The Open Graves, Open Minds Project began by unearthing depictions of the vampire and the undead in literature, art, and other media, then embraced werewolves (and representations of wolves and wild children), fairies, and other supernatural beings and their worlds. The Project extends to all narratives of the fantastic, the folkloric, and the magical, emphasising that sense of Gothic as enchantment rather than simply horror. Through this, OGOM is articulating an ethical Gothic, cultivating moral agency and creating empathy for the marginalised, monstrous or othered, including the disenchanted natural world.
I am delighted to announce that I will be speaking at the Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic in Todmorden, Yorkshire on 6th August. My new research is specifically focussed on the intersection between folklore and the gothic, and this is reflected in recent articles on topics ranging from British werewolves to Japanese mermaids. I am currently completing a monograph on the folklore of shadows and planning a book on Gothic Fairies: A History for Bloomsbury. For this talk I return to the topic that earned me the title of ‘Coffin Boffin’ on social media (vampires of course), only this time I build on research that featured in Older Than Dracula: In Search of the English Vampire and explore the folkloric vampire and its legacy in all its glory and horror.
‘The Folkloric Vampire and its English Progeny: Wharram Percy to Croglin and Beyond’ takes place at 16.00 on 6th August 2022 at the Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic, Todmorden. You can book via the Centre’s event pages here. Tickets cost 6.00 with the proceeds going to the Folklore Centre. Thanks to Holly Elsdon at the Centre for this stunning poster referencing the vampiric fairies that will also feature in the talk! I hope to see some of you in God’s own country (Yorkshire), which I am now lucky enough to call my home:-)
It’s a lively discussion on the first fictional vampire. And there’s a reading list and related links. I hope you enjoy it. OGOM’s latest book, The Legacy of John William Polidori: The Romantic Vampyre and its Progeny will be out soon.
2022 is the YEAR of the VAMPIRE!! 100 years of Nosferatu, 125 years of Dracula, 150 years of Carmilla, 175 of Varney the Vampire, 25 years of Buffy and many more. OGOM has a special focus on vampire studies, so this is a very significant and important year. The project has already celebrated the Nosferatu Centenary with a wonderful symposium, Nosferatu at 100: The Vampire as Contagion (see our Twitter moment here) and we are planning another top-secret vampire event in October with the founder of modern vampire studies (all will be revealed). You can now view our celebratory page on The Year of the Vampire with a click-through gallery of vampires celebrating their anniversaries in 2022 (there are quite a few).
We have also designed a special Vampire Timeline and searchable Chronology of the Vampire for all gothic scholars and followers of OGOM. This timeline shows key texts (literary, cinematic, and TV) and events in the evolution of cultural representations of the vampire. We have chosen items that are the most significant or that we consider particularly interesting. Click on the left and right arrows to move through the vampire’s history. We will be continually updating this resource and we’re open to suggestions. Also new to the website is a Vampire Bibliography of secondary reading which we’ll update regularly with new vampire related material. (We will also be creating timelines and bibliographies for other OGOM topics.)
I was very honoured to be invited by Emily Paterson-Morgan of The Byron Society (@EPatersonMorgan) to give my talk, ‘Rebellion, treachery, and glamour: Lady Caroline Lamb’s Glenarvon and the Byronic vampire’. It’s an expanded version of the talk I gave for our Polidori Symposium in 2019 and will also form part of a chapter in our forthcoming book for Manchester University Press, The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic Vampire and its Progeny. I discussed the politics and form of Lamb’s Gothic novel and roman à clef (a fabulous novel which deserves more attention) and its relation to the later Gothic Romances and the Paranormal Romances of our own time, particularly in regard to the brooding, dangerous, vampiric lover modelled on Byron.
Sam and I had a lovely evening with the friendly and appreciative guests and members of the society. (Pictures courtesy of Emily via her Tweets.)
Some exciting events coming up! Some alluring vampire-themed material here, too, with what looks an intriguing contemporary dance adaptation of Dracula, and a festival of vampire films, discussed by Prof. Stacey Abbott, who has collaborated with OGOM from the beginning. In addition, I’ve added a link on our Resources page to the discussion featuring Dr Sam George on John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’, on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time.
We are delighted to welcome a number of speakers in the fields of Gothic and Romantic studies, to discuss their research and other wider issues relating to postgraduate and postdoctoral study. We will be hosting a Research Panel, which will focus closely on the work of two Gothic scholars, and an ECR and Career Development Panel, which will look more at the process of thesis submission and possible career avenues for Gothic and Romantic researchers.
Bram Stoker classic inspires a show that covers the starkest paths of evilness. The myth of Dracula, one of the most sinister characters in universal literature history, is developed now with new conceptual and plastic contributions. The work explores new languages from an imaginative and enigmatic world in a mystical atmosphere full of pain, hallucination and loss.
This year’s festival features a retrospective of some of the best vampire films of the past 100 years, from Nosferatu right up to modern classic Blade. Our Dundead festival programmer Michael Coull caught up with Professor and writer Stacey Abbott to find out more about the horror sub-genre and get her thoughts on our fang-tastic line-up…
The BFS currently publishes two periodicals. BFS Horizons is a paperback journal of fiction, poetry and art. BFS Journal is now devoted to non-fiction: interviews, academic articles, reviews and features.
A sequel to the Queering Fantastika issue, this is an open call for papers for a special issue of Fantastika Journal which will explore the queer side of Arthurian tales, adaptations, and fan-works including any and all media, whether directly adapting or only alluding to Camelot and Grail narratives. This issue will present a multivalent approach and is seeking both critical and critical practice-based research on this subject.
Melvyn Bragg and guests [OGOM’s Dr Sam George, Prof. Nick Groom, Prof. Martyn Rady] discuss the influential novella of John Polidori (1795-1821) published in 1819 and attributed first to Lord Byron (1788-1824) who had started a version of it in 1816 at the Villa Diodati in the Year Without A Summer.
Dr Bill Hughes is at The Byron Society to give a talk that develops the ideas he first presented at OGOM’s 2019 symposium, ‘Some curious disquiet’: Polidori, the Byronic vampire, and its progeny (this will also be expanded upon in our forthcoming book The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic Vampyre and its Progeny (2022)). He will be tracing the progress of the Romantic vampire as political rebel through Lady Caroline Lamb’s Gothic novel Glenarvon, John Polidori’s The Vampyre, and their descendants in Gothic Romance and contemporary paranormal romance.
How can vampires help us heal? In the 125th anniversary year of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this interdisciplinary project examines the continuing history of the vampire from the 19th century to the present, exploring how the vampire can function as a cultural figure of recovery, community, and regeneration.
It has been a decade and a half since the last period of sustained work exploring the ways in which gothic literature is, and might be, taught in the classroom. This symposium seeks to renew this important critical discussion. It invites contributions that explore the richness, value, and complexities of pedagogy that situates the careful scrutiny of gothic literature at its heart.
This special issue attempts to systematize and formalize the study of folk horror, a subgenre whose meteoric rise (or return?) to popularity in the past ten years or so raises critical questions relating to rurality, “traditional” cultures, nationalism, and place, among others.
This Special Issue seeks to examine adaptations of the Gothic in all forms, from the novel to the short story, chapbooks and serialized publications. It will explore the recycling of essential elements of the Gothic as a sign of activity and innovation rather than monotony and stagnation. The recycling of the Gothic, whether specific motifs and characterizations or stories themselves, reveals continual interest and engagement between the author and the reader. This distinction is important not only because it allows recycling to be seen as crucial to the growth and sustainability of the Gothic, but also because it allows the Gothic tradition to continue to be viewed in the larger context of evolving discourses.
8. Event: Gothic Women Today: A Public Humanities Panel for Early Career Researchers, 17:00BST / 9:00PST, 14 April 2022
Do you want to share your knowledge of Gothic women writers with the world? Do you analyze the latest Gothic films according to 18C genre conventions? Do you want to meet like-minded fans and scholars of women’s writing beyond your university? Then join our discussion of how we can engage with the field of Public Humanities in this panel for early career (and beyond!) researchers. Hear Dr. Kim Simpson (Chawton House), Dr. Corin Throsby (Cambridge), Dr. Courtney Floyd and Dr. Eleanor Dumbill (Victorian Scribblers), and Dr. Sarah Faulkner (U of Washington) speak about their work bringing Gothic women writers alive and to the people.
“Goblin mode” is taking the current pandemic-ridden world by storm. This state of being is defined by behaviours that feel reminiscent of deep lockdown days – never getting out of bed, never changing into real clothes, grazing from tins or packets instead of cooking, binge watching television and doom-scrolling.
Goblin mode appears to be a reaction to the early pandemic emphasis on home and personal improvement – a “devil may care” attitude in the face of hyper-curated social media content. But this behaviour does not quite align with the goblins of folklore, who take a more playful and mischievous approach to life.
British writer and folklorist Katharine Briggs’s Dictionary of Fairies informs us that goblin is a “general name for evil and malicious spirits, usually small and grotesque in appearance”. Interestingly, the word goblin evolved to refer to a subterranean species – not far off from those who languish indoors during lockdown. But that’s where the similarities end.
There are many variants of goblin, with different characteristics, from the Highland fuath to the English goblin and the French gobelin. Today, the term goblin encompasses any fairy with an injurious intent, such as Knockers, Phookas, Spriggans, Trolls or Trows.
Goblin behaviour can range from mild pranks to acts of outright terror. A goblin is seldom welcomed, even by its own kind. Goblins are certainly a menace in the home. According to mythology expert Theresa Bane, “a house goblin, will work against the family living there, making their life more difficult by banging on pots and pans, knocking on doors and walls and rearranging items in the house”.
In British and German lore, they can shapeshift, and will typically take the form of whatever animal best reflects their beastlike nature. This aspect of goblin lore is represented in Christina Rossetti’s 1862 poem Goblin Market:
One had a cat’s face, one whisked a tail, one tramped at a rat’s pace, one crawled like a snail. One like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry, one like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
This Victorian poem is an early example of goblins behaving badly. They stand in for predatory corrupting males, using forbidden faerie fruits to lure female victims to their doom. Most goblins depicted in literature and folklore are active, playing pranks and generally causing trouble for the humans around them. They do not sit passively at home, surrounded by creature comforts, lazing the day away.
The “goblin mode” trend might even be seen to malign certain goblins. Hobgoblins, for example, are helpful and well-disposed towards humankind, if sometimes mischievous and tricksy. Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one such character. Like all hobgoblins, he’s a shapeshifter, and also performs labours for humans, much like the brownie, a house spirit known for its helpfulness.
A closer look at the goblins of folklore tells us that goblin mode might be somewhat of a misnomer. There is, however, another mythical creature whose characteristics are more fitting for this time period – the vampire.
Vampires have long been associated with disease and contagion. This characterisation draws in part from Dracula, but it also feeds on wider fears and collective obsessions around networks of contagion and contamination.
The 1922 film Nosferatu came out shortly after the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which killed more people worldwide than the first world war. The word Nosferatu is similar to the Greek word nosforos, meaning “plague bearer”. He even looks like a plague rat, with fangs set at the front of his mouth like the vermin he brings in his wake.
But over the last 200 years, Vampires in popular culture have evolved from plague-ridden creatures like Nosferatu to sparkling, aspirational sex symbols. Instead of holing up and resigning to a fate forever in goblin mode, we should follow the example set by vampires and aim to emerge from the pandemic as better versions of ourselves.
The Cullen family from the book and movie franchise Twilight is the best representation of this dramatic shift. They are attractive, cool, youthful and partake in normal human social behaviour like going to school and dating – a far cry from plague-bearing, sickly Nosferatu. Repulsion cedes to attraction as horror gives way to romance. Goblins by comparison, are unlikely romantic leads, they’re not sexy – or aspirational.
Modern vampires also have an association with youthful culture that could be refreshing after two years of pandemic-induced hibernation. The film Lost Boys, in which Kiefer Sutherland’s undead crew inhabits a fashionably grungy underground domain, was released with the strapline “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die”. This would be an appropriate post-lockdown motto. It’s time we stopped languishing like goblins and started flourishing as newly born vampires.
Those of you who follow Helen Nde’s brilliant @MythicAfricans posts on Twitter will be pleased to know she has set up the Mythological Africans website as an excellent resource for the many divers mythological and folkloric traditions in Africa. We’ve set up a Related Link to this on the right-hand column of our Blog and Resources pages so that you can conveniently access it among the other useful links we have there
3. Mapping the Impossible: Journal of Fantasy Research
A new online journal has just emerged: Mapping the Impossible: Journal of Fantasy Research, affiliated to the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic. It is an open-access student journal publishing peer-reviewed research into fantasy and the fantastic. We’ve added a link to our list of relevant journals (again, on the right-hand column of the Blog and Resources pages) and we wish them best of luck in this new venture.
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love,” writes Daphne du Maurier in her 1938 domestic Gothic novel Rebecca. But to look at Rebecca’s legacy is to see the fever of love for the story itself happen over and over again. Its influences on the 20th century domestic gothic and 21st century domestic noir literary genres have been well documented [. . .] This symposium will be held on Friday 27th May at Sussex University, aiming to explore these questions and beyond through examinations of du Maurier’s novel and its legacy: its feverish first love, its second wives, and its haunting, ghostly imprint on popular culture.
Online Event: Saturday, 12 March 2022, 10.00 – 14.35 GMT
2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the release of F. W. Murnau’s classic vampire film, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. The Open Graves, Open Minds Project are hosting an online event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this film, which premiered in March 1922. We will have talks by the leading scholars of vampire and Gothic film, Prof. Stacey Abbott, Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes, Dr Sam George, and the novelist Marcus Sedgwick, with concluding addresses by Prof. Ken Gelder and Dr Bill Hughes. There will be opportunities for all attendees to ask questions of the panel and join in discussion. There will also be a vampiric flash fiction writing competition for those who are feeling creative.