CFPs: 19C vampires, radical YA lit, revisiting the Gothic

An edited collection and two conferences seeking contributions:

1. Call for articles for A Feast of Blood: the Vampire in the Nineteenth Century. Deadline: 31 January 2019.

We invite essay proposals on the vampire figure in the long nineteenth century.  Our edited collection will look at the vampire figure’s rise in popularity throughout the period and across a range of literary texts.

2. CFP: Radical Young People’s Literature & Culture, 29-30 March 2019, Marino Institute of Education, Dublin 9, Ireland. Deadline: 7 December 2018.

This conference will explore the experimental, subversive and/or disruptive potential of Irish and international literature and culture for young people. The conference will also consider the extent to which children’s and young-adult texts and culture can promote, cultivate and/or establish radical representations and ideas.

3. CFP: Revisiting the Gothic in Literature and the Visual Arts (18-Enero-2019, UCAM), Catholic University of Murcia, 18 January 2019. Deadline: 3 December 2018.

This interdisciplinary conference will analyse and discuss the transformations undergone by the Gothic genre since the late 1970s up to today within the fields of fiction, the visual arts and other forms of popular culture. Special emphasis will fall on the appropriation and reformulation routines in the works under assessment plus the continuity (or discontinuity) of classic tropes.


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LGBT Selkie Poem

I’m posting this Scottish folklore poetry re-imagined with an LGBT twist for those interested in selkie literature. The book will launch at LGBT History Month in Scotland in February 2019. Students of the Generation Dead: YA Fiction and the Gothic course will be looking at the Selkie novel Tides in a few weeks time with its theme of inbetweeness, and this provides us with a lively alternative context.

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Vampires: Dracula, James Joyce, Jane Austen, bats, and Marx

Image result for dracula

Again, a bit too late for Hallowe’en, but a handful of essays on vampires here:

1. Recent research at the London Library on Bram Stoker’s annotations to source material for Dracula: ‘The Books That Made Dracula‘.

2. Austen Gilkeson, ‘The Dead and the Undead: James Joyce and the Origin of the Modern Vampire‘ on the vampirism in Joyce’s story.

3. Eric Parisot discusses vampiric rewritings of Jane Austen in ‘Mr Darcy as vampire: a literary hero with bite‘.

4. With Shahidha Bari, Nick Groom and Xavier Aldana Reyes discuss vampire fiction, its origins, and legacy in ‘Sinking Your Teeth Into Vampires‘.

5. Katy Waldman asks ‘Are Vampires Cancelled?‘ in a review of Nick Groom’s new book, The Vampire: A New History.

6. Matthew Wills considers the continuing relevance of vampires by looking at the economic metaphor of vampirism employed by Karl Marx: ‘Marxferatu: Teaching Marx with Vampires‘.

7. Allison Meier explores the bat symbolism that decorates the Parisian cemetery in ‘Bats and Vampiric Lore in Père Lachaise Cemetery‘.

8. And finally, Francky Knapp recalls an early cinematic vamp actor: ‘America’s Vampire Sweetheart: Valeska Suratt‘.


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CFPs: Myth and dream, tales of terror, Romanticism

Three very tempting conferences with CFPs:

1. Myth and Dream / The Dreaming of Myth, University of Bologna, 23-24 May 2019; deadline 1 February 2019.

The conference invites proposals addressing diverse approaches to the combination of myth and dream – literary, artistic, scientific or theological – that enjoy attention in the contemporary world.

2. Tales of Terror: Gothic Horror and Weird Short Fiction, University of Warwick, 21-22 March 2019; deadline 1 December 2018.

This two-day conference will explore the appeal, evolutions, and elusiveness of Gothic, Horror, and Weird Short Fiction, and welcomes speakers with new and innovative perspectives at any stage of their academic career.

3. International Conference on Romanticism, University of Manchester, 31 July-2 August 2019; deadline 15 January 2019.

Inspired by the 200th anniversary of Peterloo, our conference theme—‘Romanticism Now and Then’—invites reconsideration not only of the historical events of 1819 and their implications, but also, more broadly, of the relations among politics, aesthetics, and time in any aspect of Romantic art, literature, and culture. Put simply, we are interested in making space for the most rigorously imaginative and significant work being done now that bears on our understanding of the politics, aesthetics, and/or temporalities of Romanticism.


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Night of the Gorgeous Goth Girls–again!!

Image result for witches

This poem was meant as a light-hearted celebration of all things Gothic, and of scholars and students in the field. I crammed in as many tropes, archetypes, characters, and clichés as I could, torturously straining the rhymes on the rack. It was originally a short piece commissioned by Ali Younger at the University of Sunderland for her ‘Gorgeous Goth Girls’, so the alliteration of the letter ‘g’ became compulsive. It’s been expanded several times—I can’t seem to let it go—and the current iteration is in response to the University of Sheffield’s Reimagining the Gothic: Aesthetics and Archetypes conference which I was unfortunately unable to attend (there’s a sly reference to the conference theme in there now, and Prof. Angela Wright has a solo spot).

It’s a playful Bacchanalia, but beneath the surface there’s a more serious theme, one of aesthetic transformation and emancipation—a reimagining, if you like—and of the importance of narrative. All the moral ambiguity and subversiveness of the Gothic appears. The reworking of Gothic archetypes appears in an allusion to Angela Carter’s characterisation of her revisioning of fairy tales as ‘new wine in old bottles’. The action is a Walpurgisnacht of witches learning eagerly, conjuring lovers, feasting voraciously, and having a general good time while telling stories that reimagine and enchant the world, then soaring into the skies till dawn arrives.

Night of the Gorgeous Goth Girls: A Paranormal Romance.

(for Sam George, Angela Wright, Alison Younger, and their students of the Gothic at the Universities of Hertfordshire, Sheffield, and Sunderland)

Under a gibbous and gory moon
The Gorgeous Goth Girls gyre and gimble,
Gliding gaily to gloomy tune
With graceful sway and gait that’s nimble.

Their eyes adorned with artful shade,
Glad-ragged in black, lips daubed with mauve;
Transforming all that moonlit glade
Aesthetically, those Goth Girl fauves.

Witches all, with body parts
And occult herbs they craft their spell;
Imagination and dark arts
Create a heaven from savage Hell.

Hence three-faced Hekátē, through hexes
Etched in the air with argent fire,
Breathes lucid commerce among the sexes,
Inspiring a colloquy of desire.

Then, demon lovers from leafy wood,
Or leaping from the leaves of books,
Are stirred alive with boiling blood,
Enchanted by those glamouring looks.

Come icy Ruthven, cool Carmilla,
Lurching zombie, Giaour, and ghoul;
Spike and Angel, crazed Drusilla—
Glittery Edward’s here from school.

Barnabas and Scissorhands,
L’Estat, Ligeia, Yog-Sothoth,
Goblins, elves from Faerie lands
Salute the troupe of Gorgeous Goths.

The Count himself, three sultry brides;
Galvanic monster and his wife;
Pale warriors, werewolves, Mr Hyde:
All celebrate that Blood is Life.

And oh! What music they do make!
With gut and reed and rattling bones,
Wild revels like some Celtic wake
Resound with eerie, plangent tones.

The Girls gavotte with gay cadavers,
Goat-men, mermen, incubae,
Who quicken in the danse macabre
And ululate with ghostly cry.

The music dies; the feast begins
With tender flesh laid out to bite.
The menu sings of luscious sins
Enthralling curious appetites.

Such gleeful gusto! The gorgeous gluttons
Gulp goblin grapes and baneful berries;
Wolf glorious gateaux, goose and mutton,
With lusty wine from Naughty Man’s Cherries.

Licking lips, they leave the table
To conjure more delicious sin,
To reimagine Gothic fable—
New archetypes in ancient skin.

The greedy Girls explore grimoires
In search of threads that can be woven
Into stories spiced with noir
To spellbind the uncanny coven.

All gather kindling and ignite
A bonfire which soon fiercely rages.
The visions in the flames incite
Wild tales inscribed on virgin pages.

Ceridwen flings into the brew
That simmers in her cauldron bright
Wild elements to create anew
The chaos of the sable night.

There’s pickled spiders, gall of goat,
Scale of dragon and basilisk blood,
Syllables torn from infant throat,
Distilled with Gothic womanhood.

Benighted ravens, owls, and bats
Around the Girls shape-shift and swirl,
While grinning glowing-green-eyed cats
Torment the air with eldritch skirl.

Familiars help the spells get ready:
Faithful Wednesday, furred Pyewacket,
Wilful Willow, and torpid Teddy
Growl and purr in gleeful racket.

Who has gathered to incant
These arcane scripts? What dark divines
Will glorify and re-enchant
The world and render it sublime?

Matilda plots with Loridani,
Alice Nutter, Lilith, Glinda,
Bastet, Morrigan, fey Morgana,
Mab, Medea, and gypsy Wanda.

While Angela stirs Gothic Romance
Into the spell of history,
Beguiling Italy and France
Evoke Udolphan mystery.

There Ali, Lianan-Sídhe, reveals
Bright secrets from the darkest lore.
Her students, with delighted squeals,
Learn tales of terror, lust, and gore.

Samantha, witch of Circe’s line,
Likewise from open graves uncovers
Charms, unfit for abject swine,
That open minds of bards and lovers.

Kaja, lycanthrope, uncoils
Her tale of animality,
Reveals her hybrid self embroiled
With carnal sociality.

Through Rachey’s stories summoned hence,
Beautiful monsters who transgress
Morality and common sense
Mask vice beneath cosmetic dress.

These narratives grip the Girls with awe
And animate a fierce resolve
To transcend gravity’s grim law:
Besmearing skin with chymick salve

That stings their bodies into flight,
And shivering with the fierce uplift,
The Gorgeous Girls soar into night
Astride a hog or besom swift.

Now howling giddily, drunk with glee,
They trace Agnesi’s sensual curves,
Describing paths that set them free,
Reborn in wild ecstatic swerves . . .

But now the cock crows dreary day
And Gorgeous Goth Girls must retire.
Spectral visions fade away;
Bells clang and banish dark desire.

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Frankenstein: essays and 1910 film

Image result for frankenstein frontispiece

A bit behind with blogging, so quite a few Frankenstein items have accumulated (it being, as I’m sure you’ll know, the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication).

First, a brief discussion, with some very useful links, of the claim by Brian Aldiss, reiterated recently by William Gibson, that Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel. This is contentious: some put forward Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World (1666) as the first of the genre (I disagree). But read the article here:
Mary Shelley’s Handwritten Manuscript of Frankenstein: This Is “Ground Zero of Science Fiction,” Says William Gibson‘.

More on Mary Shelley’s novel, particularly on its relation to the visual arts, in Jonathan Jones, ‘Frankenstein and the gory gang: how the novel blazed a trail for high art horrors‘.

Helena Nicholson, in ‘The modern Prometheus: the relevance of Frankenstein 200 years on‘, assesses the contemporary relevance of the novel, calling up the familiar debate on how much the novel is a critique of science–a debate which is often too simplistic.

Claire Connolly writes on the Irish dimension of the novel in ‘Frankenstein’s Ireland: A “wretched” place with “traces of civilisation”’.

There’s an article on the moral questions raised by the novel by Raymond Boisvert : ‘Mary Shelley, Frankenstein & Moral Philosophy‘.

Finally, an article by Kelly Faircloth on the restored 1910 film of Frankenstein, with a link to the film.


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CFPs: Buffy and the Bible, myth and fandom, fantasy blogs, Tropical Gothic

Some exciting calls for papers and articles:

1. Buffy and the Bible conference, University of Sheffield, 4-5 July 2019, deadline 18 March 2019

SIIBS and Sheffield Gothic are delighted to announce a two day interdisciplinary conference: ‘Buffy and the Bible’ which will take place at the University of Sheffield on 4-5th July 2019. Part of the Gothic Bible Project, and following our inaugural Gothic Bible conference in 2017 (which you can read all about here) ‘Buffy and the Bible’ will take the hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) as a case study to interrogate the relationship between religion and popular culture, and we welcome papers and posters that explore this theme in any aspect of the Buffyverse (see the Call For Papers below for more details).

2. Articles sought for Monumenta Mythica: A Journal of Modern Myths, Legends, & Folklore, deadline 15 January 2019

The myths, legends, and folklore of the world are both timeless and timely, giving context to the courses of nations and meaning to personal moments. They are reenacted in formal tableaux and reified in cosplay. They inform our religions and our television. They are us.

Monumenta Mythica, a new, online, peer-reviewed, open access journal from the Fandom and Neomedia Studies (FANS) Association, is pleased to publish this Call for Papers (see below for German and Spanish). We also accept reviews of works relevant to the fields of Monumenta Mythica as well as short documentary films. The field is broadly construed and may include, but is not limited to:

3. Bloggers on fantasy sought for the website:

Writers wanted! The blog is looking for fantasy experts to contribute in-depth essays, commentary, and analysis of your favorite books, authors, and series.

4. CFP: Tropical Gothic special issue of eTropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, deadline 30 December 2018


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Slaying Vampires: Romantic Origins, Theatrical Afterlives

but those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me’ Luke 19.27

Vampire slaying kits, in my opinion, date back to around the time of British vampirologist Montague Summers (1880-1948) and have been in circulation since the 1920s.  It is my belief that such kits are tied to a form of entertainment in the theatre but the contents point to darker, more unsettling undead issues. The boxes generally contain a crucifix, Bible, holy water, wooden stakes and a mallet together with the book of common prayer (1851 edition). Inside many there is an unnerving handwritten passage from Luke 19.27 which reads: ‘but those mine enemies, […] I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me’.

Over 100 kits are known to exist, and many of them are antique in appearance. I have heard that there are nineteenth century examples (I mention this in the video, but I fear they are put together from antique parts at a much later point in history). It is sometimes stated that vampire kits in general, are late Victorian novelties, sold to tourists in eastern Europe in the wake of the publication of Dracula in 1897. However, there are some ‘Professor Blomberg’ kits in circulation and these are very recent creations, c.1970s. Though constructed from antique boxes and contents, they are most likely produced in the era of Hammer Horror.

We have 2 kits at OGOM and they look surprisingly similar, rather plain and naïve looking (very unlike the more ornate ones that include antique pistols). The first was donated by an antiquarian bookseller in Oxford and the story is that it was left there by a travelling theatre company in the 1930s and the second, which has pliers for defanging the vampire, is a contemporary kit that was made as recently as 2011 from parts.  I often get asked whether the kits are genuine. This is a very complex question to answer. Vampire kits are not fakes or reproductions, because there may be no evidence of an original. They are I think invented artefacts, akin to magic sets, but also art objects, that offer themselves up for display and become the preserve of galleries, archives or museums of curiosity.

As curios, they transcend questions of authenticity. They are part of the material culture of the gothic in which our shared anxieties are made manifest.  They are also extremely theatrical. It is worth noting that on 18th May 1897 the first and only performance of Stoker’s play Dracula, or The Undead was performed at the Lyceum Theatre (the novel was published on 26th May). The book thus began its life as a theatrical performance. These kits were sold to capitalise on the popularity of vampire theatricals. Surprisingly, Vampires appeared on stage from the 1820s onwards due to the vogue for reading and creating phantasmagoria and Polidori’s Vampire archetype enjoyed an extensive afterlife in the theatre.

The vampire kit’s connection to the taste for Phantasmagoria links them to Diodati and the story writing competition of 1816 involving Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and William John, Polidori. Mary recalls that the party read and discussed a volume translated from the German by a Frenchman entitled Fantasmagoriana, or the history of spectres, revenants and phantoms which had been published in 1812. Amongst its varied material is the story of a sinner who is doomed to return as a vampire to suck the blood of his descendants.


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Hallowe’en Greetings From OGOM


Wishing you a spooktacular Hallowe’en evening!!!

We are just back from our Supernatural St Albans Halloween Tour which went down a real treat. Around 40 people engaged in our wonderfully weird history of witches, tortured martyrs, vampire graves, dragons, succubi and more. We are going to be running similar events regularly and making it a feature of what we do on the project so if you missed this one there will still be more opportunities to experience it and meet us in person in future:-)

You may have encountered some spirits but don’t forget that Hallowe’en is also a time to find (or test) true love. Why not try putting a black cat in a pumpkin shell and carrying a white owl on your shoulder to make sure true love endures…

Or put some spiders in your tea cup

If you still have not found true love send a lock of hair sailing into the air on a breeze. The place where the hair lands is where your true love is lying!

If you have already found true love but fear that your lover’s heart may grow cold you can do the following test to ensure your lover stays true….

Finally, make sure you invite some lucky black cats to share the evening with you…if they can sing or conduct a choir of Jack ‘O’ Lanterns all the better!

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Older than Dracula: in search of the English vampire

Older than Dracula: in search of the English vampire

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The Premature Burial.
Antoine Wiertz (1854)

Sam George, University of Hertfordshire

The story of Count Dracula as many of us know it was created by Bram Stoker, an Irishman, in 1897. But most of the action takes place in England, from the moment the Transylvanian vampire arrives on a shipwrecked vessel in Whitby, North Yorkshire, with plans to make his lair in the spookily named Carfax estate, west of the river in London.

But Dracula wasn’t the first vampire in English literature, let alone the first to stalk England. The vampire first made its way into English literature in John Polidori’s 1819 short story “The Vampyre”. Polidori’s vampire, Lord Ruthven, is inspired by a thinly disguised portrait of the predatory English poet, Lord Byron, in Lady Caroline Lamb’s novel Glenarvon (1816). So the first fictional vampire was actually a satanic English Lord.

It is nearly 200 years since this Romantic/Byronic archetype for a vampire emerged – but what do we know about English belief in vampires outside of fiction? New research at the University of Hertfordshire has uncovered and reappraised a number of vampire myths – and they are not all confined to the realms of fiction.

The Croglin Vampire reputedly first appeared in Cumberland to a Miss Fisher in the 1750s. Its story is retold by Dr Augustus Hare, a clergyman, in his Memorials of a Quiet Life in 1871. According to this legend, the vampire scratches at the window before disappearing into an ancient vault. The vault is later discovered to be full of coffins that have been broken open and their contents, horribly mangled and distorted, are scattered over the floor. One coffin only remains intact, but the lid has been loosened. There, shrivelled and mummified – but quite intact – lies the Croglin Vampire.

Elsewhere in Cumbria, the natives of Renwick, were once known as “bats” due to the monstrous creature that is said to have flown out of the foundations of a rebuilt church there in 1733. The existence of vampire bats, which sucked blood wouldn’t be confirmed until 1832, when Charles Darwin sketched one feeding off a horse on his voyage to South America in The Beagle. The creature in Renwick has been referred to as a “cockatrice” – a mythical creature with a serpent’s head and tail and the feet and wings of a cockerel – by Cumbrian County History. But it’s the myth of the vampire bat that has prevailed in the surrounding villages and is recorded in conversations in local archives and journals

What picture emerges then in this history of the English vampire? The Croglin Vampire has never been verified – but it has an afterlife in the 20th century, appearing as The British Vampire in 1977 in an anthology of horror by Daniel Farson, who turns out to be Stoker’s great-grandnephew.

The Nightmare.
John Henry Fuseli (1781)

Nightmare in Buckinghamshire

But there is one case that has no connection to fiction, the little-known Buckinghamshire Vampire, recorded by William of Newburgh in the 12th century. Historical records show that St Hugh, the Bishop of Lincoln, was called upon to deal with the terrifying revenant and learned to his astonishment, after contacting other theologians, that similar attacks had happened elsewhere in England.

St Hugh was told that no peace would be had until the corpse was dug up and burned, but it was decided that an absolution – a declaration of forgiveness, by the church, absolving one from sin – would be a more seemly way to disable the vampire. When the tomb was opened the body was found to have not decomposed. The absolution was laid inside on the corpse’s chest by the Archdeacon and the vampire was never again seen wandering from his grave.

The Buckinghamshire revenant did not have a “vampire” burial – but such practices are evidence of a longstanding belief in vampires in Britain. Astonishingly, the medieval remains of the what are thought to be the first English vampires have been found in the Yorkshire village of Wharram Percy. The bones of over 100 “vampire” corpses have now been uncovered buried deep in village pits. The bones were excavated more than half a century ago and date back to before the 14th century. They were at first thought to be the result of cannibalism during a famine or a massacre in the village but on further inspection in 2017 the burned and broken skeletons were linked instead to deliberate mutilations perpetrated to prevent the dead returning to harm the living – beliefs common in folklore at the time.

‘Vampire graves’ have been found at the abandoned village of Wharram Percy in Yorkshire.
Paul Allison via Alchemipedia, CC BY

Vile bodies

The inhabitants of Wharram Percy showed widespread belief in the undead returning as revenants or reanimated corpses and so fought back against the risk of vampire attacks by deliberately mutilating their own dead, burning bones and dismembering corpses, including those of women, children and teenagers, in an attempt to stave off what they believed could be a plague of vampires. This once flourishing village was completely deserted in the aftermath.

Just recently at an ancient Roman site in Italy the severed skull of a ten-year-old child was discovered with a large rock inserted in the mouth to prevent biting and bloodsucking. Then skull belongs to a suspected 15th-century revenant which they are calling locally the “Vampire of Lugano”.

There has been a wealth of other stories from the UK and other parts of Western Europe – but, despite this, thanks to the Dracula legend, most people still assume such practises and beliefs belong to remote parts of Eastern Europe. But our research is continuing to examine “vampire burials” in the UK and is making connections to local myths and their legacy in English literature, many years before the Byronic fiend Count Dracula arrived in Yorkshire carrying his own supply of Transylvanian soil.The Conversation

Sam George, Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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