OGOM People

OGOM Core Team

Dr Sam George is Associate Professor in Research at the University of Hertfordshire and Co-Convenor of the Open Graves Open Minds project alongside Dr Bill Hughes. Following OGOM’s international conference on vampires in 2010, Sam developed the first postgraduate module on vampire studies in the UK, ‘Reading the Vampire’, exciting the interest of the national and international press. She is now a leading spokesperson for the literary vampire. Her interviews have appeared in newspapers from The Guardian and The Independent to the Sydney Morning Herald, The South China Post, and the Wall Street Journal. She’s a regular contributor to The Conversation, amassing 261,802 reads for her lively and unusual articles on vampires, werewolves and fairies.

Her work with the Open Graves, Open Minds project has led to a number of co-edited publications with Dr Bill Hughes: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (2012); In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children (2020); The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic Vampire and its Progeny (2024) and the forthcoming collection ‘Ill met by moonlight’: Gothic Encounters with Enchantment and the Faerie Realm in Literature and Culture.Sam also co-edited the first ever issue of Gothic Studies on ‘Vampires’ with Bill Hughes in 2013 (15.1) and ‘Werewolves’ in 2019 (21.1), together with a Gothic Fairies issue of the journal Gramarye (22) in 2022.

Having published on British werewolves in the journal of Gothic Studies and Japanese mermaids in the Critical Quarterly (the journal’s most downloaded article), she is focusing her new research on the intersection between folklore and the Gothic. Sam is completing a monograph on The Folklore of the Shadow in Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fiction: Runaway Reflections, Sentient Shades and Lost Souls and planning a book on Gothic Fairies: A History for Bloomsbury. She has been researching America’s first Black Vampyre, in an anti-slavery text written in 1819, and writing up her research on Polidori and the vampire theatre.

Sam has a background in literature and science. Inspired by the eighteenth-century botanist Tournefort, who voyaged in search of plants and found instead a plague of vampires on the island of Mykonos (1702), her research has taken a Gothic turn. Following the publication of Botany, Sexuality and Women’s Writing (2007), her contribution to New York Botanical Garden’s Poetic Botany exhibition and the co-editorship of Women and Botany (2011), she researches botany alongside the Gothic, leading to OGOM’s research strand on #botanicalgothic in collaboration with Daisy Butcher.    

Elsewhere she is leading an Impact Case Study on ethical Gothic. ‘Open Graves, Open Minds: Promoting empathy and interrogating difference through public engagement with Gothic narratives’. Through this she has increased public awareness of how Gothic narratives can challenge perceptions of otherness and difference, helping to combat prejudice and hate crime through her work with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and has used her research into folklore and myth to promote ecological conservation, working with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust to help inform public perceptions of wolves. She is also completing an AHRC funded impact project on Gothic Tourism: John William Polidori and St Pancras Old Church.  

Her unusual area of research has brought her many opportunities for public engagement and media, from appearances at London Month of the Dead, the Edinburgh Festival and Living Frankenstein, to guesting on the BBC World Service’s ‘The Forum’ on Draculaandthe BFI’s Blood and Celluloid Festival. She recently recorded an obituary of the Gothic writer Anne Rice for BBC Radio 4’s Last Word, and appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking on Varney the Vampire. She was a guest on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time for Radio 4 on John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’. She is active on social media building up 32K followers @DrSamGeorge1 for an account that uses Gothic literature and folklore to re-enchant the world after the confines of Lockdown.  

Sam teaches Gothic Romanticism together with a module on Generation Dead Young Adult Fiction and the Gothic. She currently has 5 PhD students (OGOM PhD Research) and she’s always interested to hear from prospective students who are wanting to undertake research in the Gothic (Email s.george [@] herts.ac.uk).

Dr Bill Hughes is Co-Convenor, with Dr Sam George, of the Open Graves, Open Minds Project. He is co-editor (with Dr George) of Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present (Manchester: MUP, 2013); In the Company of Wolves: Wolves, Werewolves, and Wild Children (Manchester: MUP, 2020); The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic Vampire and its Progeny (Manchester: MUP, 2024); ‘Ill met by moonlight’: Gothic Encounters with Enchantment and the Faerie Realm in Literature and Culture (forthcoming). He has also co-edited (with Dr George again) the special issues of Gothic Studies on vampires and werewolves and the special issue of Gramarye on Gothic Faery.

Bill has a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Sheffield. He has publications out or forthcoming on communicative reason and the interrelation of the dialogue genre and English novels of the long eighteenth century. Bill has also published on Richard Hoggart, and intertextuality and the Semantic Web. He is currently researching contemporary paranormal romance and Young Adult Gothic from the perspectives of formalism, genre, and Critical Theory. Publications from this research embrace YA romances of vampires, zombies, and werewolves; fairy fiction; and Angela Carter’s beast tales, This apparently disparate research is not unfocused; it has at its core concerns with the Enlightenment as viewed through the Frankfurt School and the Marxist tradition.

Email: bill.enlightenment [@] gmail.com

Twitter: @BillBloodyHughe

Humanities Commons: https://hcommons.org/members/billhughes/

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1557-9460

Dr Kaja Franck is a lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire. She is working on her first monograph, The Ecogothic Werewolf in Literature: Wolves, Woods and Wilderness, based on her PhD research supervised by Dr Sam George and funded through a bursary from the Open Graves, Open Minds project. During her time as an OGOM member, she has helped organise multiple conferences, including the Company of Wolves (2015), the Urban Weird (2018), and Ill Met by Moonlight (2022).

Chapters from her research on YA werewolves and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight have appeared in the OGOM publications In the Company of Wolves (University of Manchester Press, 2020) and The Legacy of John William Polidori (University of Manchester Press, 2024). Other publications include a chapter in Dracula in Werewolves, Wolves and the Gothic (University of Wales Press, 2017), ‘Contemporary Werewolves’, co-authored with Sam George, in Twenty-First-Century Gothic (2019), a chapter on wilderness in The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic (Edinburgh University Press, 2020), and a forthcoming chapter on eco-Gothic trolls.

She is currently supervising Harley Tillotson’s PhD project at UH on eco-Gothic faeries. Outside of OGOM, her latest research project, Danse Macabre, explores the Gothic quality of dance, and her other interests include trolls, the eco-Gothic, and shark horror.

Twitter: @KajaFranck

Daisy Butcher is a doctoral scholar and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. She is currently finishing her thesis, which focuses on fertility symbolism surrounding representations of plant-women and female mummies in nineteenth-century literature. She is particularly interested in female monstrosity and body horror in literature, film, and TV. She has presented at many national and international conferences and served as a visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. She has also published book chapters on the monstrous feminine, and has edited anthologies for the British Library Tales of the Weird series: Evil Roots: Killer Tales of the Botanical Gothic (2019) and co-edited Crawling Horror: Creeping Tales of the Insect Weird (2021).

PhD Title: Blooms, Tombs and Wombs: The Plant-Woman and Female Mummy as Monsters of (In)fertility in Victorian Gothic Literature

Funding: OGOM PhD bursary, Department of English Literature, University of Hertfordshire

Supervisor: Daisy is supervised by Dr Sam George.

OGOM Research Students

Shabnam Ahsan is a final year PhD student at the Department of English, University of Hertfordshire. Her project is on colonialism, postcolonialism, and national identity in British fairytales. Her research interests include difference and otherness in children’s literature, British South Asian voices in literature, and postcolonial diaspora identities. Shabnam is also a creative writer and poet and has published work in anthologies produced by Bradford Libraries and Nottingham Writer’s Studio. She has had her work exhibited as part of Leeds2023 and runs writing workshops for young people in West Yorkshire.

PhD title: From Coloniality to Postcoloniality in British Fairy tales: 1880-present

Funding: BAME Student Scholarship, Department of English Literature, University of Hertfordshire

Supervisor: Shabnam is supervised by Dr Sam George (Primary Supervisor) and Dr Andrew Maunder.

Jane Gill is a doctoral student at the University of Hertfordshire. Her PhD examines the monstrous feminine in nineteenth-century literature from an eco-Gothic perspective.  Her research interests include nautical Gothic, botanical Gothic, gender in the nineteenth century, and the eco-Gothic. She receives a bursary which affiliates her to the Open Graves, Open Minds Project (OGOM), led by Sam George and Bill Hughes, which explores the fantastic, the folkloric, and the magical, and emphasises Gothic enchantment. Jane will be contributing via symposia and events and by writing research posts on aspects of nautical and botanical Gothic.

PhD Title: The Monstrous Feminine: A Female Gothic Perspective on the Lamia and Soucoyant Archetypes in Literature 1820-2000

Funding: OGOM PhD bursary from the English Department, University of Hertfordshire

Supervisor: Jane is supervised by Dr Sam George (Primary Supervisor) and Dr Justin Sausman

Harley Tillotson is a PhD student at the University of Hertfordshire. Her interest in the Gothic, fairy tales, and folkloric creatures originated in the undergraduate module ‘ Generation Dead: Young Adult Fiction and the Gothic’ (led by Sam George). Her Dissertation focused on fairy-tale retelling and Gothic-ness in Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird (2013). Her interest in fairy tales led to her taking the MA in Folklore Studies, where her focus was on the representation of selkies, mermaids, and water spirits within folklore and popular culture. Her learning experiences at the university have fed into her PhD topic on YA fairy fiction and an exploration of contemporary environmental issues through an eco-Gothic lens. 

PhD Title: Ecology in YA Fairy Fiction: Eco-Gothic Approaches to Contemporary Environmental Issues

Funding: OGOM PhD bursary, Department of English Literature, University of Hertfordshire

Supervisor: Harley is supervised by Dr Kaja Franck (Primary Supervisor) and Dr Sam George.