter ‘When Wolves Cry: wolf children, story telling and the state of nature’ .

Bill then presented on the narrative of the book and the individual chapters and contributors. The book itself is a beauty not a beast we think you will agree!

After that it was time for the audience to release their inner werewolf and then on with the book signing and cake….

Book stall care of MUP
Matthew Frost our legendary editor from MUP
Matthew and his moustache showcase the cake

We’d like to thank everyone who made this book possible – all the contributors, and Matthew Frost and his team at Manchester University Press. Thanks to Kaja for organising the fabulous cake. And thanks also to the Odyssey Cinema for helping us celebrate this event: that’s Anna Shepherd, Christian Willis, Ben, and all the other staff. Thanks also to the press office at the University of Hertfordshire, Victoria Bristow and Ellie Spear. Also the UH Research Office for their support. Finally, Dr Rowland Hughes and Tara Stebnickey for helping with our impact case study and for making this and our wider project on redeeming the wolf a roaring success.

Kaja looking wolfish – love the ears!

In the build up to the launch and during it we used the hashtag #InTheCompanyofWolves you can view our Twitter ‘moment’ with all our posts and images here.

We were pleased that the launch event picked up some local coverage and was so well attended (over 150 tickets sold). You can browse some of the press stories below:

Herts Advertiser: https://www.hertsad.co.uk/news/st-albans-odyssey-werewolf-film-screening-1-6504499

University of Hertfordshire News: https://www.herts.ac.uk/about-us/news/2020/in-the-company-of-wolves-werewolf-book-launch-and-film-screening

Welwyn and Hatfield Times, ‘Movie screening at wolves book launch’, 19 February 2020

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Unleash Your Inner Werewolf 29 Feb

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 of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children.  This exclusive launch is taking place at the Odyssey Cinema, St Albans.  The book will be available at 50% discount for one night only.

Cover of In the Company of Wolves book

We will be showing Company of Wolves, a British Gothic fantasy horror directed by Neil Jordan, based on Angela Carter’s lycanthropic reworkings of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and starring Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea, and David Warner.

Following this there will be an exclusive preview and presentation in the auditorium on our new book and a signing session.  We’ll also be inviting you to stay for a few drinks and enjoy our celebratory wolf-themed cake. Woo hoo!!  

To join in the celebrations and unleash your inner werewolf you can book via this link 

‘Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle’ (Angela Carter).

The book developed from our Company of Wolves Conference you can view the impressive programme here  

To find out just why it was so special have a look at some of these wonderful news stories:

 Werewolf Conference https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-34144752

University to Host International Werewolf Conference https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-33971546

Academics Shine A Light on Folkloric Shapeshifters https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/werewolf-conference-will-see-academics-shine-a-light-on-folkloric-shapeshifters-10477155.html

The book launch too is starting to attract media interest (below). Don’t miss out on a chance to celebrate with us on 29 Feb.  



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A Fairy Symposium, 30th-31st May, Todmorden

cemetery fairy

I am delighted to announce that I will be a guest speaker at The Dark Side of the Fae: A Fairy Symposium, Todmorden Town Hall, 30th-31st May. The title of my talk will be ‘Fairy Lepidoptera: the Dark History of Butterfly-Winged Fae’. Save the Date!! Further details can be obtained from Holly Elsdon: folkloremythmagic@gmail.com

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Amazing offer! 50% or more discount on In the Company of Wolves book

We’ve been posting about the book launch for OGOM’s latest publication, In the Company of Wolves: Wolves, Werewolves, and Wild Children. If you attend the book launch, you will be able to buy the book at 50% discount (possibly more–it’s still being discussed!). The book launch (more details here) is 29 February 2020 at the fabulous Art Deco cinema, The Odyssey in St Albans and you need to book here for the event. As part of the launch, where you will be able to meet some of the contributors to this excellent collection of essays, Neil Jordan’s 1984 film The Company of Wolves will be shown (based on Angela Carter’s wonderful ‘Red Riding Hood’/werewolf tales).

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In the Company of Wolves – Book Launch and Film Screening 29 February 2020

Friends and Colleagues,

You are cordially invited to a special event to celebrate ten years of the Open Graves, Open Minds project and to launch our new book In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children. 

In the Company of Wolves presents further research from the Open Graves, Open Minds Project. It connects together innovative research from a variety of perspectives on the cultural significance of wolves, wild children, and werewolves as portrayed in different media and genres.

We begin with the wolf itself as it has been interpreted as a cultural symbol and how it figures in contemporary debates about wilderness and nature. Alongside this, we consider eighteenth-century debates about wild children ­- often thought to have been raised by wolves and other animals – and their role in key questions about the origins of language and society. The collection continues with essays on werewolves and other shapeshifters as depicted in folk tales, literature, film and TV, concluding with the transition from animal to human in contemporary art, poetry and fashion.

werewolf gargoyle

This exclusive launch is taking place at the Odyssey Cinema in St Albans. We will be showing Company of Wolves, a British Gothic fantasy horror directed by Neil Jordan, based on Angela Carter’s lycanthropic reworkings of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and starring Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea, and David Warner. Following this there will be a special presentation in the auditorium on our new book and a book signing in the foyer.  We’ll also be inviting you to stay for a few drinks and enjoy our celebratory wolf-themed cake.  You can view the event and book via this link Woo Hoo!

‘Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.’ (Angela Carter)

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CFP – Special issue of Revenant Apocalyptic Waste: Studies in Environmental Threat and Nightmare Spaces

Call for Papers: Special issue of Revenant (www.revenantjournal.com)

Apocalyptic Waste: Studies in Environmental Threat and Nightmare Spaces

Deadline for Abstract Submissions: January 31st 2020

Contact E-mail: M.Crofts@hull.ac.uk

Guest Editors: Matt Crofts and Layla Hendow, University of Hull.

The post-apocalyptic wasteland holds a powerful symbolic status within the popular imagination. Ravaged by infection, invasion, the supernatural or environmental disaster, the imagery of a deserted and hostile landscape rose to prominence during the Cold War and has remained a fertile source of horror ever since. The wasteland is a nightmare; a repository for a loose collection of fears centred on man’s tendency toward self-destruction and savagery. The future this fiction espouses makes mankind all revenants; a species that should be extinct still clinging to life, battling with the return of its own mistakes. This concept of a hostile relationship between humanity and the environment unites post-apocalyptic fiction and contemporary discourses of waste management; the vision of a ransacked earth is offered as a warning for readers and polluters alike.

‘Apocalyptic Waste’ adopts an interdisciplinary approach, exploring how both pressing environmental issues and diverse cultural outputs converge on the wasteland as a nightmare. Spaces of waste, be they dumps of literal rubbish or the remains of civilization, act as a sublime setting that prompts a powerful emotional response. That abandoned buildings, graveyards and other places associated with dead bodies, and even waste management sites have all been linked to supernatural occurrences is further evidence of this strong reaction. Landfill sites produce a strong reaction of their own – ‘not in my back yard’ (NIMBY) psychology attitudes restrict new wastelands, just as the need for such spaces dictates their creation. Spaces like ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ sound like settings of dystopian fiction but are a pressing example of the damage human production causes. The nightmarish threats of horror wastelands are perhaps only as terrifying as the transformation of the environment itself.

This special issue showcases current approaches towards how waste and waste production has a transformative effect on landscape, and how and why wastelands prove to be an effective locale for Gothic, supernatural and horror texts of all kinds. We invite scholarly submissions that examine any aspect of waste or wastelands in literature, film, television, graphic novels, video games, or other media. We also welcome creative pieces that engage with the subjects of this issue. These topics could include, but aren’t limited to:

  • The wasteland as a Gothic, sublime setting – what makes it an effective locale for horror
  • The supernatural and waste – waste sites as haunted (literally or figuratively)
  • Landfills and dumps as waste spaces
  • Post-apocalyptic novels, films or games
  • Texts that confront environmental issues such as overpopulation
  • The threat posed by excessive production
  • The geography of waste, marginalisation and repression of waste
  • The human body as a resource; one that can be recycled
  • Environmental disasters, ‘cli-fi’ fiction, or the different type of threat posed by ‘slow violence’
  • Waste and pollution – the creation of fear, abjection, NIMBY
  • ‘Resource fiction’ or ‘Petro-fiction’ – scarcity versus abundance
  • Eco-Gothic, Eco-critical, or other theoretical approaches, on waste
  • Class, gender, age, race/ethnicity perspectives on waste, recycling, pollution, post-apocalypse
  • Creative pieces (fiction, poetry, reflective accounts or artwork) that engages with any of the above

For articles and creative pieces (such as poetry, short stories, flash fiction, videos, artwork and music) please send a 500-word abstract and a short biography by January 31st, 2020. If your abstract is accepted, the full article (maximum 7000 words, including Harvard referencing) and the full creative piece (maximum 5000 words) will be due May 29th, 2020. The aim is to publish in Autumn 2020. Reviews of books, films, games, events, and art related to the waste and apocalyptic landscapes will be considered (800-1,000 words in length). Please send full details of the title and medium you would like to review as soon as possible. Further information, including Submission Guidelines, are available at the journal website: www.revenantjournal.com. Inquiries are welcome and, along with all submissions, should be directed to M.Crofts@hull.ac.uk and l.hendow@2015.hull.ac.uk. If emailing the journal directly at revenant@falmouth.ac.uk please quote ‘waste special issue’ in the subject box.

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New book: Ruth Heholt and Melissa Edmundson (eds.), Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out

This book begins with the assumption that the presence of non-human creatures causes an always-already uncanny rift in human assumptions about reality. Exploring the dark side of animal nature and the ‘otherness’ of animals as viewed by humans, and employing cutting-edge theory on non-human animals, eco-criticism, literary and cultural theory, this book takes the Gothic genre into new territory.

After the dissemination of Darwin’s theories of evolution, nineteenth-century fiction quickly picked up on the idea of the ‘animal within’. Here, the fear explored was of an unruly, defiant, degenerate and entirely amoral animality lying (mostly) dormant within all of us. However, non-humans and humans have other sorts of encounters, too, and even before Darwin, humans have often had an uneasy relationship with animals, which, as Donna Haraway puts it, have a way of ‘looking back’ at us. In this book, the focus is not on the ‘animal within’ but rather on the animal ‘with-out’: other and entirely incomprehensible.

Book details:

Palgrave Macmillan, 23 February 2020
hb ISBN 978-3-030-34539-6
Number of Pages
XIX, 310
Number of Illustrations
4 b/w illustrations, 2 illustrations in colour

More details here: https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030345396

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Book Received: Cerys Crossen, The Nature of the Beast: Transformations of the Werewolf from the 1970s to the Twenty-First Century

The werewolf in popular fiction has begun to change rapidly. Literary critics have observed this development and its impact on the werewolf in fiction, with theorists arguing that the modern werewolf offers new possibilities about how we view identity and the self. Although this monograph is preoccupied with the same concerns, it represents a departure from other critical works by analysing the werewolf’s subjectivity/identity as a work-in-progress, where the fixed and final form is yet to be arrived at – and may never be fully accomplished. Using the critical theories of Deleuze and Guattari and their concepts of ‘multiplicities’ and ‘becoming’, this work argues that the werewolf is in a state of constant evolution as it develops new modes of being in popular fiction. Following on from this examination of lycanthropic subjectivity, the book goes on to examine the significant developments that have resulted from the advent of the werewolf as subject, few of which have received any sustained critical attention to date.

Book details:

University of Wales Press

October 2019
304 pages
Hardback – 9781786834560 £70
eBook – epub – 9781786834584
eBook – mobi – 9781786834591
eBook – pdf – 9781786834577
More details here: https://www.uwp.co.uk/book/the-nature-of-the-beast/

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Book Received: Xavier Aldana Reyes, Gothic Cinema

Arguing for the need to understand Gothic cinema as an aesthetic mode, this book explores its long history, from its transitional origins in phantasmagoria shows and the first ‘trick’ films to its postmodern fragmentation in the Gothic pastiches of Tim Burton.

But what is Gothic cinema? Is the iconography of the Gothic film equivalent to that of the horror genre? Are the literary origins of the Gothic what solidified its aesthetics? And exactly what cultural roles does the Gothic continue to perform for us today? Gothic Cinema covers topics such as the chiaroscuro experiments of early German cinema, the monster cinema of the 1930s, the explained supernatural of the old dark house mystery films of the 1920s and the Female Gothics of the 1940s, the use of vibrant colours in the period Gothics of the late 1950s, the European exploitation booms of the 1960s and 1970s, and the animated films and Gothic superheroes that dominate present times. Throughout, Aldana Reyes makes a strong case for a medium-specific and more intuitive approach to the Gothic on screen that acknowledges its position within wider film industries with their own sets of financial pressures and priorities.

This groundbreaking book is the first thorough chronological, transhistorical and transnational study of Gothic cinema, ideal for both new and seasoned scholars, as well as those with a wider interest in the Gothic.

Book details:

Routledge, 256 pp. hb £110, pb £21.99
More details here: https://www.routledge.com/Gothic-Cinema-1st-Edition/Aldana-Reyes/p/book/9781138227569?fbclid=IwAR1NsUgz3pkR1uO8F4Jkk_4d4xh7sTwMaFqBPgQH_EGSHaF81JkLuiidyYw

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