The Black Vampyre: Gothic Visions of New Worlds #BeingHuman2020

We’re excited to invite you to our forthcoming event to explore Gothic dreams of new worlds and the creatures that inhabit them, notably Mary Shelley’s plague world, John Polidori’s vampyre, the Black Vampyre, and the ghosts of World War 1.

Visit Polidori’s uncanny resting place in a virtual tour of St Pancras Old Church, in the same graveyard where Mary and Percy Shelley’s courtship found life, and contemplate Gothic new worlds via presentations and performances:

‘The Stories Are Begun’ with Marcus Sedgwick (novelist)
‘Gothic Afterworlds’ with Dr Karl Bell (historian)
‘The Romantic vampire and its Progeny’ with Dr Sam George (vampire expert)
‘Enlightenment and its Shadows’ with Dr Bill Hughes (Gothic scholar)

Discover the first black vampire in literature, inspired by Polidori, and pay homage to the famous story-writing contest at the Villa Diodati, writing Gothic flash-fiction in a workshop led by Dr Kaja Franck (literary werewolves) and Daisy Butcher (botanical gothic).

The event is free and online but you need to register and places are selling out fast. To book, please visit our Gothic Dreams of New Worlds page where you will also find resources as background to the event and an inspiration to the stories and flash fiction writing!!

OGOM is proud to launch this event at the Being Human Festival 2020 #GothicVisionsofNewWorlds

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CFPs & Events: Gothic and contagion, fantasy and theology, Vampfest, disease, Ellen Kushner

A mixture of CFPs, calls for articles, and events concerning the Gothic and the fantastic.

1. Gothic in a Time of Contagion, Populism and Racial Injustice, Online March 2021 (date to be confirmed), Simon Fraser University (SFU), Vancouver, Canada. Deadline: 31 October 2020

call for proposals for papers on how forms of the Gothic deal with the critical issues arising from racism, social injustice, populism, mass infection, and the relation of each of these to contagion in at least one of its many forms – the most pressing issues of our current moment — now and throughout world history.

2. Call for Papers: Fantasy, Theology, and the Imagination, collection edited by Austin M. Freeman, Andrew D. Thrasher, and Fotini Toso. Deadline: 15 November 2020.

In the world of High Fantasy, authors create fictional worlds that often reflect human religiosity and theological themes in new and creative ways. Through theological and religious analyses of high fantasy and fantasy series, the editors invite paper proposals for a volume on the intersection of fantasy and theology.

3. CFP for The 5th Vampire Academic Conference, 30-31 October 2020 (online), hosted by International Vampire Film and Arts Festival. Deadline: 14 September 2020.

This major interdisciplinary international conference aims to examine and expand debates around vampires in all their many aspects. We therefore invite researchers from a range of academic backgrounds to re/consider vampires as a phenomenon that reaches across multiple sites of production and consumption, from literature and film to theatre and games to music and fashion and beyond. What accounts for this Gothic character’s undying popular appeal, even in today’s postmodern, digital, commercialized world?  How does vampirism circulate within and comment upon mass culture?

4. Call for articles: Supernatural Studies, Spring 2021 Special Issue on Disease. Deadlines: 31 October.

Supernatural Studies invites submissions for a special issue, inspired by the current crisis, on supernatural engagements with disease, broadly conceived. We welcome essays that explore this theme through explicitly monstrous tropes, e.g. zombies, vampires, parasitism, haunting, and other uncanny embodiments of sickness and contagion. We also invite investigations of narratives that deploy the supernatural to engage existing cultural “maladies” that infectious diseases routinely expose and exacerbate: e.g., economic precarity, healthcare inequities, media mis/disinformation, science skepticism and denial, environmental challenges, and experiences of alienation

5. Finally, we’d like to welcome and congratulate the new Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. To launch the Centre, there will be ‘a lecture by acclaimed fantasy author Ellen Kushner, and a discussion panel on fantasy with Terri Windling, Professor Brian Attebery, and Dr Robert Maslen.’ This is an online event on 16 September 2020–use the link above to book.

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Return of the vampire: Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun and YA vampire fiction

Sam George and Bill Hughes, eds., Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013)

The Open Graves, Open Minds Project began in 2010, in part as a response to Stephenie Meyer’s hugely successful Twilight series; a Young Adult vampire romance series, the first of which was Twilight (2005). We launched the Project with an exciting conference on the role of the vampire in culture, out of which came our first edited collection, Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (2013). Since then we have explored a host of other supernatural creatures in all modes of fantastic and Gothic writing but centred upon the paranormal romance, frequently that for YA readers, and with the vampire always lurking in the background. Now, Meyer’s sparkling revenant Edward Cullen is back, with her new book, Midnight Sun, which tells the paranormal romance between the mortal Bella and Edward in the latter’s voice. The first chapters of this appeared on line in 2008 but Twilight fans have had to wait twelve years to get the full novel.

Stephenie Meyer, Midnight Sun (London: Atom, 2020)

We’ve yet to read Midnight Sun but no doubt we will be posting on it soon. In the meantime, here’s a review by Elle Hunt in The Guardian–she’s not too impressed. A more sympathetic reading appears in this discussion between two Twilight fans, Rachelle Hampton and Rebecca Onion, who come to terms with their memories of their first love of the book and the more problematic aspects that have appeared since it was published.

The release of Midnight Sun has inspired some useful articles on vampire romance. On Goodreads, there are some very interesting interviews about YA vampire romances, with Meyer herself, and with Renée Ahdieh, author of The Damned; Caleb Roehrig, author of The Fell of Dark; Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, editors of Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite. They discuss why there has been a resurgence in the genre and what directions it might take.

Vampire romance is not confined to Young Adult readers; the Times of India has some suggestions for ‘Vampire Romances To Sink Your Teeth Into‘, both YA and adult. The Tor website (always an excellent resource on fantastic fiction) has an informative article on the persistence of vampire fiction by Zoraida Córdova, ‘Vampires Never Left: A History of Vampires in Young Adult Fiction‘. This mentions some novels that I’ve not come across before and which sound very interesting.

Of course, the vampire has a history from way before Twilight. In this BBC Radio 4 broadcast, ‘Vampires in Gothic Literature‘, Greg Jenner, Dr Corin Throsby, and Ed Gamble ‘look at the role of vampires in Gothic Literature of the 19th century and the effect on modern day pop culture.’

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Gothic Hybridity: the Nature of Demons

Hybridity is something that I have always found interesting to explore in relation to the gothic. I’ve blogged about fairy tale hybridity in relation to Beauty and the Beast and commented on the Wellcome’s ‘Making Nature’ exhibition on faux taxonomy and hybrid creatures as well as responding to a BBC article on fictional and folkloric representations of hybridity: Hybrid Creatures from the Owl Man to the Demon Dog   In this post I approach hybridity via demonology for the first time.

One of the reasons why a negative view of hybridity has developed (apart from those taxonomies which outlawed anything that was not ‘pure’ stock labelling them ‘monstrous’) is because of the iconography surrounding demons. The process of cross-fertilisation can of course create something new, more than the sum of the original parts. It moves us away from notions of identity which are either/or, either one thing or another. Demons work against this positive idea of hybridity because they are shown to be flawed, malformed, and akin to the devil, and also because they are cast out and forever in a state of exile or unbelonging.

In Christianity demons have their origins in the Fallen Angels who follow Satan when he was cast out of heaven. As Christianity spread, Pagan gods, goddesses, and nature spirits were incorporated into the ranks of demons. Descriptions from antiquity portray demons as shapeshifters who can assume any form, animal or human or hybrid. Some theologians and witch hunters say that demons have no corporeal form,  and only give the illusion that they are in animal or human form (they create voices out of air that mimic people, for example).

In Judaic lore, demons are invisible, but can see themselves and each other. They cast no shadows (linking them to Dracula). They only assume bodies to copulate. In Christian lore demons assume forms that are black, such as black dogs, and other animals. Because they are evil they are imperfect, shown in flaws such as malformed limbs and cloven feet. Demons are described as unclean, if they make their bodies out of air, or occupy a living body, they exude a stench. Throughout history the activities of demons has been thought to cause illness and disease. Demons can send bad weather, pests such as armies of rats and mice and swarms of locusts. Such belief holds that humankind is in constant danger of demonic attack in some form, and constant vigilance is required. The greatest danger occurs at night when sleeping humans are at their most vulnerable, births and deaths are perilous times, as are nights on which marriages are consummated. At these times demons are better able to wreak havoc!

Demons were believed to aid witches during the inquisition, they acted as familiars, taking the form of animals, participating in sabbats. They can also assume beautiful and seductive forms, acting as sexual predators. By the C14th it was accepted that demons had sex with humans, in the form of Incubi and Succubi, or even as Satan himself. They are organised into hierarchies, according to GRIMOIRES or inquisition writings. Such magic books give the names, duties, seals, incantations and rituals around summoning and controlling demons.

The DICTIONNAIRE INFERNAL describes demons which are organised into hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There are several editions of the book; perhaps the most famous is the 1863 edition, which included illustrations by Louis Le Breton depicting the appearances of several of the demons. I am excited to say that the Bibliothèque nationale de France has scanned this book and made it available for download here

This work together with James, George Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1890) and a used copy of Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology (2009), inspired my initial interest in demons. My research is not about poltergeists or demonic possession, it is instead focused on discovering wonderfully hybrid, magical creatures. You might like to browse some of my favourites below:

MARCHOSIAS. Fallen angel and 35th of 72 Spirits of Solomon. He is a marquis ruling 30 legions of demons. He appears as a she-wolf with griffin wings and a serpent’s tail. A shapeshifter he will take human form. Once a member of the angelic order of dominions, he is set to return after 1,200 years.

ADREMLECH. A Chieften of hell. Grand Chancellor of Demons, President of the Devil’s General Council. Governor of the Devil’s Wardrobe. Often portrayed as a mule with a peacock’s tail.

ANDRAS. Fallen angel and 6rd of the 72 Spirits of Soloman. Wonderfully hybrid, he appears in the form of an owl-headed demon who rides a black wolf! He creates discord and kills his enemies with a gleaming silver sword.

AMDUSCIAS. Fallen angel 67th of the 72 Spirits of Solomon. Appears first as a unicorn. He will take on human shape but this will cause musical instruments to be heard but not seen. Trees sway at the sound of his voice  He gives humans the power to make trees fall and he gives excellent familiars!

HALPAS. Fallen angel and demon. He is an Earl who appears in the form of a giant female stork and speaks with a croaky voice. He burns whole towns and takes a sword to the wicked. He rules over 26 legions of Hell.

BAAL. Fertility deity now a fallen angel and demon. 1st of the 72 Spirits of Solomon. A King ruling 66 legions of demons. He is triple-headed with a cat, human and toad head. He can bestow the gift of invisibility and wisdom.

GAAP. Fallen angel and 33rd of the 72 Spirits of Solomon. Prince in Hell, ruling 66 legions of demons. Humanlike, with huge bat wings, he can make you insentient or move you from place to place. Takes familiars away from magicians!

OGOM presented a panel entitled ‘Gothic Hybridities: Ambiguous Creatures and Ambivalent Morals’ at the IGA conference in Manchester in July 2018. OGOM research into the hybrid nature of demons has been further disseminated via our #GothicHybridity hashtag and #DemonoftheDay

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CFPs: Hans Andersen, fairy tales, The Vampire Diaries

Despite everything, research goes on and there are some calls for submissions here that have come to our attention.

1. The Swan’s Egg: A Student Journal of Hans Christian Andersen Studies. Deadline: 15 January 2021

The editors of The Swan’s Egg invite submissions for the journal’s first issue. Essays on Hans Christian Andersen by undergraduate, MA, and PhD students written in English or in Danish are welcome, and should be around 4,000 words in length.

2. Gramarye, The Chichester Centre for Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction. Deadline: 21 September 2020.

The Chichester Centre for Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction seeks articles, book reviews and creative writing relating to literary and historical approaches to fairy tales, fantasy, Gothic, magic realism, science fiction and speculative fiction for Gramarye, its peer-reviewed journal published by the University of Chichester.

3. Critically Reading The Vampire Diaries, edited collection. Deadline: 14 August 2020.

This call for papers reaches out to scholars interested in working on interpretations of the CBS series The Vampire Diaries. This American supernatural teen drama features a diverse set of characters, both dead and undead, while touching on topics such as friendship, romance, adulthood, as well as depression, and aging. So far, no book length work has dealt with this complex series, and it is our aim to publish an in-depth analysis consisting of 10-11 chapters that offer critical and creative readings of this series

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Congratulations, Prof. Sam George!

Prof. Sam George at the Polidori symposium, 6-7 April 2019, Keats House, Hampstead

It is with great pleasure that I announce the promotion of Sam George to Associate Professorship. I’ve known Sam for many years and for the last ten we have worked together founding and developing the Open Graves, Open Minds Project.

Sam began her academic vocation with research into the ambivalent production and reception of eighteenth-century women’s writing on botany; this was her PhD thesis and culminated in her monograph Botany, Sexuality and Women’s Writing, 1760-1830: From Modest Shoot to Forward Plant (MUP, 2007).

She then turned her attention to the literary vampire, particularly in Young Adult fiction, and has published research on that, notably in our edited collection Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (MUP, 2013) and the special issue of Gothic Studies, 15.1 (May 2013). This research has fed productively into her teaching, culminating in the first MA module devoted to the vampire, ‘Reading the Vampire: Science, Sexuality and Alterity in Modern Culture’.

Sam’s research (and that of the OGOM Project) broadened to embrace other veins of Gothic and fabulous narrative, fostered by her many public talks and the conferences for which she was a driving organisational force. Thus the 2015 Company of Wolves conference addressed wolves, werewolves, and the wild children associated with them, resulting in our latest book, In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children (MUP, 2020). This is reflected, too, in Sam’s undergraduate module, ‘Generation Dead: Young Adult Fiction and the Gothic’. Sam has cultivated younger researchers, supervising the PhDs of Drs Kaja Franck, Jillian Wingfield, and Matt Beresford, and currently Daisy Butcher.

Sam’s current research is exploring Gothic fairies, with the prospect of a book on the topic (see, too, our forthcoming ‘Ill met by moonlight’ conference). She is also formulating ideas towards an ethical Gothic; this is included in an impact case study for REF entitled ‘Open Graves, Open Minds: Promoting empathy and interrogating difference through public engagement with Gothic narratives’ and there will be a symposium and publications. And she is conducting an investigation into the cultural significance of the shadow, which will bear fruit as her next monograph, In the Kingdom of Shadows; Optics, Dark Folklore and the Gothic.

I am very proud of what Sam has achieved with OGOM; it has been immensely rewarding to work with her and it is wonderful that her work has been recognised in this way.

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Resources: Fairies, fairy tales, YA and children’s literature, preternature

We’ve added some useful links to various resources from the website. These appear in the Related Links and Journals sections on the right-hand side of the Blog and Resources pages.

The International Fairy-Tale Filmography is a fantastic database of film adaptations of fairy tales.

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index–the standard way of classifying folk tales–is on line.

We now have a link to The Fairy Investigation Society website.

There is a link to the newly-formed YA Studies Association–we wish them all the best on their exciting new project!

We’ve added a link under Journals to the new journal Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural.

There’s also a link to the Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies journal’s website.

And, finally, a link to The Lion and the Unicorn, the journal of children’s literature.

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Links for talks and interviews: In the Company of Wolves, Vampires

We’ve added some new links to the website for online talks and so on.

I have a short talk for Manchester University Press, describing our In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children book. A link to this has been added to the page for the book.

We also have created a new page for general online talks and interviews under the Resources menu. Here, you can find my recent interview with Brian from Toothpickings on vampires and werewolves, the folklore of these creatures and its transmutation into literature.

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The Folklore Society Announces a New President

Congratulations to Prof. Owen Davies who has just become the new President of The Folklore Society. The Folklore Society is a learned society devoted to the study of traditional culture in all its forms. It was founded in London in 1878 and was one of the first organisations established in the world for the study of folklore.

Owen, a historian with expertise in witchcraft, magic and ghosts, is my mentor and esteemed colleague at the University of Hertfordshire; he’s a long standing friend of OGOM. We are excited to announce that he will be joining us for our fairy conference ‘Ill Met by Moonlight’ 8-10 April, 2021. His plenary talk is entitled ‘Print Grimoires, Spirit Conjuration, and the Democratisation of Learned Magic’. We wish Owen success and happiness in his new role and look forward to future collaborations.  

We recommend taking a look at Owen’s long list of publications. His most recent works include the Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic (2017); a Wellcome Trust-funded Open Access book with Francesca Matteoni entitled Executing Magic in the Modern Era: Criminal Bodies and the Gallows in Popular Medicine (2017); and a new major monograph for OUP, A Supernatural Struggle: Magic, Divination and Faith during the First World War (2018).

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Review: CoronaGothic Conference, 30 June 2020, University of Macau Gothic

Dr Joan Passey has written an excellent review of the recent online CoronaGothic conference organised by the Gothic Research Network at the University of Macau in China. Sam’s earlier post with further details of the conference and the paper she presented is here.

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