Gothic Styles: Gothic Substance – OGOM at Gothic Manchester Festival

OGOM will have a strong presence at the Gothic Manchester Festival  this year with Bill and myself both giving talks. This year’s theme is Gothic Style(s). I’m a displaced Mancunian so I always welcome a return to my first city. We will post the full programme shortly so you can see all the speakers but for now here are our own abstracts and titles:

Dr Bill Hughes: Goth Style and Gothic Mode: Subcultural Others and Transformed Genres in Paranormal Romance

In recent years, the new genre of popular fiction Paranormal Romance has made a dramatic emergence, most notoriously with Twilight. Paranormal Romance takes the plot conventions of romance fiction and stylises it with a Gothic mood. All the dark dangers and terrors of the Gothic give an edge to the sunniness of romance by depicting monstrous lovers. Thus humans have love affairs with vampires, werewolves, and all manner of supernatural creatures that once haunted tales of sheer horror, humanising the Gothic mode while problematising romance.

One aspect of the sympathetic monsters of this new genre is that they are a means of tackling issues of the contemporary politics of identity by representing outsiders, or ‘Others’, as the demon lover figure. So racial and ethnic others, people with alternative sexualities, and so on—once the monsters of horror—become assimilated to society through these Gothic-styled love stories. It is often the paranormal romances written for young adults that have the most adventurous angles. And alongside the monsters, such YA novels sometimes feature subcultural outsiders, too—most typically, Goths, who are often the human lovers of the monster. Thus there is a double gothicising of the romance story: the Gothic modulates the form of the narrative and Goth style infiltrates the substance. Monsters can represent a spectrum of otherness, but the subcultural otherness of Goths can exist alongside this, dramatising a complex range of states of alienation and means of reconciliation within contemporary society.

Various writers explore these implications in diverse ways. In this talk, I will look at such novels as Daniel Water’s Generation Dead, Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely to show how characters performing Goth style, in romances stylised by the Gothic mode, cast light on modern problems of otherness.

Dr Sam George : ‘Black Roses: The Representation and Appropriation of Sophie Lancaster from Broken Britain to Brexit (2007-17)’  

It is ten years since Sophie Lancaster and Robert Maltby were attacked in Stubbylee Park, reputedly for being ‘goths’. This paper interrogates dramatic representations of Sophie’s killing. Black Roses (2012), a poetic sequence by Simon Armitage, is written in the voice of Sophie. It started life as a docu-drama for Radio 4 (2011). I contrast Armitage’s account with Nick Leather’s BBC3 drama ‘Murdered for Being Different’ which aired six years later in 2017 and tells Robert’s story. Armitage gothicised Lancashire as ‘a place where shadows waited, where wolves ran wild’. These marauding wolves, the feral youths who had attacked Sophie were symbols of ‘Broken Britain’ for the right-wing media in 2007.  This paper raises questions about such representations. It asks how hate crime against subcultures is viewed a decade later in Brexit Britain, and why Goth culture still feels a kinship with Sophie.

Maltby recently remarked that ‘The Goth Thing was an Oversimplification’ (The Guardian, 15 June, 2017); that the emphasis should be on the killers and not their Gothic victim. I investigate his claims and bring in counter arguments (has the ‘otherness’ of Goth been minimised in accounts which only seek to demonise the gangs?). Elsewhere, I shed light on the gothicising of Sophie (born under ‘a vampire moon’), raising questions around representation and appropriation. Armitage’s elegy sees Sophie’s own writings interspersed with real life testimonies from her mother. Simon as author is voicing both. Despite my initial problematising of the poem, I seek to celebrate it. Its tragic dénouement, ‘now let me go, now carry me home, now make this known’, resonates more clearly in Brexit Britain. Several police forces now treat crimes against Goths, punks and other alternative subcultures in the same way they do racist or homophobic attacks. Black Roses anticipates such change.

Gothic Styles: Gothic Substance – Gothic Manchester Festival Conference  is only 10.00 for the day and is open to all. It takes place on Saturday, 28 October 2017 at 9.00 a.m. Location: 70 Oxford St, M1 5NH. More details shortly!

About Lucy Northenra

Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire

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