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)

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Call for Articles | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Publications | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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
216x138mm
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/

Posted in Publications | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Publications | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Received: John B. Kachuba, Shapeshifters: A History

There is something about a shapeshifter – a person who can transform into an animal – that captures our imagination; that causes us to want to howl at the moon, or flit through the night like a bat. Werewolves, vampires, demons and other weird creatures appeal to our animal nature, our ‘dark side’, our desire to break free of the bonds of society and proper behaviour. Today, there are millions of people who believe that shapeshifters walk among us and may even be world leaders. Real or imaginary, shapeshifters lurk deep in our psyches and remain formidable cultural icons.
The myths and magic surrounding shapeshifters is brought vividly to life in John Kachuba’s compelling and original cultural history. Featuring a fantastic and goulish array of examples from history, literature, film, TV and computer games, Shapeshifters explores our secret desire to become something other than human.

Praise for the book

‘Were you to want a primer on were-anything, this is a fine start.’ — The Spectator

About the author

JOHN KACHUBA is an award-winning author and Creative Writing instructor at Ohio University. He has investigated over 100 haunted locations around the world and his books include Ghosthunters (2007) and Dark Entry (2012).

How to order

To order the book online with a 20% discount, please visit the Reaktion website at www.reaktionbooks.co.uk and enter the code SHAPE20.

Book details

Hardback

Reaktion Books, £16 200 pp / 20 illustrations

Posted in Publications | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Dracula (BBC, January 2020)

Claes Bang as Count Dracula

There has been much discussion of the BBC adaptation of Dracula by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, shown this January—and the debate has been highly polarised. The OGOM Project began with a conference on vampires in 2010, followed by our collection of essays Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day, ed. by Sam George and Bill Hughes (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013) and a special vampire issue of Gothic Studies. In 2012, we celebrated the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death with a symposium. More recently, in April 2019, we held another symposium for the bicentenary of the publication of John Polidori’s seminal The Vampyre. So it seems appropriate to offer our own thoughts on this new version.

Stoker’s 1897 novel has been a fertile seed for vampire narratives. Endlessly adaptable, the figure of Count Dracula has become a modern myth, perhaps one of those myths of individualism like Robinson Crusoe, Faust, and Don Juan that Ian Watts talks about. Moffat and Gatiss’s three-part drama continues this tradition and self-consciously acknowledges that history of adaptation. In its way, this version is faithful to the narrative structure of Stoker’s novel. In the manner of hypertextuality that Gérard Genette talks about in Palimpsests (where an earlier hypotext is transformed into new texts by various operations), this new Dracula reconfigures minor plot episodes in the original in some startling ways. Thus Jonathan Harker’s recovery in the Hospital of St Joseph and Ste Mary in Budapest is expanded into a sequence that introduces the fascinating Sister Agatha (excellently portrayed by Dolly Wells), who here is ingeniously conflated with Van Helsing. The voyage of the Demeter is likewise developed into a new subplot (incorporating John Polidori’s foundational vampire, Lord Ruthven) that takes up the second episode. Other episodes in the original are condensed or transposed; the third part takes place in the present day, updating the characters of Lucy Westenra, Dr Seward, and Quincey P. Morris.

The whole is suitably horrifying; the plot is gripping; and it is visually spectacular. The original novel is known for its hybrid use of different narrative techniques (Harker and Mina’s journals, newspaper accounts, Dr Seward’s phonograph recordings, and so on); this retelling cleverly draws attention to the centrality of storytelling.

Gary Oldman as Dracula in Frances Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Count Dracula in Stoker’s novel, after Harker’s account of him in the castle, is notably voiceless. The focalisation from then on is entirely through his foes; he is monstrous object, completely alien and unknowable. Like most vampires of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century (since, in particular, Fred Saberhagen’s 1975 The Dracula Tape, Anne Rice’s 1976 Interview With the Vampire, and Frances Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula), this Dracula (Claes Bang) has a voice. In such narratives, this has enabled all sorts of explorations of otherness, morality, and mortality. But what voice has Moffat and Gatiss granted him? Unfortunately, it is an all too familiar one: the delivery of superficial wisecracks, so much in the manner of other roles by Moffat (such as the Doctor in Dr Who) that he becomes indistinguishable from them (or even a seedy James Bond). Some of his powers of persuasion and manipulation emerge at moments but the opportunity to do anything original with his subjectivity is mostly not taken.

Sister Agatha identifies Dracula as simply a parasite. And perhaps, in the end, this is all he is: pure voraciousness. He replies that he is a connoisseur. There is an interesting paradox about identity that is raised here but not pursued. Dracula ingests many of the mental characteristics and faculties of his victims along with his blood. As ‘connoisseur’, he selects his victims for their knowledge, sophistication, or the complexity of their experiences. Does his connoisseurship then precede the sophistication of the mentalities he has acquired?

All post-Dracula vampire narratives at some point try and justify or explain vampire ‘lore’—the now-conventional vulnerabilities of the creature such as garlic, sunlight, lack of reflection in a mirror, the crucifix, and so on. This happens here, too—the audience is teased from the beginning about the role of the mirror and the reasons for Dracula’s aversion to sunlight and holy symbols. At the climax, there is the trite revelation that Dracula’s greatest fear is—death; and, bathetically, he dies. This shallowness pervades the drama. The character of Mina, for instance, so full of strength and complexity in the novel, is much diminished here and she is soon eliminated. Lucy’s original light flirtatiousness is transformed into a shallowness and vanity that is punished somewhat moralistically; there is some misogyny here, I feel. None of the characters are developed enough for us to feel much empathy with them, though Sister Agatha van Helsing has justly attracted approval. Her religious doubts and her courage add a moment of substance.

So there are aspects to enjoy in this reworking but there is a lack of depth, typified by the empty cipher of Count Dracula and his often platitudinous one-liners and lack of motivation. Likewise, the allusiveness (admired by many viewers, it seems) is equally shallow; the myriad references to other Draculas and to Gothic and horror in general are there purely to be allusive—they don’t add to the depth or assist the plot. I’m not sure I would be eager to watch this again.

However, Catherine Spooner makes a convincing case for this version’s contemporary relevance during Brexit and amidst anxieties about migration. Lucy Mangan in The Guardian is thrilled by it, admiring its cleverness and humour (as does Spooner). Sally Minogue praises it but finds the third episode disappointing (a common sentiment, judging from social media commentary on the production). Gerard Gilbert of The Independent interviews Moffat and Gatiss and supplies some background to the making of the drama. There’s also a short clip from the BBC about the production here.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OGOM Gothic New Year Tour

Happy New Year OGOMers. Why not catch up on the dark fest that was Gothic Advent and celebrate 2020 by joining us on 18th January to explore the magical and spectral history of St Albans. Your hosts will be vampire expert Dr Sam George and Dr Kaja Franck (a specialist in werewolves); together they will draw on the dark folklore of Hertfordshire’s finest supernatural city, home to hidden tombs, ghostly monks, pagan gods, grotesque carvings, a medieval dragon’s lair, succubi, winged skulls, witches, Sir Guy de Grevade, a notorious wizard, Wicca communities, folklore rituals and more!!

Gothic carvings in the abbey

Highlights of the tour will include a cloven-footed succubus, a path made out of gravestones and a winged skull or ‘death’s head’, which represents death taking flight and the soul’s journey to the afterlife. This memento mori has become a symbol of studying Open Graves with an Open Mind, which is what we will be encouraging on the night.

‘I absolutely loved the tour. I learnt so much about the dark side side of the town that I have lived in for 32 years’ (Angela Silverman, 2018 Tour)

Date 18 January 2020
Venue meet at the Clock Tower, St Albans at 14.30
Tour lasts 90 minutes
Price £10.00 (£8.00 concession)
Booking Required (Email: sam@opengravesopenminds.com)
Please have appropriate footwear for graveyards & muddy paths

Posted in Events, OGOM News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hans Andersen’ s Dark Musings From A Discarded Christmas Tree

I have been reading Hans Andersen’s unsettling account of a Christmas fir tree that feels pain. I was reminded of this story last year when I came across Lars Ostenfeld’s beautifully sad and poignant adaptation of  The Fir Tree (Danish: Grantræet) on the BBC iPlayer. I  do not think you will ever contemplate your tree in the same way again following these dark musings.

The tale was first published with ‘The Snow Queen’ on 21st December 1844. The story is narrated by the tree itself (which appeals to my botanical sensibilities) and like all of Andersen’s tales there is an emphasis on physical pain and suffering. The tree is vain and so impatient to grow up that it cannot live in the moment because it expects a greater glory. When it is pulled up for a Christmas tree its life is subject to the whim of the humans whose admiration it craves. They profess to love it dressing it with candles before depriving it of light and discarding it on a fire. The tree is entirely sentient and like the tale’s creator is afflicted with a melancholy sensitivity. It’s sensibility is so great that it not only feels the Christmas tree decorations weighing down its branches, and the candles burning its parched leaves, it also feels the pain of rejection from those who had seemingly loved it. When it is discarded and thrown in an outhouse it endures the deprivation of light, its life source, before being dragged outside and set alight. Andersen had written tales with unhappy endings before (The Little Mermaid’ and ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’, for example) but a new darker note is struck with ‘The Fir Tree’. It suggests not only the mercilessness of fate but the futility of life itself, only the moment is worth embracing.

If you like a winter’s tale (and a sad tale is best for winter) you will enjoy the beauty of this story. The forest is deeply lush and the Danish speaking tree is extremely uncanny. It does make you question the beauty of something that is dying from the moment it is brought into the house. Andersen’s Nordic sensibilities are very eco gothic here and the tale is wonderfully dark. The tree is both tragic and narcissistic. Still time to be unsettled by its arboreal sensitivities.  You can find the story in any complete Andersen collection. and there is an online version here (though I am not sure about this translation). I am lucky to have an M.R. James translation of the tale in an original Faber edition from 1930. I am truly amazed by the meeting of those two minds.

It is worth noting that in the UK 6 – 7 million Christmas trees are discarded every year and 250 tonnes of Christmas trees are thrown away after Christmas, when they could be used for compost. 

Posted in Critical thoughts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Scooby Doo Influenced A Whole Generation of Gothic Scholars

If you were one of those kids who rushed home from school in the 70s to watch Scooby Doo it might just have influenced you in your Gothic thinking and in your understanding of the way Gothic stories are told. Even today those who only know it from watching the reruns (possibly with their own kids) may be surprised to hear about its influence on a whole generation of Gothic scholars – maybe this applies to one of your supervisors if you are a PhD student in the Gothic! Now you can read about its influence on Gothic minds in the insightful article below:

Fifty years ago, on September 13, 1969, Scooby Doo, Where Are You! premiered on CBS. The premise of the show was always the same: whether it was a ghost, a phantom, a ghoul, or a poltergeist, it was back from the dead and it was out a’haunting. “Meddling kids” Fred, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, and their talking great dane Scooby Doo tackled the supernatural, followed clues, and uncovered the culprit. The mood of the show made up for its predictability; the mysteries were set in haunted houses, dark forests on full-moon nights, dilapidated ghost towns or deserted museums and circus grounds. Rife with suspense and tinged with horror that was watered down with slapstick comedy, Scooby Doo masqueraded as a cartoon mystery but really was surprisingly gothic.

Follow the link below to read the full article published on www.crimereads.com September 13, 2019 by Eleni Theodoropoulos]

Posted in Critical thoughts | Tagged , | Leave a comment