Session Speakers and Abstracts

* Click on the arrows to expand author biographies and abstracts of papers

1 Alison Baker (University of East London)

Alison Baker is a senior lecturer in education at University of East London. She is writing her PhD thesis entitled “White Working Class Children in Children’s Fantasy Fiction”. She has ten years’ experience of teaching on undergraduate and postgraduate teacher education programmes. She previously taught in Early Years, Primary and Special Needs settings in London and Yorkshire. She is likely to explain that the Weasley family have considerable cultural and capital in Harry Potter’s world with the slightest provocation, whether at a fan convention or not.

Jonathan Stroud’s The Golem’s Eye: Magical class conflict in an alternative London

Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy is set in an alternative modern London, the capital city of the British Empire, where magicians are an oligarchy, and non-magicians (‘commoners’) a despised underclass without civil rights, educated only enough to serve magicians. This paper will explore the second novel in the trilogy, The Golem’s Eye (2004), where the commoner Kitty Jones shares the role of protagonist with Nathaniel, the magician’s apprentice from Stroud’s The Amulet of Samarkand, who is now junior government magician John Mandrake.

It will focus upon the abuses of magical power to subdue the non-magical population, and the moral debates of the commoners’ Resistance movement over the violent protests moving from destruction of property to targeting magicians. I will use Weber’s and Chomsky’s theories to discuss the use of magic to maintain the class structure and power imbalance between the magicians and commoners, and how magic is a source of cultural and social capital (Bourdieu). The locations of the magicians’ power base in London will be mapped and considered in terms of social capital and status.


2 Dr Barbara Braid (University of Szczecin, Poland)

Dr Barbara Braid is Assistant Lecturer in the English Institute at Szczecin University, Poland. She has published a number of essays in the fields of neo-Victorian literature, gothic fiction and gender studies. She is also interested in adaptation studies and the Victorian era in popular culture. In years 2010-2015 she was Conference Leader for the Femininities & Masculinities Global Project at Interdisciplinary.Net. She is currently working on two edited volumes on gender issues in literature, film and the media, and a monograph on the motifs of female insanity in selected Victorian and neo-Victorian novels.

‘Here he is again, in flesh’: the haunted city in the Whitechapel series

The Jack the Ripper myth has inspired, or coincided with, the classic gothic texts of late Victorian London: from Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, adapted to stage in London the same summer the Whitechapel murders shook the capital, to 1897’s Dracula, Bram Stoker’s own vision of a bloodthirsty presence haunting its streets. The countless accounts, theories, and fictions harking back to Jack the Ripper figure have followed. One of them is the crime series Whitechapel (Carnival Films, 2009 and ITV, 2010-2013), which in its first season depicts a contemporary case of Jack the Ripper copycat, murdering women in Whitechapel exactly 120 years after the original Victorian killings. The proposed presentation will look at the series as depicting a contemporary urban context haunted by the Victorian past. This in itself is a gothic pursuit: the purpose of haunting in gothic fiction is to lay bare the past secrets and unresolved traumas; the haunting offers a repetition of a past event, like a traumatic memory. Yet, when this repetition occurs with a difference – a new ending of an old event – it helps resolve the trauma. In the series, the copycat purposefully, via detailed reconstruction and a cunning and elaborate enactment of the Victorian original events, performs a role of a ghost visiting the original sites of Whitechapel murders to repeat the crimes. Yet, this offers the detectives a chance to resolve the old trauma by catching the killer in his contemporary incarnation. Thus, as a neo-Victorian adaptation of a Victorian event, the series provides a comment to the contemporary urban hauntings. Here, the past urban and cultural trauma is Jack the Ripper case, not only due to its brutality. The Whitechapel murders revealed the gender and class politics of the late-nineteenth century urban society, both in their victimology as much as in the investigation itself. It will be examined, therefore, how Victorian ideologies were adapted in Whitechapel series as a comment to contemporary urban anxieties.


4 Daisy Butcher (University of Hertfordshire)

Daisy Butcher is a first-year PhD student whose doctoral research is on the vagina dentata myth and the monstrous mother in a number of literary and filmic manifestations and representations (monstrous plants, Krakens, mummies, vampires, dragons). Her Master’s dissertation focused on the Victorian/Edwardian female mummy and its connection to the menopausal female body, which she is further developing for her PhD thesis.

‘The Pharaoh-cious Feminine’: Archaeologists and Princesses in the City in Universal’s The Mummy (2017)

The Victorian and Edwardian eras saw the rise of the female mummy featured in literature as a monster. This ‘monsterisation’ was what can only be described as a phenomenon which emphasised contemporary political, cultural and colonial anxieties during this period. It is enlightening to explore the ways in which the female body specifically is used in these narratives to make the mummy more horrifying but also more sympathetic. Moreover, it is integral to re-evaluate the role of the archaeologist as tomb-raider, analysing how his artefacts come back to haunt him in the safety of his home city. The exotic, orient, far off land becomes all too familiar and an immediate threat as the sarcophagus in Universal’s The Mummy, crash lands near London. In this retelling of the famous mummy curse, Princess Ahmanet arrives in London and wreaks havoc, a monster at large in the city, crashing down the skyscrapers, as the ancient supernatural feminine and modern masculine world collide. I will argue how the female mummy traditionally inspires sympathy as a symbolic rape victim of tomb-raiding archaeologists and public unwrappings and how this newest instalment may prove more hero-centric. I will also highlight her vagina dentata aspect as not merely a maiming, serrated maw but also a constricting, strangulating and asphyxiating monster as well as a black widow who lures men with her sexuality and then destroys them. I will use psychoanalysis to provide a deep analysis into the symbols in this film that could be overlooked such as the jewel, the dagger, plague of spiders etc and also castration anxiety which induces the horror in this story. I will argue that the female mummy haunts the capital city of the empire which raped her land for treasure, upsetting the status quo. By re-examining this film using the history of mummy curse narratives, it is interesting to note the progression away from colonial guilt and archaeologist as trespasser to cowboy-like adventurers like Indiana Jones, and in this case Tom Cruise, who reap the rewards of their bravery (immortality and deification) in this modern retelling in an urban setting.


5 Dr Joseph Crawford (University of Exeter)

Joseph Crawford took his BA degree at Cambridge and his Masters and DPhil at Oxford. He is the author of three books: Raising Milton’s Ghost (2011), Gothic Fiction and the Invention of Terrorism (2013), and The Twilight of the Gothic (2014). He is currently employed as a lecturer at the University of Exeter, where he is researching the relationship between inspiration and insanity in early nineteenth-century poetry. His research interests include Gothic fiction, romance fiction, Romantic poetry, epic poetry, popular fiction, and the histories of madness, radical politics, terrorism, fringe religion, drug use, criminality, conspiracy theory, and the occult.

The Urban Turn: Gothic Cityscapes before The Mysteries of London

The British Gothic fiction of the Romantic period was preoccupied with rural isolation. In novel after novel, its protagonists were terrorised in abbeys and castles whose remote positions – hidden deep in forests, or high in the mountains – allowed their villainous masters to act with impunity, far from the eyes of the civic and religious authorities in their distant cities. In Victorian Gothic fiction, as is well known, the modern city came to be depicted as a Gothic site in its own right, with the long-running success of The Mysteries of London (1844-56) marking the point at which this new genre of urban Gothic came of age. However, the question of exactly how British Gothic fiction transitioned from the hills and forests of the 1810s to the industrial cityscapes of the 1840s has never yet been properly addressed

In this paper, I shall examine the little-known Gothic fiction of the 1830s and early 1840s to explore how and why British authors of Gothic fiction first began to experiment with setting their stories in modern cities, rather than the hilltop fortresses of the Middle Ages. The central figure in my discussion will be William Ainsworth, whose Gothic novels about the history of London proved so popular in the mid-1830s; but I shall also discuss the first penny bloods and the early works of Dickens, especially Oliver Twist (1839) and A Christmas Carol (1843), which played important roles in establishing nineteenth-century London as a suitable setting for Gothic narratives. Placing these works within the context of the rapid urbanisation of the 1830s, I shall explore how and why British readers of the period first came to view their cities, as well as their wildernesses, as potential sites of supernatural horror and dread.


6 Ralph Dorey (Northumbria University)

Ralph Dorey is the name under which the Gateshead based artist and researcher Uma Breakdown writes on horror, art and play. Having received an MA from the Royal College of Art in 2008 they are presently an AHRC funded PhD candidate at Northumbria University with the research title “Understanding an Art practice of Mucosal Play: Abject Waste, Ahuman Desire, and Difference”.

Recent projects and presentations include “CDT Conference” at Baltic Mill, Gateshead (2017), “Janusware” at Res. Gallery, London (2017), “The Heartbeat of Kong or More Mouse Bites” at The Royal Geographical Society, London (2016) “Green Fuzz” at Xero, Kline & Coma, London (2016). Breakdown is included in “The Body That Remains”, published by Punctum in 2018.

Rotten Borough: the biological reterritorialization of urban space in horror texts as counter hegemonic resistance

This paper examines the horror motif of organic matter, in the form of nests, biofilms and chemical erosion, which challenge the sovereignty of an organised built environment. The author and theorist Georges Batailles’ observation that “In truth, only the ideal beings of a society, those who have the authority to order and prohibit, can strictly speaking be expressed in architectural form” becomes a starting point for examining the above motif (Bataille et al., 1995).

“Squeeze” (Longstreet, 1993), an early episode of the science-fiction horror television series “The X-Files” climaxes around the discovery of nest constructed from newspaper, rages and bile in the basement of a condemned building where the monstrous antagonist of the episode is preparing to hibernate. I examine what such nests means in terms of our understanding of a city as a political, racialised and gendered site, including class dynamics as “the difference in cleanliness” (Bataille et al., 1995). Other examples such as urban fungal towers in “The Girl With All The Gifts” (McCarthy, 2017) and “The Expanse” (‘The Expanse’, 2015) and the viral structures in recent video game “Dying Light” (Ciszewski & Nowak, 2015) illuminate some of the breadth of this motif.

Following from philosopher Patricia MacCormack’s recent writing on mucosal horror (MacCormack, 2010), (MacCormack, 2016) I consider how the ethics of philosopher Luce Irigaray (Irigaray, 1993), as well as those of psychotherapist Felix Guattari (Guattari, 1995) and his collaborations with philosopher Gille Deleuze (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) can position such organic structures as acts of resistance. What are the class, race, ability, sexuality and gender differences present in this trope of the horror text? What happens when the multiple desires and trajectories of gall/womb/scab/nest are positioned at the centre, rather than the city off which it is growing? How does this fold back into a feminist materialist reading of horror?


7 Helena Esser (Birkbeck, University of London)

Helena Esser is a PhD student at Birkbeck University researching re-imaginations of the Victorian cityscape in steampunk fiction. She has investigated steampunk femininities for her Bachelor thesis, blogged for the BAVS researcher blog, and given papers on steampunk London, the anti-consumerism philosophy, steam-cyborgs, and airship pirates. She likes encountering steampunk ‘in the field’ and has published on steampunk London in the London Literary Journal. Her work on steam-cyborgs has been accepted for publication by the Cahiers victoriens et éduardiens, and her article on the re-imagined Victorian Whitechapel in Ripper Street has been accepted by the Neo-Victorian Journal.

‘Funeral Theater’: The Whimsy and Weird Foundations of Steampunk London

Victorian writers such as R. L. Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, or Bram Stoker re-painted the supposedly progressive, enlightened, industrial London as a space that retained elements of obscurity, darkness, and danger. Slum journalism and Ripper media, too, contributed to an image of an urban Gothic labyrinth which is haunted by the social ills poverty and disease, or houses supernatural monsters- a powerful legacy that often inspires neo-Victorian re-visitations. In a similar yet wholly different way, steampunk fiction mobilizes Victorian London as a socio-cultural nexus of historical, technological, and fantastic possibilities to stage alternative histories as meta-historical re-evaluations of urban legacies and the modern metropolis: It re-imagines the already palimpsestic, multi-dimensional space which both contains and generates a variety of narratives through lenses of hyper-Victorianism, technofantasy, and retrofuturism, populating the city with dandies, detectives, hucksters, revolutionaries, and socialites, but also airships, automata, necromancers, and time travelers. In my paper, I will examine the literary and literal foundations of steampunk London in first-wave steampunk fiction of the 1980s and early 1990s, such as K. W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices, James Blaylock’s Langdon St.Ives series, or Bruce Sterling and William Gibson’s The Difference Engine, in which the Victorian itself becomes, in Sterling’s words, a “funeral theater” encoding “the obsolescence of our own times”. In these retro-speculative projections, the peapod men and peddlers, stilted manners, toy shops, corsets, and pickpockets which populate the Victorian city are no less curious and weird than Babbage engines, homunculi, and haunted skulls. In seminal steampunk fiction the clunky, whimsy, unfamiliar Victorian itself becomes the uncanny ‘weird’ which underscores a perceived fragility and unsustainability of the present urban moment.


8 Meghanne Flynn (University of Cambridge)

Meghanne Flynn earned a B.A. in English Literature and a M.Phil in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin, writing on the fetishization of dead bodies and fairy tale adaptions respectively. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge researching Gothic Monsters in Young Adult Supernatural Romance.

Betwixt and Between: (Sub)Urban Space in Young Adult Supernatural Romance

In Fantasy literature, cities are where things happen. But the suburbs at the margin of the city tell their own stories. Unlike genre Paranormal Romance which is typically located in the urban landscape, the Young Adult Supernatural Romance most often occurs in the suburban space. The suburban space operates as a geographic borderland between the urban and rural spaces. I argue that the geographic liminality of the suburb operates as a metaphor for the interior liminality of the protagonist of the Young Adult Supernatural Romance.

In these texts, the suburban space is redefined from one of safety to one of danger. As Murphy identifies, ‘In the Suburban Gothic, one is almost always in more danger from the people in the house next door, or one’s own family, than from external threats. Horror here invariably begins at home, or at least very near to it’ (Murphy, 2009, p. 2). I explore how the monsters of the texts are not the idyllic vampire family who live next door, but rather the social constraints which already exist in the suburban space.

Discussing texts which specifically move between the urban and suburban fantastic, my paper uses a literary-based approach to examine monstrous spaces in contemporary Young Adult Supernatural Romance texts by authors such as Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Stephenie Meyer, Maggie Stiefvater, and C.C. Hunter. My paper will draw from genre theory as well as cultural criticism. I will focus on the interplay between cultural and fantastic monsters in these texts.

When we study these texts together, they reveal a larger cultural context. The promise of the suburban space—mainly safety, economic security, and an escape from the urban weird—has failed.


9 András Fodor (University of Szeged, Hungary)

András Fodor is a PhD student at the University of Szeged, Faculty of Arts, Doctoral School of Literature in Hungary. He has been publishing reviews and short stories since 2010 mainly in his native tongue, Hungarian. In 2016 he has won the JAKKendő-award for his manuscript of first collection of short stories, A mosolygó zsonglőr (The smiling juggler), which has been published later in the same year. His research interests are spatiality, New Weird and China Miéville.

The space out of joint: haunted urban spaces in China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun

In China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun the protagonist, Deeba gets sick by visiting a part of UnLondon that belongs to the dead people of UnLondon and London. During her stay in the centre of the Wraithtown called Thanatopia, she feels dizzy in this quarter of UnLondon, since Wraithtown is represented as an echo of earlier realities, something that haunts even the secondary world of UnLondon’s space. Wraithtown provides place not only for non-living entities, but also for parts of buildings that are “surrounded by a wispy corona of earlier versions of [themselves]” (Miéville 202). The reason why Deeba feels nauseated, or as one of the characters, Hemi puts it “ghostsick” (211) is because the place of Wraithtown shatters the shared quotidian sense of space that is experienced both in London and in UnLondon. The abcity, coined term by Miéville for the purpose of describing and differing UnLondon’s features, can be characterized via the definition of salvagepunk by Evan Calder Williams. It is understood as “the post-apocalyptic vision of a broken and dead world, strewn with both the dream residues and real junk of the world that was, and shot through with the hard work of salvaging, repurposing, detouring and scrapping” (Williams 19). The paper scrutinizes the way the othering of Wraithtown from the vantage point of space and place subverts the ideas of postmodern urban space established by critics such as Michel de Certeau and Henri Lefebvre.


10 Dr Kaja Franck (University of Hertfordshire)

Dr Kaja Franck was awarded her PhD in 2017. Her thesis explores the literary werewolf as an ecoGothic monster, concentrating on the relationship between wilderness, wolves, and werewolves, and how language is used to demarcate animal alterity. She is a postdoctoral researcher on the ‘Open Graves, Open Minds’ project at the University of Hertfordshire. She has published on the depiction of wolves and werewolves in Dracula and in young adult fiction. She is the editor of a special edition of the online journal Revenant on werewolves.

The Troll in the City: Urban Fey, Environmentalism and Holly Black’s Valiant

In Norse mythology and folklore, trolls, often depicted as dark and grotesque, symbolise the natural world. They are unpredictable, found in the wilderness which surrounds small, isolated settlements. Early tales portray them as morally ambivalent, as changeable as the weather, bringing both good and bad luck. Trolls have been said to abduct humans which eventually transform into trolls, becoming creatures of the wilderness. As technology and industry have grown, humans have transformed the landscape and the natural world, and trolls have less space to inhabit. The mythical figure of the troll has evolved accordingly. The word ‘troll’ is now synonymous with an individual, hunched over a computer, furiously spreading hatred – a being of technology, a symptom of urbanisation and modernity , and yet conversely for  such fantastical beings the urban setting brings unease.

This paper looks at the relationship between modern faeries and cityscapes in YA Gothic novels, concentrating in particular on the troll. In these novels, the troll is not the uncanny Other destroying these centres of civilisation, it is vulnerable and trying to adapt to the dangers of the city. Holly Black’s Valiant (2005) introduces Ravus the troll who has been exiled from the faery world, and now lives under a bridge in New York City, where he makes medicine to counteract the effects of ‘iron sickness’ which is killing the other fey exiles. ‘Iron sickness’ is a recurring theme in contemporary novels about fairies, building upon early folklore, and draws attention to environmental concerns regarding widespread industrialisation. In re-imagining the troll living under the bridge, Black’s narrative focalises on a supernatural element in the city which is not of the city. Ravus, an ancient creature, predates the building of New York and is unsuited to its environment. His attempts to connect with the city highlight its uncanniness to the reader, posing the question: what is more threatening in the contemporary world, the urban or the folkloric?


11 Marine Galiné (University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, France)

Marine Galiné is a French contractual Ph.D. student with particular interests in gothic studies, Irish literature and gender studies. Prior to starting her PhD, she worked for two years as an English teacher in secondary education. Her current research centers round the representation of women and femininity in nineteenth-century Irish literature, but she is also interested in the transdisciplinary use of the gothic in films and series. She has published on William Carleton’s “Wildgoose Lodge” (1833) and hysteria in the Irish Gothic mode. She has also co-edited a collection of post-graduate essays on the crisis/crises of the body in various disciplines which will be released in 2018.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Spalatro’ (1843) and the remapping of the Gothic mode

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1843 short story ‘Spalatro’ was originally published anonymously in the Dublin University Magazine (1843). It narrates the confession of an Italian thief (Spalatro) to his brother, on the night preceding his execution.

Spalatro Barbone’s whereabouts seem to embody the geographical and architectural displacements mentioned by Jarlath Killeen, for whom the Gothic mode is revivified in Victorian literature through the progressive relocation of distant and foreign tropes and settings into the domestic space and the urban locale. Indeed, the protagonist walks through a deserted moonlit land to reach a dilapidated inn, before being prompted to flee to Rome.

The meandering streets of the Italian capital are the final gothic location where Spalatro loses himself and becomes mad/possessed, and will be the focal point of this paper. Le Fanu’s tale allows for a reconfiguration of the gothic mode, where traditional processes and movements are reversed. Indeed, the protagonist is deluded by a blasphemous harlequin who misguides him into the labyrinthine city populated by carnivalesque figures, until his final ascent to the Hellish realm of a spectral banshee who condemns him to eternal damnation.

The city as ‘physical and moral maze’ stands as a heterotopian space where the ancient fear of the Catholic demon meets Victorian scientific considerations on madness and hysteria. The intricate nature of the gothic city is then mirrored by the gothic architecture of the old man’s house – the tale’s final location – which seems to harbour a female spirit with vampiric attributes.


12 Dr Jessica George (Cardiff University)

Jessica George received her PhD from Cardiff University in 2014. Her doctoral research focused on evolutionary theory in the fiction of Arthur Machen and H. P. Lovecraft, and she has also published on authorship and monstrosity in Supernatural. Her current research focuses on Gothic constructions of authorship and audience. She has additional interests in literature and science in the long nineteenth century and contemporary Welsh writing in English.

Gothic silence and urban Welshness in Mary Ann Constantine’s Star-Shot

Set in a near-future version of Cardiff, Mary Ann Constantine’s debut novel, Star-Shot (2015) takes as its central premise the appearance of mysterious wells and channels of silence within the city. Seeming to stem from the National Museum, the silence begins to spread across the urban environment, and is conveyed to the reader through the interlocking narratives of the novel’s four main characters. Though the novel has been described as magic realist, this paper will argue that, through its use of silence, it also offers a contemporary, urban version of Welsh gothic.

As Jane Aaron has pointed out, Wales itself, and particularly rural Wales, has often been presented as a gothic space in literature, home to the “primitive and demonic” and held up in contrast to a modern, civilised England. Language is particularly important here, with both the impenetrability of Welsh to outsiders and the identity-loss associated with its decline receiving the gothic treatment. Star-Shot’s use of gothic silence, I argue, brings these anxieties around identity and language into the contemporary city, suggesting both the dangers of seeking the roots of identity only in an idealised past—the silence that calcifies around the Museum—and the possibility of resisting loss by building new networks of connection and community.


13 Dr Siân Harris (University of Bristol)

Dr Siân Harris is the Director of Teaching and Digital Learning in the department of English at the University of Bristol. Her research focuses on the dynamic between gender and genre in contemporary culture, with a particular focus on detective and historical fictions. She has previously published work on Ian Rankin, AS Byatt and Marina Warner, and has a new chapter forthcoming in the Palgrave collection Teaching Crime Fiction (2018).

A Scottish Inspector in London: The uncanny city in Ian Rankin’s Tooth and Nail

From Knots & Crosses (1987) to Rather be the Devil (2016) Ian Rankin’s twenty-three Rebus novels have formed one of the most compelling series in contemporary crime fiction. The public perception of author and protagonist alike is intrinsically tied to Scotland – particularly Edinburgh – and Rankin’s use of real streets, landmarks and pubs lends Rebus’s adventures a distinctively self-aware authenticity.

This paper, however, will focus on an anomaly in the canon – 1992’s Tooth & Nail (originally published as Wolfman) – which sees the Inspector dispatched to London on the trail of a brutal serial killer. Rankin, writing under the influence of Thomas Harris, delivers an uncharacteristically lurid story. London emerges as an uncanny place, chiefly defined as not-Edinburgh, with a blend of real and imagined locations providing the backdrop for a violent narrative, including frequent digressions into the mind of the murderer.

Driven by questions of genre and identity, the paper uses Tooth & Nail to explore the unstable borders between England and Scotland, the supernatural and the criminal, the killer and the detective. In doing so, it re-evaluates a book that has perhaps been too easily dismissed as the author ‘learning his craft’ and instead offers an unsettling insight into the roads not taken through Rankin’s later work.


14 Dr Carina Hart (University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus)

Dr Carina Hart is an Assistant Professor in English Literature at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Her current research is on the Gothic aesthetic and the development of the contemporary Gothic fairy tale. She has published on A. S. Byatt and the contemporary fairy tale, and English and German Romantic poetry. She is also on the Executive Committee of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association (UK and Ireland).

Fairy Tales of the Neoliberal Gothic City: Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen

Hans Christian Andersen’s tale ‘The Snow Queen’ of 1844 brings fairy tale into a key domain of nineteenth-century Gothic: the city. In the nineteenth century the body horror of early Gothic invades the rational civilisation of the city, culminating in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula. Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’ reimagines the Gothic horror of bodily injuries, intrusions and decay through the metaphors of snow and mirrors, substances whose resemblance is used to blur the boundary between natural and artificial. The body and the city become amalgamations of natural and unnatural, alienated from themselves.

In the twenty-first century a disenchantment with the neoliberal city is captured in Michael Cunningham’s 2014 novel The Snow Queen, through the same image as in Andersen’s tale – a shard of mirror in the eye, a city rebuilt in snow. The novel foregrounds the transactional basis of this narrative, in which the body horror is cancer, anarchic and irrational, tameable only through a miracle that comes at a price. The neoliberal city that fosters such decay is both alive and frozen, alien and alienating, offering only ancient narratives as answers to contemporary situations.

Alongside the texts of Andersen and Cunningham, the conjunction of fairy tale and Gothic imagery in the postmodernist theory of Jean-François Lyotard is considered as a key example of the postmodernist dialectic of tradition and experimentation; its study of entrapment within old and alienating structures is mapped onto Cunningham’s novel and the Gothic horror that it uncovers in the individual’s negotiation of the neoliberal city.


15 Kate Harvey (University of Stirling)

I have studied Gothic literature at Stirling University, having completed my Undergraduate and Masters under the guidance of Dale Townshend and Glennis Byron. I am about to embark on my PhD thesis, looking at Global Lycanthropy and Therianthropy, thus completing my Trifecta at Stirling.

Last year I was selected to present a paper on “Subverting the Gothic Tradition in the Music of Halestorm” at MMU’s Gothic Styles conference in October, as well as a paper on “Grotesque Vegetation” at Trinity College, Dublin at their Gothic Nature conference in November.

It’s an Animal City: Johannesburg as Gothic Space in Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City

When asked to name a Gothic city, London is arguably the first choice. In Zoo City by Lauren Beukes , her alternative reality set in Johannesburg, South Africa, is like London’s dangerous cousin. Zoo City is an area within this Johannesburg where criminals released from prison with a ‘spirit animal’ go to live. The fact that they are ‘animalled’ sets them apart from the rest of society –they are shunned and reviled, and live in poverty.

The narrator, Zinzi, is mashavi – someone with magical abilities – she can find lost things, her animal a sloth. She is recruited by a rich agent to help find a missing wealthy young singer and has to traverse the seedy underbelly of the city to uncover the mysterious disappearance.

Despite being an alternative reality where magic is real, this novel explores Johannesburg as Gothic Space by examining real life in Africa, offering commentary on social issues such as government corruption and police brutality, the ever growing drug use amongst the impoverished and racial tensions. The disturbing elements in this novel are made more potent by the fact that it cannot be dismissed as simply fantastical dystopian fiction.

Johannesburg as a Gothic Space is at once similar to a European or American space, in that The City has an anamorphous and androgynous familiarity that differs to rural space – but the history seeped into this particular city has its own vibrancy and danger that signals difference.


16 Dr Ruth Heholt (Falmouth University)

Ruth Heholt is senior lecturer in English at Falmouth University. She has published on ghosts and the Gothic and works on Victorian literature and culture. She has edited a collection entitled Haunted Landscapes: Supernature and the Environment with Niamh Downing (2016). She has two collections coming out in May 2018: Gothic Britain: Dark Places in the Provinces and Margins of the British Isles with William Hughes (University of Wales Press) and The Victorian Male Body with Joanne Ella Parsons, (University of Edinburgh Press). She is currently working on a monograph about the Victorian author Catherine Crowe. Ruth is editor of Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural a peer reviewed online journal (

Tracing the Supernatural City in E. F. Benson’s London Tales

Jack Adrian says of Benson’s tales: ‘[h]is ghost stories have ghosts in them that bite. In the main they are vengeful, horrid, predatory, utterly malignant. …Fred’s ghosts are excellent’ (1990: 15).

Benson was a young contemporary of M.R. James, and there are similarities, but Benson is more concerned with the worldly and material. Benson set many of his tales in rural locations and here the landscape is the super or über natural – it is saturated with it and a part of it. In his London stories however, the brush with the supernatural is somewhat different. Here time and space are palimpsests which, like elements of the quantum world, exist and not at the same time. It is not so much that there are other worlds underneath, or beyond the material city as that there are other places that occupy the same space/place as the ‘ordinary’ city and sometimes this becomes terrifyingly clear.

Employing the notion of the ‘Trace’, this paper examines Benson’s metropolitan tales. Rosario Arias suggests that ‘the hybrid nature of the trace, which partakes of both absence and presence, past and present, facilitates the blurring of temporal and spatial boundaries’ (2014: 111). There is no such thing as past or present; there is a melding and a continuous movement. Derrida cites what he calls ‘the fabric of the trace’ (1976: 65), and this concept of ‘fabric’ is particularly useful when looking at supernatural stories. There is a weaving and a web that links seemingly incongruous times and events together without the hierarchy of ‘here and now’ or ‘then and past’.

In Benson’s work, the collapse of space/time is fearful. All too often we cannot see what is residing in the same space as ourselves; but occasionally the fabric tears and the city space shifts, making something else visible.


17 Dr Madelon Hoedt (University of South Wales)

Madelon Hoedt lectures at the Faculty for Creative Industries of the University of South Wales. She has completed her PhD entitled “Acting Out: The Pleasures of Performance Horror”, which focuses on genre, performance, stagecraft and audience affect. Her other research concerns itself with the experience of horror and the Gothic in live performance and video games. She is currently working on two monographs: the first, a close reading of FROM Software’s Bloodborne (2015), with McFarland, intended for publication in 2018; the second, an investigation of immersive and pervasive horror in performance, with the University of Wales Press, intended for publication in 2020.

“Welcome Home, Good Hunter”: The Gothic and Environmental Storytelling in From Software’s Bloodborne

Space is arguably a key trait of the Gothic mode. As Botting states, “[p]hysical locations and settings manifest disturbance and ambivalence in spatial terms” (2013:4), and any space is not simply a location: “Physical space and material things seem thoroughly inter-penetrated with fragmented, pathological and feverish forms of consciousness” (2013:111). This trend can also be seen in horror videogames, resulting in iconic locations such as the town of Silent Hill and Raccoon City in the Resident Evil franchise. In 2015, the release of FROM Software’s Bloodborne added the city of Yharnam to this list.

Steeped in dark imagery and elaborate architecture, Yharnam is the archetypal Gothic city, the exploration of which is key to the player’s understanding of Bloodborne’s story. However, rather than spoon-feeding the narrative to the player, developer From Software relies on what Henry Jenkins calls “environmental storytelling”, where “the structuring of game space facilitates different kinds of narrative experiences” (2004:122). Yharnam tells its own story, with sections of the city appearing, disappearing and transforming as players explore this Gothic space, slowly revealing its lore and the depths of its horrors. The aim of this paper is to investigate and map the spaces of Yharnam and its environs, and their role within the narrative. Drawing on both Gothic and game studies, I will show how Bloodborne takes its player on a journey of discovery of both the city and its story, and how it is only through the exploration of its spaces that Yharnam’s true horrors are revealed.


18 Dr Bill Hughes (OGOM)

Bill Hughes has a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Sheffield. His research and publications explore the interrelations between the dialogue genre, communicative reason, and English novels in the long eighteenth century. Bill has also published on Richard Hoggart, intertextuality and the Semantic Web, and contemporary paranormal romance. He is co-organiser, with Dr Sam George, of the Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture Project at the University of Hertfordshire, and co-editor (with Dr George) of ‘Open Graves, Open Minds’: Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present (2013) and In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children (2018).

Tales of two cities: heteroglossia, heterogeneity, and decay in Aliette de Bodard and Kate Griffin’s urban fantasies of Paris and London

The city has hitherto largely been the site of Enlightenment modernity and rationality. The Gothic novel was originally situated both temporally and spatially distant from the city—in forests and mountain castles, and so on. This enabled representations of Enlightenment and its counterpart, often championing the former. But in the present day, when Enlightenment is in question, Gothic themes and even the trademark architectural motif of Gothic ruins find a new home in urban fantasy.

Urban fantasy may take place in the cities of an alternative history or in contemporary cities that are recognisable but possess undercurrents and irruptions of magic. In The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette du Bodard follows one route with her vision of a fin-de-siècle Paris, ravaged by war, with its fallen angels, oriental dragons, and alchemists. Here, the imprint of colonialism is conspicuous, with reference to the intertwined histories of France and Vietnam. This is a rapacious world of commodification and reification, where people are treated as objects of utility and angels can be dissected for their valuable essence.

Kate Griffin’s The Midnight Mayor depicts a contemporary London, but with a concealed magical underworld. One aspect of urban fantasy is the re-enchantment of everyday life, where magic emerges from the quotidian. Griffin employs urban myths and inventively creates monsters out of the detritus of urban life, making the mundane strange. Paralleling this are her impressionistic catalogues of areas of London, making the city both weird and glamorous. She also gives voice to the silenced, acknowledging the labour which the city is built u

Both authors depict cities under neoliberalism, with economic decay and lost grandeur, the inhabitants becoming predatory and monstrous. However, though gothicised, the city still retains the cosmopolitan features of modernity, the vitality and the encounters of different voices and perspectives.

This paper shows how these two urban fantasy texts, in different ways, stage the heteroglossia acquired through modern communications and colonial contact while portraying the fragmentation of modernity.


20 Debbie Kent (Goldsmiths University of London)

Debbie Kent is undertaking a practice‑led MPhil/PhD at Goldsmiths on audiowalks and urban transformation in east London. As an artist, she works as half of collaboration The Demolition Project, formed with Russian artist Alisa Oleva in 2013, making work around walking, and the city. The Demolition Project has made walks, workshops, audiowalks and other work for festivals and galleries in London, Manchester, Berlin, Belgrade, Vilnius, Ekaterinburg and Moscow. She is also involved with radical geography network Livingmaps and in the past has written short films, plays for Radio 4 and for theatre and has performed with improv collective Danger 11.000v.

Ghosts of the Shadow City: adventures in the CGI dreamscapes of urban development

While undertaking research into the urban soundscape on a former industrial site in east London which is facing unprecedented regeneration, I discovered that another, parallel city was growing alongside it like a shadow – a boneless, depthless, friction-free city where buildings rise from the ground in a single motion, as if by magic. Images generated by computer, of properties and their contented residents, serene boating lakes and peaceful forests, float free in cyberspace and dance across the hoardings that simultaneously advertise the final development and conceal the work being done to produce it. This is hyper-regeneration, filled with simulacra of things that do not yet – and may never – exist, yet which, unchecked, are crawling into the dreams of city dwellers. Its residents wander aimlessly across plazas or gaze from balconies; its soundtrack is a tinkling pastiche of classical music, soaring as the viewer soars high above the rooftops to gain a glorious aerial view, then cascading down to street level.

This paper is a first attempt to catalogue and decipher these ghost visions from possible futures, interwoven with a speculative approach to their origins, activities – and what they want from us. Taking my research in the context of walking and sound recording in London Docklands as a starting point, it will look at their presence on the streets and on the web, at the work of artists who have attempted to grasp their power – including Rut Blees Luxembourg’s London Dust series and Alberto Duman’s Talking Ghosts and Music for Masterplanning – and at their effect on urban space.


21 Prof. Tanya Krzywinska (Falmouth University)

Tanya Krzywinska is Professor of Digital Games and Director of the Games Academy at Falmouth University. Beginning her academic career when videogames were largely invisible and far from respectable, she’s sought to argue for the importance of games as a new art form. She is the author of several books and many articles on different aspects of video games and on representations of the Gothic. Currently she is working on a monograph, Gothic Games, and, when time allows, she is an artist. (

“Everything is True” A Weird Tale: Urban Gothic meets Urban Myth in Multiplayer Online Game, The Secret World

This paper argues that there has been a shift in the representation of Gothic in games away from its earlier forms towards a far more edgy and contemporary Urban Gothic. This is a feature that has only been possible in the context of multiplayer online games with the advent of easily accessible high-speed broadband along with faster and more efficient computation. These are the conditions that have given rise to new articulations of the Gothic in games. I begin the paper by first locating the Urban Gothic in games within their relatively short history. I will show that there has been a movement away from the historic literary Gothic found in early text-heavy games such as Frankenstein (1987, CRL Group). An additional shift is also evidence away from the space-based Gothic games that hitched a ride on Science Fiction, such as the formative Doom series.  It is to the Urban Gothic that games now look with those that locate their ludic design not in a fantasy realm nor on an alien planet but in a realistically rendered world that calls on our own time and space. Horror games have regularly called on the real world as a means of electrifying the gaming experience, but it is within the multiplayer online game The Secret World (Funcom, 2015-present) that the properties of Urban Gothic play out most fully, vocalising its aesthetic as a Weird tale.

The game operates on the premise that all urban myths and conspiracy theories are true and the game uses many and diverse devices to soften the boundaries between the confines of the game and what exists outside within the non-diegetic, real internet. Players might gain superpowers devised to fight the invading forces, but there is no overarching winning condition wherein the ‘alien thorn is successfully removed’, as Clive Barker puts it in his introduction to Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comics (1990). As a multiplayer game, a player shares the urbanised spaces of The Secret World with other players; each player thrown into a world of competing factions, cults and realities, but always set in locations that exist in the real world (London, Tokyo, New York, Providence, Hungary, Egypt) and inhabited by people who we might regard as plausibly real and as such all the more monstrous. Places and people are however, as in life, filtered through numerous intertextual references that work to thicken the game’s spiralling narrative and breakdown the assumed boundaries between reality and fiction. The result is a psychoactive blend of Urban Gothic and Myth, the aim of which is to create for the player a strong sense of the vertiginous nature of the Weird that has hitherto not been achieved within populist games. As I will show, players may gain physical mastery over the game’s interface but in the context of this weird and urban context where factions, histories and interpretations constantly slide, there is forever a spiralling sense of uncertainty that makes for a rich and Gothic means of overturning the usual certainties and predictabilities found in games.


22 Meriem Lamara (University of Northampton)

Meriem Rayen Lamara is a third year PhD candidate at the University of Northampton currently writing her thesis on the supernatural Gothic in young adult literature. She holds a Master’s in British and American Studies from the University of Constantine, Algeria. Her adjacent research interests lie in children’s literature, fantasy, supernatural folklore and fairy tales.

Behind Gilded Walls: The Islamic Gothic in S. A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass

Setting is of paramount importance to any literary narrative. In Gothic literature, whether the action is set in specific and known countries such as England, Spain, or France; or in more generalized locales like convents, castles, and forests, the physical environment that the characters occupy is very often integral to Gothic plots, influencing how action unfolds in the stories. The latter half of the nineteenth century saw the relocation of the Gothic Space from remote castles and forests to the urban infrastructure. Cities such as London or Paris became rapidly fictionalized as Gothic settings that could allow for the expression of social and cultural anxieties and raise an awareness of the monstrosities that exist in the Western world. There has been, however, limited engagement with the portrayal of non-Western Gothic spaces; in particular Middle Eastern and Arab cities. This paper examines the representation of the Gothic Space in S. A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass (2017), the first book in the Daevabad Trilogy. Set in the 1800’s Cairo, the story follows Nari a young con artist as she journeys towards the discovery of her true identity. In this novel, reminiscent of The Arabian Nights, Chakraborty through the use of a combination of traditional Gothic tropes and Islamic folklore, paints a complex Gothic city riddled with Supernatural beings – from Djinns and shape-shifters to ghouls and monsters- and creates a space where boundaries are blurred, identities transgress, and where self and other merge.


23 Rebecca Langworthy (University of Aberdeen)

Rebecca Langworthy received her Master’s in The Gothic Imagination from the University of Stirling and has recently submitted her PhD Thesis on George MacDonald’s adult fantasy writings at the University of Aberdeen. She is currently an English lecturer at The University of Highlands and Islands. Her publications include work: on Harry Potter, werewolves, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald.  Her research interests include Scottish Victorian literature, gothic literature, the development of fantasy literature and the interaction of communities/groups with works of literature.

Beyond the Text: The influence of George MacDonald’s Robert Falconer upon the urban spaces of Huntly

Urban topographies as an uncanny or supernatural space is a clear theme in a range of Scottish writing including Hogg, Stevenson and Oliphant, all of whom use cityscapes to project psychological aspects of their texts. From this basis of authorial projection, this paper seeks to explore the readers projection of a text upon a space, from the premise that the literary past of a place can haunt the present interactions of a readership with that space. In exploring this concept this paper will briefly examine the city of Edinburgh and its literary connections, and discuss community engagement within the Aberdeenshire town of Huntly, the birthplace of George MacDonald. This initial work within Huntly demonstrates the extent to which the town and is haunted by MacDonald’s writings and in turn MacDonald’s writings are haunted by the topography of Huntly.


24 Janette Leaf (Birkbeck, University of London)

Janette Leaf is a PhD candidate at Birkbeck, University of London. She holds two Masters from the University of Cambridge and the University of Hertfordshire respectively. Her PhD concentrates primarily on prose fiction and is on ‘Locating the Sympathetic Insect: Shared Spaces and Places of the Ethical and Entomological at the Fin de Siècle’.

Previous conference papers have included The Haunts and Jaunts of Marsh’s Beetle; Stone Scarab: Taxonomy of Eclectic Objects; and most recently, Redeeming the Coleopterous Monster at the Senate House for the Institute of English Studies.

Janette is intrigued by insect imagery, but slightly intimidated by insects!

Big Bug in the Big City: Richard Marsh’s Beetle in Late Victorian London

This paper considers Late Victorian London under the control of a supersized and supernatural scarab.

The Beetle is a creation of Richard Marsh, and is an enormously popular novel of 1897 about an enormous insect.  In its time it dominated Britain’s bookshelves and even outsold Dracula, published the same year.  In their respective texts, each supernatural being roamed the streets at the heart of the British Empire, mesmerising and terrifying certain of the capital’s occupants, but on this occasion the better known big bat is left to fly above the radar and the investigative eye is instead turned on the big bug in the big city.

Marsh’s eponymous Beetle is an Egyptian follower of the cult of Isis, who is capable of transmigration into a large insect, and who possesses the ability to hypnotise her victims and to use them as automata.   Bent on revenge against the man who wronged her in Cairo two decades before the start of the novel, she comes to occupy the public, the political and the personal places of fin de siècle London.  The paper looks at the monster at large in the metropolis, her habitation, her infiltration of various urban spaces and the nature of her movement between them.  It also asks why if she presumably has wings that would enable her to fly does she stop to buy a train ticket?


25 Pascal Lemaire

With formal training in both Ancient History and ICT, and a job in the later domain, I now study how the ancient world meets modern literature, especially in the SF and Fantasy genres. From there grew a secondary interest in how literature plays with History and especially in uchronia. Present at various recent conferences on the presence of the Classics in SFFF or Alternate History (Rennes/Paris 2012, Liverpool 2013, Chateau Gaillard 2013, Tel Aviv 2014, Tacoma 2015, Liverpool 2015, 2016, Lancaster 2016), I’ve also published articles in the Spanish review Helice and have various papers currently submitted or in edition phase.

Misty Bruges: the resurrected city that became a fantastic character

A rich medieval trading center fallen on hard times after its port silted, Bruges is mainly known today as a charming vacation spot and is the most visited touristic attraction in Belgium.

It is in the second half of the 19th century that the city began to rise again from its sleepiness, thanks in parts to British tourists attracted by its gothic architecture, its charming canals and its ghostly appearance on misty days.
In 1892 author George Rodenbach made the city a literary character by making it the stage for his short novel Bruges la Morte, Dead Bruges, a symbolist text with fantastic overtones in keeping with the strong Belgian tradition of fantastic literature.

Since those literary debuts the city has been used as a setting for a number of stories in different genres: Simenon is in some ways a precursor for Flemish author Pieter Aspe, whose detective stories are set in the city, as is Martin McDonagh’s 2008 movie In Bruges.

But while those stories have little fantastic elements in them, such is not the case in Herve Picart’s serie L’Arcamonde (11 books published out of a planned 12), which sees an antiquarian solve strange mysteries with strong fantastic components.

Bruges is also at the heart of the science-fiction bande dessinée L’astrologue de Bruges, a time travel adventure by Roger Leloup with here also a number of fantastic features.

Following on Corinne Fournier Kiss’s work (La ville européenne dans la littérature fantastique du tournant du siècle (1860-1915)), the present paper shall look at the representations of Bruges in the 20th and 21st centuries and see whether the depictions of city are heirs to the original fantastic traditions or instead the fruits of new currents in fantastic literature.


26 Dr Anastasia A. Lipinskaya (St Petersburg University, Russia)

Anastasia A. Lipinskaya received her B. A. (1998) and M. A. (2000) from Russian State Pedagogical University and a D. A. in foreign literature (2003) from Saint-Petersburg State University. Assistant Professor in SPbSU (English language, lectures in foreign literature) and in I. Repin St.Petersburg State Academy (lectures in foreign literature). Her main interests include British ghost stories, theory of genre, narratology and literary translation. She has prepared reference materials for several anthologies of ghost stories and has authored or coauthored over 60 publications.

The City That Was Not There: Space in British Ghost Stories

Ghost stories written in the late 19th and early 20th century are typically centered on contemporary people’s encounters with the supernatural. Interestingly, cityscapes feature in them quite rarely, and this fact calls for explanation.

Even if we exclude a variety of enchanted locations like barrows or groves connected with folk superstitions, a country house is very characteristic as a more modern equivalent of gothic castles. The stories that are set in cities or towns mostly do not show urban life at large and are concentrated in smaller private zones like rooms: what is needed is a point of transition between two worlds without violating the world order in general. The so-called antiquarian gothic often uses an extraordinary artefact as an even more concentrated substitute of larger space, like in M. R. James’s ‘Mezzotinto’.

Exceptions are worth noting. H. G. Wells’s ‘The Stolen Body’ shows London streets which the possessed protagonist is roaming but it is a story of a failed experiment intended for a private space. Wells also transforms some tropes of A. K. Doyle’s detective stories, and the locations remind the reader about this connection. R. Hichens’s ‘How love came to Professor Guildea’ features London and Paris, but again the ghost’s presence in public places is regarded as something extraordinary for the protagonist but the observers interpret it as a medical aberration thus contributing to the double vision typical for the genre.

In general the ‘absent’ city in ghost stories is a result of gothic novel’s legacy and the authors’ intention to construct a closed private space for the contact with supernatural forces inserted into the modern sociocultural reality but not destroying it.


27 Dr Ken Lymer (Wessex Archaeology)

Dr Kenneth Lymer is an independent rock art researcher who has worked on sites in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and the UK. He has published numerous articles exploring a variety of multi-sensual engagements related to engraved stone surfaces and other forms of visual culture through the lens of the archaeology of the senses and lived religious experiences. He is also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and avid consumer of ghost stories and other forms of speculative fiction. He currently works for Wessex Archaeology producing 3D photogrammetric models of artefacts and conducts his own personal project of the photogrammetry of gravestones featuring memento mori symbolism.

Cyclopean ruins and albino penguins – The weird urban archaeology of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness is a novella written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1931, which was first published in the pulp science fiction magazine Astounding Stories of Super-science, 1936. The story involves his renowned theme of the journey carried out by a protagonist that ends in a disastrous meeting with the cosmic. Here the leader of a doomed geological expedition to Antarctica, Dr William Dyer, provides his first-person account of how they uncovered a forgotten city built by elder alien beings, which was inhabited by lurking monstrosities. Lovecraft’s reputation as a horror writer, however, has over-shadowed the fact that he was also an ardent antiquarian and heritage tourist. This paper explores facets of the weird urban archaeology that he employs to uncover the dark secrets of the frozen metropolis from the excavation of tombs to the walking field survey of monuments and ruins. Moreover, this city does not only follow the gothic literary cannon of architectural decay but was also used by Lovecraft to destabilize ordinary reality and subvert established scientific narratives, such as chronology, geological epochs and evolution, intrinsic to the archaeological project.


28 Dr Simon Marsden (University of Liverpool)

Simon Marsden is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Liverpool. His research focuses on intersections of literature and religion from the nineteenth century to the present, with a particular emphasis on Gothic. He is the author of Emily Brontë and the Religious Imagination (2014) and is currently completing his second monograph, The Theological Turn in Contemporary Gothic Fiction: Holy Ghosts.

Tainted Cities: Adam Nevill’s Austerity Gothic

For the British horror novelist Adam Nevill, the contemporary city is a doubly haunted space. The city contains spectral echoes of past suffering, represented not only by ghostly apparitions but also by the material traces of violence: stains, taints, contagion and contamination. Nevill imagines the city as a place indelibly tainted by its history. Yet Nevill’s city is haunted not only by past violence, but by the people rendered invisible at its margins. In a series of novels published since 2010, Nevill has depicted urban environments in which individuals are made vulnerable by extremes of poverty and economic inequality.

Focusing primarily on Apartment 16 (2010) and No One Gets Out Alive (2014), this paper reads Nevill’s work as a Gothic engagement with the politics of austerity in the aftermath of the financial crash of 2007-8 and the policies of economic austerity introduced by the coalition government following the 2010 General Election. The city in Nevill’s horror fiction is a site in which economic inequality renders individuals vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence without the protections of a functional welfare state. Though this focus on inequality positions Nevill’s fiction as an example of what Katy Shaw has termed ‘Crunch Lit’, however, the persistent emphasis on the city as an environment haunted and stained by its histories works to locate the contemporary city within an endless cycle of physical and economic violence. This history forms part of a frozen, static present in which victims of violence – living and dead – remain ‘stuck’ in an urban space emptied of hope or of the possibility of change.


29 Dr Charlotte-Rose Millar (University of Queensland, Australia)

Dr Charlotte-Rose Millar is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland and an Associate Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (1100-1800). Her book, Witchcraft, The Devil and Emotions in Early Modern England was published by Routledge in 2017. She is also the author of numerous works on witchcraft, diabolism, emotions and sexual practices in early modern England and has won two prizes for her published work.

The Urban Ghost: Spectres in Early Modern London

Writing in 1732 the historian Thomas Salmon proclaimed that ‘the people of London are not so superstitious as those in the country; we seldom hear of Apparitions, Witches or Haunted Houses about town.’ Salmon’s statement draws on a long tradition of depicting a divide between the superstitious rural regions and the “enlightened” towns. However, although hauntings were more common in the countryside, urban ghosts appeared relatively frequently throughout the early modern period. In 1705, for example, Madam Mabell allowed a number of tenements she owned in Rosemary Lane, East London to fall into decay. It wasn’t long until these ruins became the nightly haunt of a female ghost, a terrifying spectre who threatened witnesses that they would be torn into pieces if they did not find and dig up an iron chest. Thirty years earlier, in 1674, another London man, this time living in Puddle-Dock, was continuously tormented by ghostly apparitions and noises in the night. The doors to his kitchen and parlour were routinely unlocked and candles were lit in his kitchen. Most terrifying was the apparition of an apparently legless cat which sat on his dresser. Just a few years after this tale circulated in print, another London haunting occurred, this time in the parish of St Sepulchres. These ghosts took the form of rats, puppets, boys and girls, some of whom held bloody knives.

Tales of urban ghosts further our understanding of the supernatural cityscape and disrupt the paradigm of the town as enlightened space. This paper will explore a number of ghost stories circulating in late seventeenth and early eighteenth century London. It will explore what effect an urban space had on ghost beliefs and what the presence of ghost beliefs in early modern London tells us about urban belief in the supernatural.


30 Sarah Neef (TU Dortmund University, Germany)

Sarah Neef is a doctoral student and lecturer for British literary studies at TU Dortmund University, Germany. Her research interests include children’s literature and British fantasy. She is currently working on her PhD thesis titled “Identity Construction and Cultural Geography in British Fantasy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries”.

‘Up’s no longer out of bounds, and down’s nothing to fear’: Verticality and Locomotion in China Miéville’s Urban Fantasy

[The] city was inverted and refracted in the Thames […]. He stared down at the city below his feet. It was an illusion. The shimmering motion of the lights […] were a simulacrum. […] Below that thin veneer the water was still filthy, still dangerous and cold. Saul held on to that. He resisted the poetics of the city. (Miéville, Ming Rat, p. 311)

While Miéville writes in a broad range of genres, all of his works manifest a strong focus on urban landscapes and societies. The city, which is considered to be Miéville’s most significant character (Vanderbeke 153), regularly features underground settings such as sewers as well as elevated urban spaces including rooftops. The different settings are frequently complemented by depictions of urban transport as well as different forms of locomotion both above and below ground.

My paper will therefore focus on Miéville’s use of both verticality and different forms of locomotion. In order to explore these specific aspects of the poetics of the urban weird, I will investigate how this verticality exposes hidden layers of the city and thus reveals the palimpsest of urban spaces, society, and identity. In addition, the use of different vertical settings as a means of Othering and distinction between the fantastic and the mundane (Benczik 168) will also be assessed. As the above aspects are closely linked to the way in which the characters traverse the city, I will dissect how the different modes of transport influence their emotions, behaviour, observations of, and responses to the metropolis.


32 Eilís Phillips (University of Portsmouth)

Eilís Phillips is a tutor and second year PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, whose research explores monstrous depictions of popular protest in Britain between 1780-1850. Her interest in the monstrous is focused upon, but not limited to, a desire to understand the ways in which environments can contain monstrous potential; insidious identities waiting to be unlocked by those who observe, or stray into their boundaries. Previous conference papers include a study of non-corporeal monstrous phenomena in Victorian mining folklore at the University of Sheffield’s Reimagining the Gothic (2017), and a paper entitled ” ‘Papier-mâché Mephistopheles’: Steampunk and Soul-Searching in the Nineteenth-Century Press,” as part of the Asylum Steampunk Festival at Bishop Grosseteste University (2017). Eilís is a member of the Supernatural Cities research group, and a research assistant for the Everyday Lives in War funded project: Lost Voices: Spiritualism on the Home Front, 1914-1919.

‘Infernal Machine[s]’: Understanding Diabolical Depictions of Incendiarism in Nineteenth-Century Britain

While the phrase ‘infernal machine’ may conjure a steampunk aesthetic today, in 1855 it was used by the Sheffield Independent to describe an incendiary device thrown through the window of a home near Doncaster. The language employed in this story is representative of many reports of ‘diabolical’ incendiarism; it speaks of the intended sacrifice of the victims, evoking the presence of evil as much as human criminality. While much research has recently focused on fire in conjunction with radical agricultural agitation, accepting the blurred boundaries of urban-rural understandings of arson during this period enables a fresh focus on contemporary’s perceptions of the acts. Using demonic monstrosity to explore these examples also provides a more ‘imaginative’ approach towards histories of protest and criminality. The paper thus responds to several of the conference themes. It posits hellish depictions of fires as reflective of the nineteenth century ‘urban weird’, and relates to ‘supernatural city creatures’ in its exploration of demonic identities of arsonists. Central to my argument is the theme of ‘Folk horror’s encroachment on the city’, as the uncanny, supernatural language used to describe urban incendiarism during this period was being heavily influenced by reports of fire-setting in rural locations. In print, city burglaries and social disputes thus became entangled with incidents of Luddism, Swing rioting, and Chartist demonstrations, as these fire-related crimes were all evoked with the same aura of monstrous outrage. This presentation therefore draws from, and compares reports of urban and rural incendiarism in nineteenth-century newspapers and pamphlets. It investigates how property fires turned the sanctity of homes and businesses into hostile, monstrous infernos, and dehumanised the perpetrators into diabolical fiends. It explores how such transformations often enabled the complex motivations of the arsonists, and experiences of victims, to become largely obscured behind a rhetoric of evil.


33 Dr Ivan Phillips (University of Hertfordshire)

Ivan Phillips is an Associate Dean in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. He has published widely on popular culture, science fiction and horror, reviewing regularly for Critical Studies in Television (Sage) and contributing chapters to Sam George and Bill Hughes’ Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present (Manchester University Press, 2013) and Paul Booth’s Fan Phenomena: Doctor Who (Intellect, 2013). His other research interests include the artist-writer Wyndham Lewis and poetry from the eighteenth century to the present day. His book Once Upon A Time: The Myths and Stories of Doctor Who will be published by I.B.Tauris in April 2018.

‘That’s a hell of a lot of ghosts’: the haunting of Doctor Who

This paper explores themes of the spectral in a range of stories taken from both the classic and new versions of the BBC’s television drama, Doctor Who (1963-89, 1996, 2005-present). Taking as its starting point the ‘Journey into Terror’ episode of 1965 – in which the TARDIS crew, pursued across space and time by a Dalek assassination squad, find themselves in what appears to be a medieval European castle inhabited by Dracula, Frankenstein’s creature and the Grey Lady – it focuses in particular on the stories ‘City of Death’ (1979) and ‘Ghost Light’ (1989) from the original series and ‘Father’s Day’ (2005), ‘Hide’ (2013), ‘Listen’ (2014) and ‘Under the Lake’/ ‘Before the Flood’ (2015) from the revived series. The critical framework for discussion is derived from Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (1993), adapting that book’s concept of hauntology to propose a reading of the ghostly in Doctor Who as emblematic of a distinctive, albeit variable, approach to historical, social and ontological concerns. In keeping with the motif of ‘supernatural cities’, the paper shows how narratives of haunting in the series have so often been situated in the weird gaps, anomalies and remnants of urban (and suburban) architecture. Locations such as Count Scarlioni’s Parisian château in ‘City of Death’, Gabriel Chase in ‘Ghost Light’ and Caliburn House in ‘Hide’ can be seen, in this respect, as uncanny embodiments of the tension between cultural romanticism and historical trauma. More enigmatically, the troubled vacancies of the church in ‘Father’s Day’ and the simulated Soviet town in ‘Under the Lake’/ ‘Before the Flood’ become symbolic of a profoundly haunted modernity, one that is inexorably drawn, in spite of its ostensible rationalism, to the unsettled modalities of the supernatural.


34 Dr Hannu Poutiainen (University of Tampere, Finland)

Hannu Poutiainen received his PhD degree at the University of Eastern Finland in 2016. His doctoral thesis, graded as laudatur, undertook to reinvent the concept of the double by articulating the field of Derridean deconstruction with the ontological implications of possible-worlds semantics. His postdoctoral research project on the modern entanglement of literature and magic, entitled The Anamagical: A Metamorphic History of Magic and Literature, is funded by a three-year grant from the Kone Foundation. His most recent publication is an article entitled “Dark De/Re-Interpreters: Predicative Doubling in De Quincey and Beyond” (Textual Practice, published online 18 January 2017).

The Esoteric Flâneur: Steps Towards a Theory of Initiatic Walking (and Reading)

In coining the term “deep topography”, British author Nick Papadimitriou has articulated the hidden axiom that animates all psychogeographical activity: that walking has depth. Fittingly, this rebaptism is itself the product of a perambulatory practice that stretches back over three decades: the axiom of depth has been retrieved from its depths by a form of walking whose relation to the past is essentially initiatic. Depth is secrecy, secrecy depth, and it is the temporal dimension of this depth that bestows upon psychogeography its nearly ineffable allure: as horizontal progress becomes temporal regress, temporal regress becomes ontological descent, each step a peeling away of the layers of inattention that screen the deep past from view. In this paper, however, my intention is not to theorize about deep topography but rather to give these insights a more supernatural cast by applying them to Jacques Yonnet’s book Rue des malefices, originally published in 1954 as Enchantements sur Paris and translated into English as Paris Noir in 2006. Set in a handful of rundown locations in Nazi-occupied Paris, and purporting to be strictly factual, the book asserts as an unacknowledged truth that certain dingier parts of the city are spots of bewitchment, eerie nodal points for the confluence of worldly and otherworldly forces, and as the author-protagonist tells the tale of his flâneuresque wanderings that lead him to cross these haunted loci, there arises an odd sensation that overcomes the reader, as though, despite their sedentary state, they were at once moving forwards and backwards, plunging into the past and stepping across the invisible threshold that separates this world from the world beyond – as though, in other words, the reader were undergoing the very same initiation which their narratorial psychopomp is in the process of recounting.


35 David Powell (University of Birmingham)

David Powell is completing a part-time MA by Research in Film Studies at the University of Birmingham.  His thesis aims to characterise Folk Horror in British cinema and television.  He completed his BA in History with Ancient History and Archaeology (also at Birmingham) in 2003, and has worked in the Cultural and Higher Education sectors since then.

David gave a paper entitled ‘Haunted landscapes and temporal terrors in 1970s British television horror’ at the At Home With Horror conference held in October 2017 at the University of Kent.

Mind the doors! Folk horror on the London Underground

Nowhere in the urban landscape is folk horror’s encroachment into the civilised space more pronounced than in the subterranean realms of our underground transit systems.

These are familiar and everyday spaces, critical to the functions of urban space. They represent the ingenuity of civilisation, violently and intrusively reshaping inaccessible and hostile terrain for our use.  However, despite their centrality to our lives, they remain uncanny and untrustworthy spaces. They are analogous to that other great liminal space – the countryside – in that they illustrate the limitations and vulnerabilities of contemporary, urban society, and suggest this society is built upon ancient landscapes stained by folkloric heritage in which the past is malignant and lurking just out of sight.

The London Underground is, in particular, characterised as “a space which is past and future, contemporary and archaic”, a gateway between the modern and urban, and the ancient and folkloric. Even when depicted outside the horror genre, for example in Sliding Doors (1998, Peter Howitt) and Passport to Pimlico (1949, Henry Cornelius), the Underground is still identified as a site for spatial and temporal transgression.

This paper will focus its analysis on the London Underground in British horror cinema, in particular examining Death Line (1972, Gary Sherman), Quatermass and the Pit (1967, Roy Ward Baker), An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis) – all works usually ascribed as part of the folk horror canon – and Creep (2004, Christopher Smith). It will assess the disruption of the temporal and physical landscapes of the Underground, and explore how it is characterised as a folk-horrific space.


36 Dr William Redwood (Supernatural Cities)

William Redwood completed a PhD on esoteric magic at the University of London which focused on space, place and personhood. He still lives, teaches and writes in the city, which seems strangely reluctant to let him leave.

Hell Finding Cabs Round Here: Taxi Rides through the Urban Weird

Though perennially present, the humble taxi cab receives relatively little attention within either mainstream urban geography or more literary studies of the city. This paper examines the oddly insignificant and yet significantly odd phenomenon of cabs and their drivers and then locates them specifically within a supernatural context. In the city setting, cabs are both present and absent; here, there and everywhere, yet also nowhere in that they are often unnoticeable and sometimes unavailable. Cabs are nomadic, ever in motion on aleatory trajectories. Belonging at neither beginning nor end of their trips, they seem innately interstitial; moving signifiers, their anonymous drivers can be stereotypically prosaic or can be unsettlingly other. The paper begins with an examination of the taxi industry’s history, its politics, its economics and its technologies. It moves on to examine the polarised representations of the industry’s workers: cabbies can be seen as solid blue-collar workers on one hand, yet they can on the other be stereotyped as ignorant itinerants, as avaricious immigrants, economic outlaws or sexual predators. Artificially angelic or, more often, discursively demonised, even a brief examination of the figure of the cab driver seems to point us towards fantastic or supernatural areas of the urban. The data then covered by the paper consists of two types: case studies of actual drivers’ experiences, and fictional representations of drivers-for-hire. In both, it is argued, a match often emerges between a liminal occupation and uncertain, uncanny narratives of urban undersides. Through the work of writers, graphic novelists and film directors, and through tales told by taxi-drivers themselves, unnerving ideational and symbolic constellations of place, people and politics are explored and explained. Cabs seem to move uniquely between the mundane and the mysterious; the meanings of this weird mobility are shown to be far from illogical.


37 Tania de Rozario (Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore)

Tania De Rozario is an artist and writer engaged with issues of gender, sexuality, and representations of women in Horror. She is the author of And The Walls Come Crumbling Down (2016, Math Paper Press) and Tender Delirium (2013, Math Paper Press). Her work won the 2011 Singapore Golden Point Award for Poetry, was shortlisted for the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize, and has been showcased in Asia, the USA, the UK and Europe. She is a two-time recipient of Singapore’s National Arts Council’s Creation Grant, and she runs EtiquetteSG, a platform that develops and showcases art, writing and film by women.

Death Wears a Dress

In many parts of Asia, a belief in ghosts is part-and-parcel of everyday urban living and is embedded in a variety of practices: public shrines dedicated to mythological figures, measures of respect accorded to the dead, the food that lines the street corners of many countries every August when the gates of hell are said to open, unleashing hungry ghosts upon the Earth.

Female spirits in particular, play an interesting role in how the supernatural is imagined and constructed. Whether she be the pontianak who waits for her victim by the side of the road, or the mother or lover who returns for revenge, the female spirit is often characterised as treading the line between agency and oppression. On one hand, she is an autonomous character who seeks justice on her own terms; on another, she is usually reduced to a victim of violence while she is alive, and her agency is only granted in death… in the transformation of her identity from victim to villain: What can existing and prominent representations of female monsters in Asia suggest about the intersections of gender, culture, myth and monstrosity? Noting that these spirits are often said to be appeased through ritual or offering, what can be said about the close ties between reverence and fear, between demonisation and deification?

Death Wears a Dress is a collection of poems inspired by numerous female “monsters” central to Asian folklore, many of whom continue to reincarnate through horror films, pop culture and social media, haunting our apartment buildings, spilling out of our television screens, walking our highways. Currently in-progress, this collection hopes to centralise, re-imagine and humanise the experiences, emotions, desires, fears and regrets of these fictitious women in an effort to unearth possible insights about gender, power, longing and justice.


38 John G. Sabol (Interpretive Performance Excavation (I.P.E.) Research Center)

John Sabol is an archaeologist, cultural anthropologist, and actor. He has been doing ethno-archaeological fieldwork since 1969.  He has written 37 books on his fieldwork and methodology. He is the director of several documentaries that are accounts of immersions into past ethnographic soundscapes. He has developed numerous scripts and storyboards for these documentaries, as a series of mediated venues that include acoustical archaeologies, relational meshworks, memoryscapes, and ethnographic immersions. He has presented these documentaries in talks at various scientific conferences and popular culture expositions in Europe, the UK, Canada, Mexico, and the USA.

Wolvesey, Winchester, and Wolves: Multi-Species Cosmopolitics, the Unearthing of Urban Folklore, and  Archaeological Perspectivism

Donna Haraway (2006) describes our bodies as multi-species organisms formed through our interactions with different individuals, bodies, and species. Post-humanist writers tell us to think of our bodies as composites of various other bodies. In contemporary anthropological theory, as part of a focus on indigenous metaphysics, persons can take a variety of forms of which a human being is only one. In my paper, I will discuss urban folklore through a deep archaeological excavation into still ‘vibrant matter’ (Bennett 2010) that (possibly) still matters. This ‘excavation’ connects deep layers of memory, enabling vertical movement to occur by linking space, place, presence, and reality. This entanglement serves as a vehicle for exposing powerful pluri-mediated narratives, other stories that can be recovered from the distant past, still present. These become testimonies to folk beliefs and mytho-memory that form relational assemblages in the long historical contingencies of towns and cities, such as Winchester, as a past site of political power. My lecture/performance will illustrate one particular personal narrative. Rather than merely talking about my encounter, as an experience held at a safe remove from that of the audience, I seek to also enact it, render it viscerally present through a reiterative performance of what occurred one uncanny night on High Street in the city of Winchester. This ethnographic encounter, like the archaeological excavation (at Wolvesey Palace) that preceded it, involved the possibility of unearthing an ancient presence. It did so by occupying a liminal space in which the real and the folkloric could not be clearly and unequivocally be distinguished.


39 Dr Justin Sausman (University of Hertfordshire)

I am a lecturer in English literature at the University of Hertfordshire and have previously taught at the Universities of Amsterdam, Westminster and Royal Holloway. My current research focuses on fictional representations of reservoirs in twentieth and twenty-first century fiction and film. This project takes a global focus, exploring the links between literature, rural landscape, tourism and environmental campaigns. I have previously published on the links between fin de siècle, modernism and spiritualism. I am currently completing a monograph titled Modernism and the Meaning of Life, that asks why the term ‘life’ should appear so frequently in early twentieth century fiction and traces links between modernism, gothic, occultism and vitalist philosophy and biology.

‘Whispers of witchcraft and haunting’: Haweswater, reservoir noir and the ghosts of Mardale

A small but significant number of novels have appeared in recent years that focus on ‘drowned villages’ (as they are frequently and emotively referred to), rural communities that were flooded to create water supplies for distant urban centres.  A number of common threads unite these novels, leading crime novelist Peter Robinson to name them ‘reservoir noir’. They often blend sensational plots with an elegiac or nostalgic return to the past, while also focusing on the struggles of small communities, the impact of industrialisation on the rural landscape, and the revelation of past secrets hidden beneath the waters of the flooded valleys, frequently expressed through images of haunting. Despite their rural locations that are frequently promoted for their ‘wild’ qualities, reservoirs can in fact be viewed as displaced pieces of urban infrastructure that have shaped the landscape through the demands of industrial modernity. This paper focuses on Sarah Hall’s Howeswater (2002) a fictional account of the flooding of Mardale to create the Haweswater reservoir during the 1930s to supply water to Manchester. The novel blends historical fiction with significant emphasis on literal and metaphorical haunting to explore the impact of the urban on the rural. The paper asks why reservoirs should become the focus of supernatural stories. It argues that haunting functions in four ways: 1) it signifies the haunting of the urban by the rural and vice versa; 2) it suggests that the present is haunted by the environmental anxieties of the past; 3) it suggests that historical narratives are haunted by the untold stories of the valley’s inhabitants; 4) drawing on environmental writings by Rob Nixon and George Monbiot, the paper argues that the vengeful spectres associated with ‘reservoir noir’ reflect the violence enacted on the landscape and community. To argue these points the paper will read the novel alongside archival material from rural preservation campaigns during the early twentieth century, information boards located the reservoir itself and promotional material by United Utilities, the reservoir’s current owners to explore the association of reservoirs and the supernatural.


40 Olivia Steen (University of Hertfordshire)

Olivia Steen is a recent graduate from the University of Hertfordshire. She received a bachelor’s degree in Character Creation and Technical Effects before completing a master’s degree in Modern Literary Cultures. She currently works both as a visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, and as a studio artist at Madame Tussauds London. Olivia intends to merge her literary and artistic backgrounds into a cross-disciplinary PhD in the future. Her topics of focus include Spatial Theory, the Gothic and monstrous characters.

Lookout in the Blackout: Spatiality and the serial killers of WWII London

There have been specific times in history when the anonymity of the individual within the vast and teeming space of London, has proved ideal for the practice of serial killing. Most notably, Jack the Ripper, who unsettled the dark and under-policed streets of the East End in Victorian London, was able to traverse the space undetected. This time and place is perhaps the epitome of Gothic urban, but there is another period, dwarfed by larger societal concerns, that rivals the Victorian streets. WWII London was inhabited by a range of sadistic and opportunistic murderers, who used London in the Blackout as the perfect hunting ground for victims. I will focus on three case studies: Gordon Cummins, The Blackout Ripper, John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Murderer, and John Christie, the Rillington Place Strangler. Think less true-crime, more Gothic non-fiction.

The Blackout had a major effect on the space of London between the years of 1939 and 1945. In darkness, a place, once comfortable and familiar, becomes full of terrifying possibilities. London’s buildings were repurposed, or destroyed by bombs, and the way inhabitants of the city used the space altered drastically due to wartime demands.

By considering the city itself as a ‘body’ that became ‘victim’ to the predator that is war, I will investigate the vulnerable nature of the city alongside the victims of serial killers. My paper will build upon true-crime acknowledgements of serial killers in wartime, such as Edward Smithies’ Crime in Wartime (1982), by investigating the specific connection with spatial theory. Considering Michel Foucault’s ideas about ‘power’, ‘the subject’ and ‘gaze’ from The Subject and Power (1982), and Henri Lefebvre’s considerations in The Production of Space (1991), I will discuss how London, devastated by bombings, and blacked-out at night, provided a new and ideal space for deviancy.


41 Tom Sykes (University of Portsmouth)

Tom Sykes is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth whose articles and book reviews have appeared in the academic journals Social Identities, Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction and Children’s Literature Review. His chapter ‘Fantastic Metabolisms: A Materialist Approach to Eco-Speculative Fiction’ appeared in the recent A Global History of Literature and the Environment (Cambridge University Press). Tom has also been a freelance literary journalist since 2005, his feature articles and travelogues appearing in New Statesman, The Telegraph, Private Eye, The Scotsman, New Internationalist, New African and Southeast Asia Globe. He is the author of Ivory Coast (Bradt Publications), a travel guide that blends reportage and political analysis with practical travel advice.

The City-as-Hell: Horror, Dystopia and Orientalism in Anglo-American Literary Constructions of Urban Manila 1852-2011

This paper traces the development of what I term ‘the city-as-hell’, a representational trope in British and American fiction and narrative nonfiction set in Manila, the Philippines.  For Nicholas Loney and other Victorian memoirists, Manila is an impenetrably mystical space dominated by the medieval superstitions of the Roman Catholic Church; it is both scandalous and forbiddingly alien to the rational, Protestant mind. Writing after the Americans annexed the Philippines from Spain in 1898 and had established a new colonial state, later Manilaists such as the Americans Walter Robb and George A. Miller mobilise city-as-hell in order to demonstrate how far Manila has progressed from a backward, Hispanic-Catholic outpost to a modern, Protestant-American metropolis. Following the devastation of Manila in World War II, the American Christian authors John Bechtel and DeLouis Stevenson limn the city using apocalyptic images and similes; the blame for this catastrophic state of affairs, they suggest, lies with the ‘heathen’ Japanese, who have desecrated churches and other holy sites. By the 1980s and 1990s, in novels by Timothy Mo and Alex Garland, and in travelogues by James Fenton, James Hamilton-Paterson and P.J. O’Rourke, the city-as-hell has become infused with what Mary Louise Pratt calls ‘third world blues’, a signifying practice in Western travel writing that depicts non-Western ‘cityscapes’ as ‘grotesque’ and ‘joyless’ urban dystopias because they symbolise the social and political failures of societies that have freed themselves from European colonial oppression, if not from indirect influence from the American-led West.


43 Adam Teall (University of Hertfordshire)

Having recently completed my Masters in English Literature at the University of Hertfordshire, I am currently preparing a PhD proposal looking at the adaptation of dystopian and speculative fictions. My key research interest lies in the area of posthumanism, specifically when applied to literature and film. I recently presented a paper at the 9th Beyond Humanism conference in Rome, focussing on the representation of posthuman lives in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of novels.

The spectral city, posthumanism and the blurring of human boundaries in Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem

Born from Jewish folklore, The Golem is a novel, and also a creature, that is intertwined with the themes of death and consciousness. Traditionally a clay figure that makes physical the reciprocal nature of the human and the Other, in Meyrink’s text, the Golem is the result of a “spasmodic discharge” from the Ghetto of early twentieth century Prague. It embodies the city’s own consciousness; a city that is not just a character in the novel, but a spectral, vampiric character that feasts upon it’s inhabitants “vital force… at will.” Given that the Golem is also the doppelgänger of the central character, Pernath, Prague forms part of a supernatural amalgam of bodies and consciousnesses. As such, the novel, the Golem and the city are ideal for a posthuman reading.

Although most often associated with cyborgs, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, posthumanism, at heart, is concerned with exploring the boundaries of the human. N. Katherine Hayles argues that “the posthuman subject is an amalgam, a collection of heterogeneous components, a material-informational entity whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction.” The Golem, although being about as far from a mechanical being as possible, is a near perfect example of this kind of life form. It is the creation of a collective monomania, of a city. It is the physical manifestation of a kind of distributed consciousness and a desire for the perverse. I argue that Meyrink’s novel, through its use of the Golem as a supernatural being and its link with the city from which it is born, demonstrates how the cities and the places in which we live form an intrinsic part of the human whole.


44 Jillian Wingfield (University of Hertfordshire)

Jillian Wingfield is a doctoral candidate and visiting lecturer in the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire. Her doctoral research project, ‘Monsters, Dreams, and Discords: vampire fiction in twenty-first century American culture’, examines the tripartite sub-generic evolution of undead identities and the narratives they inhabit as reflectors of fear and power dynamics specific to time and place.

‘Fucking yuppies are ruining my whole neighborhood’: the psychodynamic environment in Charlie Huston’s Already Dead (2005)

As an environment for contemplating notions of degenerate behaviour patterns, the location of Charlie Huston’s Already Dead within the gateway space of New York’s Manhattan Island epitomizes Rosemary Jackson’s suggestion that the fantastic ‘is inevitably constrained by its surrounding frame.’ Huston’s narrative geography is a psychodynamic arena where nothing is what it seems, including Huston’s vampire narrator Joe Pitt, an undead P.I. – think Sam Spade with fangs – whose personal space reflects his persona and role, as well as his position as a factionally unaffiliated critical tool through whom the reader gains subjective insight into Manhattan as backdrop for a commentary on degeneracy, class, and conflict.

This island combines the urban and fantastic as a threshold for contradictions within American culture. The volume of vampires on this island – running into thousands – parallels a claustrophobic climate that, like Pitt, ‘creep[s] a little closer to the edge every day’ (277). In a space where factional tensions are exacerbated by environment, ‘yuppie’ luxury sitting alongside near dereliction. Extended descriptions of squalor – ‘busted’ streetlamps, ‘condemned’ community centres, ‘graffiti’ and ‘chained’ doors (3) – butt up against gentrified ‘soulless pits’ (57). Defying assumptions that deprived environments contain deprived/depraved inhabitants, corruption (murder, rape, incest, and the source of zombie infection) is housed in the lavish ‘Uptown’ residences (9) of ‘Manhattan’s true society’ (61). The interactions of Huston’s vampires, vampire-zombies, and humans are unsettling embodiments of the fragile veneer of civilization within this urban space. Thus, Huston’s Manhattan cityscape, as a liminal semiotic domain, is a condensed arena where dynamics of fear and power are questioned, suggesting the chaos of degeneracy is an ever-present threat that lurks amidst bright lights and affluence as easily as darkness and dereliction.