One of the emails I received over the holiday period was an invitation to be a plenary speaker at an interdisciplinary symposium at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London, which will explore the representation of forests and their more sinister inhabitants within the context of popular culture. I am already excited about this as it bridges the gap between my two areas of research i.e. botany/natural history and the gothic. I am going to be presenting something on a dark arboreal theme!
The location will be stunning as the symposium is taking place in the drawing room of Horace Walpole’s Gothic mansion in Strawberry Hill. Delegates will discuss the forest as context and as the subject of horror in popular culture. As such the symposium will feature discussions of arboreal horrors and forest creatures. Crossing national and social boundaries, the world’s forests and jungles offer sinister, primeval experiences of horror. Whether they be our shelter and safe-haven or the domain of malevolent spirits and sprites, forests have the capacity to horrify and threaten those that venture into them without permission. Human interference has continually threatened forests across the world, yet this threat is reversed in myth and folklore. We seem all too willing to grant our forests malevolence, yet it is increasingly our responsibility to take care of and preserve these ancient realms.
Proposals are invited for The Beasts of the Forest: Denizens of the Dark Woods Conference, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London, UK, July 2017 (date tbc).
Topics for presentations might address, but are not limited to:
- Ecocriticism: deforestation and extinction as textual themes
- Forest fears and found footage films: The Blair Witch and beyond
- Fairylands: malevolent spirits, sprites and fairyfolk in popular culture
- New England Gothic and forbidden woods: H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King and the legacy of the Puritans
- Hunting Bigfoot, evolution of the ‘squatchers’
- Representations of the forest as monstrous entity
- Forests and the full moon: wolves, lycanthropy and madness,
- Forests as horror context and lair in creature features
- Forests and jungles in popular music
- Witches and warlocks of the forest
- Tolkien’s forests in film, games and animation
- Forests in Disney
- Forest creatures in PSB: BBC natural history as emblem of cultural value
- Social Class and hillbilly horror