Session Speakers and Abstracts

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

2. Marita Arvaniti (University of Glasgow)

Marita Arvaniti is a PhD student in the University of Glasgow. Her research examines the lasting effect theatre has had in the birth and evolution of contemporary fantasy literature. Her other research interests include folk horror, fairy tales and ballads, and the works of authors and editors such as Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, Terri Windling, and Helen Oyeyemi. She holds a BA in Theatre Studies from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens and an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow. She is a member of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, and a part of the organisational committee for Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations (GIFCon). She can be reached at m.arvaniti.1@research.gla.ac.uk or on twitter at @excaliburedpan.

Beware perfection unremarked: Fairy enchantment and human art in Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin and Kat Howard’s Roses and Rot

The ballad of ‘Tam Lin’ has offered inspiration to writers of the fantastic for many decades, presenting readers with both a glimpse of Faerie as a sinister and seductive otherworld and a promise that humans can and do prevail against its enchantments and glamour. Indeed, despite the ballad’s many transformations through the decades, that element of human defiance against Faerie’s more menacing incarnations remains present throughout all of the ballad’s different retellings. In Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin (1991) and Kat Howard’s Roses and Rot (2016) that contest between fairy glamour and human free will is initially played out on the theatre stage, and the characters of the novels get to perform their defiance before it is made real. This self-referential play-acting harkens back to the long history of theatre and fairies, and the timeless association of theatre and the Gothic, placing the works firmly in an intertextual web of works and narratives spanning back centuries and encompassing the works of William Shakespeare, Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees, and William Butler Yeats. By analysing the use of the theatrical performances presented in the aforementioned ‘Tam Lin’ retellings, this paper will explore the deeper connection between the uniquely human tradition of theatre and performance and the world of fae enchantment, centring the importance of theatre in the wider context of ‘Gothic Faerie’.

 

3. Nell Aubrey (UCL

Nell Aubrey is a Historian with degrees in History and Medieval Studies and Post-Graduate Interdisciplinary Research Fellowships in Pharmacology and Medical Anthropology. She is completing a Doctorate on Late Antique Psychopathology and Demonology and has taught University courses on Early Medieval Europe, Mythology and Folklore. Her recent article on Wilderness Folklore was published in The Psychology of Religion and Place (ed. Counted & Watts, 2019) and her first short story will be published this Christmas. She has given a series of workshops exploring the Botanical background of Ancient and Medieval Medicine and Magic, and the Folklore and traditions behind Seasonal festivals, at the Story Garden, St Pancras, where she is ‘Witch in Residence’.

Elf-shot and petrified; Scary fairies and predatory landscapes

In modern parlance, to be ‘away with the fairies’, indicates a state of daydreaming or musing, a fate considerably less dangerous than its original meaning: being ‘spirited away’ by the fairies, at great risk to both body and soul. That the phrase is used to describe mental dislocation or dissociation, temporary or pathological, (as in its use in Camilla Bruce’s novel You let me In) reflects the lengthy association between ‘superstitious’ beliefs and mental frailty, preached by many a lofty rational thinker. Similarly, belief traditions tied to specific landscapes have historically been explained away as remnants of ‘primitive’ thought or survivals of ancient religions, often ignoring the dynamic and fluid place of folklore within the specific societies themselves, and the ethnographic research showing how vital survival and social information is encoded within narrative traditions. The Supernatural topography expressed within folklore frequently reflects wider cosmological ecologies in which intrinsic dangers are localized. The risk posed by intrusion into the domain of powerful otherworldly forces is a unifying element of experiences with all manner of ambiguous or threatening entities; fairies, elves, ghosts, goblins, trolls and monsters of all kinds. Modern eco-Gothic and horror fiction, in which Landscape features as a frequently hostile antagonist, often draws heavily on those hostile supernatural encounters long enshrined within local lore. In this paper I will examine Medieval and Early Modern European folklore traditions in tandem with religious, medical and magical sources and the wider cultural milieu of ethnographic records, to discuss the negotiation of pre-industrial landscapes fraught with physical and spiritual dangers, and explore how belief traditions map Supernatural dramatis personae onto landscapes, creating meaning-laden topographies and salient interweaves between Worldly and Otherworldly domains.

 

4. Dr Jen Baker (University of Warwick)

Dr Jen Baker is a Teaching Fellow in C19th and C20th Literature at the University of Warwick, an accredited Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and an Early Career Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath. She is currently working on her first monograph, Spectral Embodiments of Child Death in the Long Nineteenth Century, which is under contract with Edinburgh University Press. She has published on a range of material relating to ‘the child’ figure, and the Gothic. Forthcoming are a chapter on pronouns, agency and child death in a collection on Gender and the Supernatural in Victorian short fiction with Avenel Press, another on pseudo-guardians in Women’s Ghost Stories for an upcoming issue of Women’s Writing, and another on ‘The Revenant Child’ in the forthcoming Palgrave Gothic Handbook vol.2, edited by Clive Bloom. More info: https://hcommons.org/members/drjenbaker/

Precious commodities: Children, fairy-folk, and the cult of death in the nineteenth century

This paper will examine the way in which British, Irish, and imported European folklores in the long nineteenth century recorded transcribed and collected traditions and imagery concerning the protection of the child’s soul, or explanations for untimely child death, and the relationship of these events with the fairy-folk and tales of changelings in particular. It considers how the “cult of child death” of the period influenced the linguistic choices and framing of these folklores and looks at publication contexts and modes of replication and dissemination to consider the audiences and social spread of such imagery. The paper then considers how, in turn, infant elegies, ghost stories, fairy tales, poetry, frequently turned to the fairy world to manage grief and the unspeakable in the case of child death. Furthermore, how even depictions of the child in life were consistently connected with visions of potential death through the figure of the fairy. Examples will vary from folkloric compendiums such as William J. Thoms, Lays and Legends of Various Nations (1834), William Bottrell’s Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall (1873); Wirt Sikes, British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy-myth, Legends and Traditions (1880); Lady Wilde’s Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland (1887); and folklore periodicals, short stories by Sheridan Le Fanu, Frances Hodgson Burnett, consolations manuals, to help demonstrate the range of literatures engaging with child death through the medium of fairylore in this period.

 

5. Fabio Bazzano (University of Pavia)

Fabio Bazzano is a third-year PhD student in English Literature working under the supervision of Dr Elena Cotta Ramusino at the University of Pavia. He received his Master’s degree in European and American Literatures from the same university. In May 2019, he presented a paper on the sources of Macbeth’s witches at the 10th IASEMS Conference, held at the University of Genoa. His first academic article, titled ‘“Madam, I die, If I Give Up the Ghost”: Staging (Il)legitimate Ghosts in Gothic Drama’, is due to be published in the December 2020 issue of Il Confronto Letterario. His research interests include William Shakespeare, Elizabethan theatre, Romanticism, the Gothic and the supernatural in fiction. He is currently developing a research project that investigates the representation of the supernatural in English drama between the end of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth.

Gothic fairies and other magical forces of good in early English melodrama

In Literary Hours (1798), critic Nathan Drake regarded ‘the awful ministration of the Spectre’ and ‘the innocent gambols of the Fairy’ as the two sides of the same coin, that is, as opposite manifestations of Gothic superstition. This concept was further elaborated in his allegorical Gothic tale ‘Henry Fitzowen’, in which the eponymous hero has to fight against an evil wizard and other frightening occult forces in order to save his fiancée; in the end, the two lovers reunite and are catapulted into a splendid, magical valley where a fairy queen rewards them for their purity of heart. The story epitomised the contemporary attitude toward the two conflicting types of Gothic supernaturalism, the ‘gloomy’ and the ‘sportive’ (to use Drake’s own words): on the one hand, therefore, there were the dreadful ghosts, witches and demons of Gothic-horror fiction, disparagingly associated with Catholic superstitions and the German Schauer-Romantik school, while on the other there were the beautiful fairies, sylphs, nymphs and other magical beings which were considered peculiar to a genuinely English literary and folkloric tradition regarded with nostalgia. This dualism found an interesting expression in the supernatural melodramas performed at London’s theatres in the early 1800s, which blended the classic tropes of Gothic fiction with devices and techniques derived from fairy tales, pantomimes and French féeries. In keeping with melodrama’s black-and-white characterisation, the supernatural of these plays typically manifested itself as a clash between the forces of darkness and the forces of light, with the latter of course always emerging victorious. Fantastic-themed melodramas such as Valentine and Orson, The Sleeping Beauty, Ali Baba, and The Wood Daemon included providential interventions of benign otherworldly entities and exciting showdowns between evil and good supernatural forces which arguably marked the spectacular apex of the Gothic theatre.

 

6. Dr Francesca Bihet (University of Chichester (alumna))

Francesca Bihet completed her PhD in folklore at the University of Chichester in 2020. Her thesis Folklore and Fairies: The History of Fairies in the Folklore Society from 1878 to 1945 explores the changes in the academic treatment of fairies by Folklore Society members over this period and how far these reflect wider folkloric and cultural trends. Among other articles, she has published the chapters ‘Pouques and the Faiteaux: the Channel Islands’, in Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies 500 AD to the Present (2018) and ‘Death and the Fairy: Hidden Gardens and the Haunting of Childhood’, in Uncanny Ecogothic Gardens in the Long Nineteenth Century (2020). Previously, she has worked in academic libraries and was a staff writer for Gothic Beauty Magazine. She has a longstanding interest in the Gothic, as well as witchcraft, the supernatural and wider folkloric themes.

The origin of the sprites: The Folklore Society’s late-Victorian fairy science

In 1878 the London Folklore Society (FLS) was founded against the backdrop of the Victorian fascination with fairies, antiquarian enthusiasm, passion for specimen collections, and the science of anthropology as inspired by Edward Burnett Tylor in Primitive Culture (1871). These early FLS members attempted to forge a science of fairy origins, a cultural archaeology, using collected folklore and printed folktales to reconstruct supposed prehistoric beliefs. Volumes such as Edwin Sidney Hartland’s The Science of Fairy Tales (1891), David MacRitchie’s Testimony of Tradition (1890), Alfred Nutt’s The Voyage of Bran (1895-1897), Edward Clodd’s Tom Tit Tot (1898), and John Rhŷs’s Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx (1901) sat against dozens of articles in the FLS’s journal hoping to rationally explain the origins of fairy beliefs. These volumes attempted explain supernatural fairies as ossified remnants of ancient beliefs and memories of primitive people still surviving in contemporary society as folklore, lingering in marginal rural districts amongst the uneducated peasant folk. These evoked Gothic fears of atavistic resurgences, of ancient savage beliefs re-emerging in contemporary civilised Britain. Grant Allen’s Christmas ghost story ‘Pallinghurst Barrow’, published in the Illustrated London News (1892), gives voice to ancient terrors resurfacing in educated, middle-class Victorian Britain. Academic folklorists struggled to reconcile their historicised model of fairy-lore with contemporary supernatural accounts and elite manifestations of fairy-beliefs among spiritualists. Andrew Lang, folklorist and psychical researcher, fiercely debated with the staunchly rationalist Edward Clodd over ‘Psycho-folklore’, a strand of the discipline which aimed to connect folklore with psychical research. When the famous Cottingley fairy photographs emerged in 1920 the FLS were confronted with the contemporary manifestation of fairy belief in an elite modern context. The photographs confronted their disenchanting narrative of historicised fairy-lore; the disturbing supernatural resurfaced in a space which the science of folklore had sought to explain away.

 

7. Dr Elizabeth Bobbitt (University of York)

Elizabeth Bobbitt was awarded her PhD in English Literature from the University of York in 2019. Her research focuses on Ann Radcliffe’s ‘post-1797’ texts, posthumously published by Radcliffe’s husband in 1826. She is particularly interested in how Radcliffe’s later work interrogates Britain’s medieval and ancient past. Since completing her PhD, Elizabeth has continued to research and teach, most recently at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. She recently published her first article, entitled ‘The Mist of Death is on Me: Ann Radcliffe’s Unexplained Supernatural in Gaston de Blondeville’, in Horror Literature from Gothic to Post-Modern: Critical Essays (McFarland Press). 

Ann Radcliffe’s ‘Edwy:’ A summer song of Fairie

While Ann Radcliffe is most well-known for her five Gothic romances of the 1790s, her post-1797 works, published together in a four-volume collection entitled Gaston de Blondeville, or the Court of Henry III Keeping Festival in Ardenne, a Romance; St. Alban’s Abbey: A Metrical Tale, with some Poetical Pieces (1826), displays a little-noted but significant departure from Radcliffe’s earlier creative trajectory. While this shift in interest more broadly demonstrates Radcliffe’s ‘excavation’ of the Gothic genre and its early roots in historical romance, it also marks Radcliffe’s most sustained foray into the realm of Fairie. ‘Edwy: A Poem in Three Parts’ (1812-1815), is the last full-length narrative poem in this posthumously published collection of Radcliffe’s later works. Set on the grounds of Windsor Castle, the poem follows the movements of a fairy court which exists in a realm parallel to that of the British Kings’ seat of power. The poem centres on the enchanted procession of Windsor Park’s fairy court, overseen by Edwy, a young man who wishes to capture Eda, a mysterious love-fay. Complete with their own navy equipped with boats made of pearl shells, Radcliffe’s fairy court gestures towards an interrogation of George IV’s own royal court and its perceived power. Radcliffe’s ‘Edwy’ engages in an exploration of a specifically English national identity amidst emerging notions of ‘Britishness.’ It carves out a cultural tradition for England (the nerve-centre of the Empire), amidst contemporary anxieties that England’s sense of its own past had become ‘underdeveloped,’ compared to Britain’s Celtic nations (Trumpener 15). Drawing on earlier landscape poems, such as Pope’s Windsor Forest (1713), Radcliffe uses Windsor’s environs to distinguish England’s national culture through its fairy lore, situated within a recognisably Shakespearean imaginative tradition.

 

8. Dr Bryan Brown (University of Exeter)

Bryan Brown is an artist-scholar, currently Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter and co-director of visual theatre company ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory). He is a major contributor to the Exeter Magic and Esotericism Research Group and has presented on The Black Hen Society at the Enchanted Environments Symposium (Worcester, March 2020). Recent writing includes the monograph A History of the Theatre Laboratory as well as “Educating the Director”, a co-authored extended chapter on Vsevolod Meyerhold for The Great European Stage Directors Vol. 2. He is also editorial board member of Theatre Dance and Performance Training for which he co-edited a special issue of the journal ‘Training Places: Dartington College of Arts’ and is co-curator of the journal’s blog.

Russian Gothic faeries as harbingers of twenty-first-century ecognosis

By examining the creation processes of “The Black Hen Society”*, a visual theatre performance based on Antony Pogorelsky’s influential nineteenth century Russian children’s story “The Black Hen or the Underground Inhabitants” this paper aims to contribute to a growing scholarship around the role of imagination, Faerie and ‘the ecological thought’ (Morton 2013). Set in a St Petersburg boarding school, Pogorelsky tells the story of a lonely boy who saves the life of a shapeshifting black hen. In return, the hen brings the boy underground to a Faerie world where he is bestowed the power to have the answers to all of his homework without studying – a power not unlike our contemporary smartphones. However, the boy eventually betrays the conditions set upon his power and in so doing forces the Faeries into migration from their underground world. This betrayal brings a terrible fever with it, but once recovered, the boy re-enters his boarding school world with new humility. While Pogorelsky’s original ends on a simplistic moral point for children regarding hardwork and good manners, “The Black Hen Society” decodes the protagonist’s betrayal of the Faerie kingdom as a betrayal of the imagination, one that splits the individual from essential relations with the more-than-human world (Abram 1996). This paper will argue that it is through the fantastic imagination that an individual is able to perceive her/his place in a more complex ecology. The loss of contact with these essential relations provokes a crisis akin to the contemporary realization that we live in ‘the age of ecocide’ (Kingsnorth/Hine 2009) and has the power to act as a catalyst for ecognosis (a term Timothy Morton [2016] posits as a more complex way of knowing and being in co-existence with the more-than-human world). Weaving the histories of Faerie [Purkiss 2001, Windling (n/a), Olsen & Veenstra (2014)] with first person analysis of the process of creating “The Black Hen Society”, this article hopes to present how a renewed understanding of the fantastic might usefully re-enchant pedagogy and civic action.

 

9. Franziska Burstyn (University of Leipzig)

Franziska Burstyn is a PhD student at the University of Leipzig and is currently writing her PhD thesis on re-enchantment and resonance though mentorship in fantastic British children’s literature. She studied English and Theatre Studies at the University of Leipzig and at Roehampton University in London and has been teaching undergraduate courses on English literature at the universities of Leipzig and Siegen. Her academic interests include children’s and young adult fantasy literature, folklore, ecocriticism, and literary nonsense. Her publications include articles in the field of children’s literature as well as a monograph about the land of plenty, The Myth of Cokaygne in Children’s Literature: The Consuming and the Consumed Child (Peter Lang, 2011).

Fairy-lands forlorn: Re-enchantment through childhood in children’s fantasy literature

The notion of enchantment and wonder is one of the central aspects when the child character first encounters the fantastic unexpectedly in children’s fantasy literature. While the term ‘enchantment’ is usually associated with fairy tales and modes of fantasy, Charles Taylor’s terminology in A Secular Age (2007) provides an insightful model to examine the fantastic within the discourse of secularism. Taylor’s point of departure is the enchanted premodern world view, which points to an understanding of the world as being filled with both good and bad supernatural forces and bears close resemblance to the medievalized fantasy worlds informed by the tradition of Tolkien and Lewis. In contrast, modernity is identified by a ‘disenchantment of the world’, a term borrowed from Max Weber, which inevitably evokes a desire for a re-enchantment of the world. Based on these two opposing world views, Taylor sees the rite of passage from childhood towards adulthood in a similar light, stating that ‘each one of us as we grew up has had to take on the disciplines of disenchantment.’ This notion can be observed both in adult and children’s literature, where the child is frequently used as a signifier for enchantment. Especially the portrayal of children in ‘portal-quest fantasies’ and ‘intrusion fantasies’ points to an affinity of childhood with the realm of Fäerie, an aspect that is also addressed in Tolkien’s essay ‘On Fairy-Stories’. Hence, this paper will examine prominent ideas of childhood as a location of enchantment and a source for potential re-enchantment of the reader in various narratives of children’s fantasy literature.

 

10. Daisy Butcher (University of Hertfordshire)

Daisy Butcher is a PhD student in the University of Hertfordshire.

Pinioning pixies: Patriarchy and fairy suffering in La Sylphide, ‘Prince Rudolf’s Flower’, and Maleficent

In this paper I will analyse the trope of the pinioned fairy seen in both one of the world’s oldest surviving ballet La Sylphide (1832), Jane Goodwin Austin’s fairy-tale ‘Prince Rudolf’s Flower’ (1859), and Disney’s Maleficent (2014) feature film. I will interrogate how men trusted as lovers in these choose to take the wings from their fairy inciting trauma that can be read as a metaphorical rape and a also a damning allegory for marriage. Wings can be seen as a symbol of freedom and beauty and as such mutilating, destroying or removing these from a woman is a form of patriarchal oppression. In La Sylphide, a farmer named James who is already engaged to be wed to another, falls in love with a sylph/fairy. An old witch appears predicting he will betray his fiancée and he churlishly sends her away. Later, he jilts his fiancée at the alter and pursues the sylph. James meets the old witch again and she offers him a magical scarf which will bind the sylph’s wings and allow him to catch her and keep her forever. As he wraps the scarf around the Sylph her wings fall off and she dies. In Austin’s fairy tale, Prince Rudolf embarks on a quest to find the flower in his dreams. As he wanders through the flower realms he attempts to capture flower maidens with an enchanted veil. I will emphasise the examples of how Rudolf’s attempts to capture his flower fairy employ violent and rapacious imagery. Moreover, Angelina Jolie, who played the titular fairy in Maleficent and served as executive producer, revealed herself that the de-winging scene in the film was indeed a metaphor for rape. With this in mind, I will discuss how important it is to redress these scenes as symbolic of rape and the male desire to possess and conform the female body for their pleasure and convenience. I will argue how these stories can be viewed as feminist fairy tales, highlighting Maleficent’s redemption as she regains her wings in the 2014 film, the destruction left in Prince Rudolf’s quest for love and also how in La Sylphide the old witch is triumphant as James does not receive his happily ever after.

 

11. Anna Clifton (University of Birmingham)

Anna Clifton has just completed a master’s by research degree at the University of Birmingham. Her dissertation, entitled ‘“The Haunted Beach” – The Coast and the Gothic Tradition, 1764-1820’, discusses Gothic coastlines within eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Gothic texts, focusing specifically on their role as uncanny ecotonal boundary spaces. She hopes to begin her PhD in 2021. Her research interests include alternative relationships with and conceptions of nature, the intersection between animal and human and the eco-Gothic’s various spatial representations. She is also interested in ecotheology and Gothic fairy tales. She enjoys spending time with her tortoise, Enrique, and her boyfriend, Ben.

Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest and the Gothic sea-nymph

Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest demonstrates the capacity of the faerie sea nymph to challenge the binary of the real and the unreal. The nymphs are uniquely interstitial in both their coastal location and as faerie creatures which transgress the borderline between the wonted world and the supernatural. Through poems and songs within the novel, Radcliffe depicts the nymphs as figures positioned to both expose the cruelty of patriarchal society and to provide escapism from it. For example, whilst the heroine of The Romance of the Forest, Adeline, is trapped by the Marquis in his castle, she hears ‘The Song of a Spirit’, in which the titular spirit mirrors her imprisonment. The spirit’s song imagines freedom, fantasising about the music of the sea nymphs, made with ‘their dulcet shells beneath the wave[s]’ (1998, 130). The beauty of the sea nymph’s music, and the hymn-like sibilance of Radcliffe’s poetry, reveal the spiritual dimension of the other-worldly realm the creatures inhabit. Radcliffe’s homiletic representation of wild spaces and their inhabitants serve as a point of contrast against traditional society. The nymphs connote self-expression and freedom of identity, showing an alternative vision of life beyond the limits of civilisation, and alternative spirituality through the liberation of the faerie.

 

12. Greta Colombani (King’s College, University of Cambridge)

I am currently a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, King’s College, where I am working on an AHRC-funded research project about representations of communication with the Other World in British Romantic poetry. I previously completed my studies at the Scuola Normale Superiore and the University of Pisa, where I received a master’s degree in Euro-American Literatures and Philologies in October 2018. In September 2017 a reworking of my BA dissertation was published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht under the title of A Gordian Shape of Dazzling Hue: Serpent Symbolism in Keats’s Poetry. My research interests focus on British nineteenth-century literature – in particular Romanticism, Gothic literature and the supernatural – as well as on applications of literary theory and communication theory to textual analysis.

‘Human passion – fairy power’: Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s ‘The Fairy of the Fountains’

‘The Fairy of the Fountains’ has been called ‘one of Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s most enigmatic and disturbing poems’ (Kari Lokke, ‘Letitia Landon’s “The Fairy of the Fountains” and Gothic Narrative’, 315), but, despite its enchanting potential, it has not yet received the critical attention recently attracted by her other works. First published in 1834, the poem is a highly original retelling of the medieval legend of Melusine, the half-human, half-serpent fairy that inspired famous Romantic tales such as Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s Undine (1811) and John Keats’s Lamia (1820). In Landon’s poetic reworking, Melusina is a half-human, half-fairy princess living in exile with her fairy mother after her human father committed the transgression of listening ‘to the word of fear, / Never meant for human ear’ (32-33). Melusina is torn between the two sides of her ‘mingled dower, / Human passion – fairy power’ (141-42), but, rather than seeking a Christian soul as in other versions of the story, she decides to fully embrace her fairy nature and use her powers to avenge her mother. As a result, however, she is cursed by her parent to turn into a half-serpentine creature every Saturday and repeat her fate: she is betrayed by her husband and forever parted from him. The conclusion of Landon’s fairy tale is more similar to a Gothic tale, as Melusina becomes a ghost haunting an ‘ancient tower’ (572) and announcing ‘approaching death’ (375). By paying particular attention to the fairy aspect of Melusina’s nature instead of placing her within the mermaid tradition, as the few other existing readings of the poem do, the present paper aims to investigate the ways in which this fairy tale provides Landon with a precious opportunity to explore fundamental themes such as hybridity, the life-death divide and the visionary powers of poetry.

 

13. Samantha Crain (University of Minnesota)

Samantha Crain is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Her dissertation examines the sources and function of the improbable in the novels of the Brontë sisters and its influence on their contemporary reception and on the formation of genre hierarchy in nineteenth-century fiction. She has published on the works of Lord Byron and Thomas Hardy: her articles ‘Rehabilitated into a Critic: Byron’s Revelation of Cain’ and ‘Little Father Time: Hardy’s Changeling Child and the Limits of the Natural’ appeared in Religion and the Arts and the Hardy Society Journal, respectively. She is particularly interested in the Satanic Romantics’ influence on Victorian novelists and has presented extensively on Byron’s poetry. Other interests include medieval literature and medievalism, as well as folklore and fairy tales with a particular emphasis on fairy legends.

Jane Eyre, Gothic changeling: A reluctant outsider

That Jane Eyre is a Gothic text is practically a commonplace of its criticism though the novel also incorporates elements of natural fiction, the precursor to realism; the fairy tale, as Heta Pyrhönen so valuably traces in Bluebeard Gothic; and, most importantly for my paper, the fairy legend, the province of the Celtic fey. While Molly Clark Hibbard has noted in her useful book Spellbound (2014) the ties between Jane Eyre and fairies, I wish to specifically examine the character of Jane Eyre as a changeling within a first-person Gothic novel. The Gothic with its ability to render the experiential more immersively than other genres or modes combines inextricably with Jane’s otherworldliness and inadvertent sowing of discord among families and interpersonal relationships that are officially sanctioned. Her status as a changeling is thus twofold: the changeling is a useful figure for understanding her alienation from her worldly relations the Reeds in childhood but also for understanding her habit of unintentionally bringing instability, as in the Rivers family, wherein St. John attempts to transform his cousin and almost-sister Jane into his wife—an effort Jane consistently resists. Reading Jane as a changeling figure thus not only underscores Brontë’s ties to Celtic folklore but unfolds a potent metaphor for her specific, reluctant kind of outsider.

 

14. Dr Joseph Crawford (University of Exeter)

Joseph Crawford is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Exeter. He is the author of four books: Raising Milton’s Ghost (2011), Gothic Fiction and the Invention of Terrorism (2013), The Twilight of the Gothic (2014), and Inspiration and Insanity in British Poetry, 1825-55 (2019). His current research deals with medicine and popular literary culture in the early nineteenth century.

‘Fairies of Albion’: Fairies and fairy-lore in the works of William Blake 

It would probably not surprise William Blake to learn that, compared to the ‘giant forms’ who dominate his later poetry, his fairies have received very little critical attention. Blake famously once witnessed a fairy’s funeral, in which a dead fairy was carried to its grave on a rose leaf – an incident cited by his early critics as proof of his disordered mental state. Every Blake scholar has their own interpretation of Orc and Enitharmon in Blake’s Europe, but few mention Blake’s account that the entire poem was dictated to him by a fairy sitting on his parlour table. Yet for Blake, the failure to properly understand and respect the fairies was one of the characteristic sins of the age. ‘Shakespeare’s Fairies’, he wrote, ‘are the rulers of the vegetable world, and so are Chaucer’s; let them be so considered, and then the poet will be understood, and not else.’ He claimed to have gained access to ‘poems of the highest antiquity’, from which he had learned of ‘those elemental beings, called by us by the general name of Fairies’, and in The Four Zoas he identified the ‘fairies of Albion’ with the ‘Gods of the Heathen’. In this paper, I shall consider how Blake’s unique position at the intersection of popular British folk culture with scholarly antiquarianism and occult philosophy led him to develop a distinctive fairy mythology in which traditional cultural hierarchies were inverted, with Classical myths becoming garbled retellings of rural folktales rather than the other way around.

 

15. Dr Kaitlyn Culliton (Texas A&M International University)

Currently Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University in Laredo, Texas, Kaitlyn holds a PhD from Trinity College in Dublin. She is a specialist in early modern English literature, with particular interests in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, poetry, early modern folklore, and cultural geography. Teaching interests include British Literature from across the Medieval and early modern periods. Her current research project titled ‘Fairies in Early Modern English Drama: Fictionality and Theatrical Landscapes, 1575-1615’ focuses on the changes to the depiction of fairy characters in English dramatic texts across the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Fairy forests and Shakespeare’s sublime: Gothic origins in early-modern drama

Despite the typical association of Shakespeare with a ‘fairy way of writing’, only two of Shakespeare’s plays explicitly name fairies in their list of dramatis personae. In both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor, the fairies inhabit an ancient forest landscapes that offers an alternative to the ordered realm of civilized society within the plays. The human characters that have the chance to enter the forest encounter the chaos and wonder of the fairy realm, and its power to enchant and subvert traditional order. The experiences of Shakespeare’s characters mirrors that of Queen Elizabeth I during a dramatic performance given for her at Woodstock in 1575. As the entertainment unfolded, Elizabeth was asked to follow one of the players into the forest, where she encountered the fairy queen in an exquisite dining hall made of trees, an experience that might best be described as sublime. In this way, I suggest that early modern fairies share a romantic sense of the forest’s powerful abilities. Horace Walpole’s preface to The Castle of Otranto claims his ‘Gothic story’ was inspired by Shakespeare’s violations of classical decorum. This paper examines the fairy forest in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merry Wives of Windsor alongside the entertainment for Queen Elizabeth I at Woodstock in order to examine the manner in which the forest offers a place for such creative ‘violations’ to occur. I suggest that the enchantment and wonder that are likewise implicit in the Gothic aesthetic may derive from Shakespeare’s depictions of the fairy forest.

 

16. Morgan Daimler (Independent Researcher)

Morgan Daimler has presented a previous paper on the evolution of the Scottish fairy courts from ballads to fiction at the OSU Fairies and the Fantastic conference in 2019 and has written an article about Fairies, Gender, and Sexuality for the peer reviewed journal Revenant. Her main focus is Irish fairylore and beliefs found in related cultures, and she has written several books on both fairies and Irish mythology including A New Dictionary of Fairies and Gods and Goddesses of Ireland.

Unseely to antihero: Dangerous fairies in folklore and fiction

Fairies as dangerous and potentially deadly beings can be found across folklore, sometimes portrayed as inimical to humanity other times as ambiguous. In Scotland these specifically dangerous beings eventually came to be labelled as Unseelie, a term and concept filled with nuances. The Unseelie appeared in contrast to the more benevolent Seelie fairies of folklore, creating a moral and philosophical dichotomy between the so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fairies which reflected a wider popular view of the world. Urban fantasy in the 20th and 21st century would latch onto and quickly modify these terms in new directions which shifted the fairies of fiction increasingly further away from their folkoric predecessors and muddied the moral waters around both groups. The Seelie increasingly, although not universally, came to be depicted as the corrupt and cruel group while the Unseelie took on the role of the antiheroes, often featuring as the main love interests of the protagonist, who were more honest and genuine than their Seelie counterparts. This shift has been both quick and compartmentalized, with the folklore remaining true to its older views while the fiction rapidly shifts into new territory. This changing view combined with increasing anthropomorphism of fairies in fiction and a poor understanding of both the original terms and their context has resulted in new folk beliefs based in these ideas from fiction among those disengaged from cultures with existing fairy beliefs.

 

17. Gavin Davies (University of Exeter and University of Reading)

Gavin Davies is an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded PhD student at the Universities of Exeter and Reading. His thesis examines the construction of imperial subjectivities in Georgian and Victorian board games. He has presented relevant papers at Yale University, and at the British Association for Victorian Studies. He writes, as well, on modern gaming cultures; his most recent publication appearing as part of MacFarland’s peer-reviewed book series Studies in Gaming, in the edited volume, Responding to Call of Duty: Critical Essays on the Game Franchise (2017).

Fairies and the Celtic Revival in popular Japanese videogames

This paper seeks to defamiliarise fairies by examining Japanese depictions in two videogames: Game Republic’s Folklore (2007) and FromSoftware’s Déracine (2019), for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation VR, respectively. In so doing, it considers the fairy as something adventitious to the Japanese, exploring which western characterisations have been most influential. In the addendum to Yoshitaka Amano’s artbook Fairies (2006), translator Kimie Imura provides unique insight into the fairy’s entry into Japan, citing the earliest extant mention of them to a theoretical treatise, from 1902, on sennyo, their closest counterpart. However, while Imura attributes to Arthur Rackham and Cicely Barker’s illustrations primacy over determining the Japanese conception of Celtic fairies, this paper wishes to instead highlight the clear literary influences which videogames released since exhibit; especially the former’s mutual interest with William Butler Yeats’ Fairy and Folk Tale of the Irish Peasantry (1888) in ‘folk’ and fairy taxonomy, and the latter’s with playwright William Sharp (alias Fiona Macleod) in occult myths and interactions between humans and deiform fairies embodied in The Immortal Hour (1908). All this, the paper argues, pertains to a resurgent interest for the Celtic among Japanese videogames, palpable in FromSoftware’s Dark Souls trilogy (2011-16), whose global appeal and exploitation of foreign folkloric traditions raises pertinent questions about the ownership over cultural heritage in digital media. Are the fairies portrayed within such games, deriving from the folktales and legends of largely illiterate peoples documented in the nineteenth century, syncretising traditions occidental and oriental, or are they merely an appropriation? Where, if at all, do they reside alongside fairies manifested through oral traditions? How do they compare? But perhaps most pressingly we should ask what purpose the fairy in Japanese games serves other than to simply suggest otherworldliness. What bearing do their Celtic origins have when marketing Japanese games to domestic and international audiences respectively?

 

18. Tatiana Fajardo (University of the Basque Country)

Tatiana Fajardo studies a PhD in Comparative Literature focused on Patrick McGrath’s narratives at the University of the Basque Country. She completed her MLitt in the Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling, writing her dissertation on Patrick McGrath. Some of her essays have been translated into Swedish by Rickard Berghorn, both on Weird Webzine and in Studier I vart and Två fantasistycken (2018). She presented her study of Penny Dreadful at the IGA conference in 2018. Her article ‘The Bloodlust of Elizabeth Báthory: From the Brothers Grimm to American Horror Story’ (2019) was published by Luna Press Publishing, as well as her ‘Falling in Love with an Artificial Being: E. T. A Hoffmann’s “The Sandman” in relation to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the Blade Runner film series’ (2020). Her new essay on McGrath will be released by the same publishing house in 2021.

A nineteenth-century influence of Gothic Faerie: The fairy tree, fairy lover, fairy art, and fairy revenge

My objective for this paper is to examine the nineteenth-century influence of Gothic Faerie behind the narrative poem A Ride Through Faerie (2019) by Clay F. Johnson. The poem, written in response to the ecocide that was the Amazon rainforest wildfires of 2019, is neatly divided into four distinct parts, each containing themes and tropes of the Gothic that include the darker aspects from the realms of Faerie. Part I begins with the felling of a fairy tree (a hawthorn) and the subsequent destruction of venerated fairy land in order to clear space for human habitation. Following this classic trope of man’s avaricious ravaging of nature and its inherent consequences, inevitably leading to the uprooter’s own ruin, comes the moonlight meeting of the fairy lover in Part II, a fragment of a dream in Part III that is abundant with dark enchantment, and concluding with Part IV with fairy revenge. My main focus is to explore the nineteenth-century influence—both literary works and paintings—that aided in shaping A Ride Through Faerie (2019). I will begin with a brief look into the folklore of the hawthorn tree and its associations with Faerie. Next, in order of each part from the poem, I will discuss the fairy lover in John Keats’s ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ (1819) and Lamia (1820), the nightmarish fairy painting in the art of John Anster Fitzgerald (1819–1906), and, in conclusion, explore fairy revenge in relevant tales from Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland (1887) by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde.

 

19. Sarah Fissmer and Marthe-Siobhán Hecke (University of Bonn)

Sarah Fissmer is a PhD candidate at Bonn University and a doctoral research associate at the University’s Institute for English, American and Celtic Studies. She studied Educational Science as well as English and American Studies and currently teaches BA and MA students, mostly on Great War remembrance and on Shakespearean theatre. Her doctoral thesis addresses the role reconciliation plays in today’s British commemoration of the First World War. Marthe-Siobhán Hecke studied Philosophy, German Literature, Educational Sciences, English Studies, and Celtic Studies and received a Master of Arts, a Master of Education, and an additional Bachelor of Arts from Bonn University. Her PhD project is called ‘(Re-)Writing and (Re-) Constructing Scottish Identities: the Literary Heritage of Nan Shepherd’ (working title).

‘Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.’ – Queering the Gothic in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the stage

Shakespeare’s well-known play A Midsummer Night’s Dream uses the scary forest as a liminal and very much Gothic space in which the supernatural takes over and queens can fall in love with donkeys. The forest is dominated by Oberon and Titania, and their entourage, consisting of Robin Goodfellow, a puck, and an entourage of fairies, liminal characters in a liminal space, prone to (sexual) escapades and confusion. Gothic literature, from its earliest manifestations, had connected Gothic spaces / their dramatic personnel with sex and forbidden desires. More recent adaptations of the play have especially used the fairies in order to introduce queer representation and queer love. One such example is the Bridge Theatre’s 2019 production, in which it is Titania who plays Oberon, making him fall in love with a man/donkey. A close reading of this production will show how its Gothic space of the forest contrasts original Gothic connotations: it has evolved into a space closely connected to ideas of formerly forbidden fruit and now positive queer love and lust while also incorporating notions of intersectionality and the female gaze. The analysis will examine in how far the Bridge theatre uses fairies to transgress former boundaries and tattoos by reshaping the Gothic space as something positive in which queer love and sexual desire are not shunned.

 

20. Dr Kaja Franck (University of Hertfordshire)

I am currently a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, King’s College, where I am Kaja Franck was awarded her PhD in 2017 in the UK. Her thesis looked at 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 part of the ‘Open Graves, Open Minds’ research project and has published on the depiction of wolves and werewolves in Dracula and young adult fiction. Most recently she has written about werewolves, gender and race in Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning for the Gothic Studies journal; a chapter on the ecogothic and the wilderness in Modern Gothic (ed. Clive Bloom), and co-authored a chapter contemporary werewolves for Twenty-First-Century Gothic (eds. Xavier Aldana-Reyes and Maisha Wester). Her interests include ecogothic fairies, trolls and shark horror.

‘No weapon forged by mortal or fey can harm the Iron King’: Imagining the environmental apocalypse in Julia Kagawa’s Iron Fey series

Folkloric fairies are capricious, dangerous creatures far from the saccharine versions with which we are now familiar. Though sometimes depicted as beholden to quasi-courtly mores, their changeable and unpredictable behaviour speaks to not immorality but amorality: they exist outside humanity’s societal norms. Found in areas of wilderness – forests, moors, lakes and mountains – they embody unfettered nature, both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Fey folklore offers iron as protection against the malignancy of fairies. Iron becomes a symbol of human skill in manipulating and controlling these creatures and concomitantly the wilderness from which they emerge. Viewed through the lens of the Gothic these ideas converge in the ecogothic, a way to understand the sublimity and fear that the natural world evokes in humanity. Yet, in their contemporary incarnations, fairies have started to emerge in urban landscapes suggesting the spread of human influence over the natural world. Here ‘iron sickness’, to use the term coined by Holly Black, is a destructive force and fairies are depicted as an endangered species, the dangerous beauty of the fairy world a disappearing habitat. This changing representation of fairies reflects ecological concerns regarding the destruction of the natural world and the diversity of species. Humanity’s need to control the natural world is depicted as culminating in the loss of magic and enchantment. The presence of fairies in these novels acts as a quasi-nostalgic – fairies are still potentially dangerous – reminder of an earlier relationship between humans and nature. Julia Kagawa’s Iron Fey series exemplifies many of the traits of contemporary fairies, particularly in YA paranormal romance. However, this paper argues that her novels reject a simplistic model in which humans move from victim to villain, offering instead a nuanced revisioning of fairies. The Iron Fey, products of humanity’s progress, become markers for both the dangers and wonders of technology and innovation – where enchantment is still possible.

 

21. Leni Frchkoska (Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje)

Leni Frchkoska graduated from the Faculty of Philology ‘Blaze Koneski’ in Skopje at the Department of General and Comparative Literature on ‘Psychoanalytic Aspects of Literature and Film’ and received her master’s degree in the same department in 2013 on the topic ‘Psychoanalytic elements of the fairy tale and its presence in contemporary culture’. She was a scholarship holder of the Ceepus program as part of the Anglophone literatures and cultures at Charles University in Prague. She is currently enrolled in doctoral studies at the Faculty of Philology ‘Blaze Koneski’ in Skopje at the Department of General and Comparative Literature on a topic with a focus on the theory of power and (re) production of ideology through art form for children and youth. She works in the editorial office of the news website ‘Libertas’ as an editor of the section for Art and as an author in the feminist platform ‘Meduza’.

The Fairies – swinging between the opression and the freedom

The fairies in the Southern-Slavic fairy tales are embodiment of the aspect of the feminine that the patriarchal system (that framed the woman within the house, and the motherhood) cast away like negative, forbidden and unnatural. Particularly the aspects of the feminine that could contaminate the picture of the obeying woman, caring mother, obeying daughter and sister. The fairies in the most popular Southern-Slavic (and more particularly Macedonian fairy tales) are women who live in constant state of enjoyment (emotionally, and physically and with it sexually), and can produce offspring on their own (concept close to the idea of the single-motherhood that the patriarchal system before the twentieth century strongly tried to represent as embarrassment and disgrace). These two very important features of the fairies represent the idea of the feminine as independent, strong, self-fulfilling on its own, capable and powerful without the shadow of the male protector. This idea of untamed feminine freedom and happiness within that freedom and outside of the boundaries of the system, through the fascination and the powerful symbol of the fairy had through the centuries, cast strong message of emancipation and resistance. Marie Louise Von Franz writes about the concept of the subversiveness of female characters in fairy tales, saying that the bitterness that has accumulated as a result of the rejection and insufficient respect experienced by countless women has led to a collective eruption of emancipation movements in twentieth century. Similarly, the careless dance of the fairies, the enjoyment in their own bodies, their freedom keeps the repressed desire for freedom and equality, the spirit of resistance, alive. Through three stories I will present the ambivalent feeling toward the fairies (the disguise and impression), the repression, but, most importantly, the way the symbol of the fairy resist the oppression and hold emancipatory potential.

 

23. Katerina García-Walsh (University of St Andrews)

Katerina García-Walsh is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews working on spectral memory and trauma in Margaret Oliphant’s Gothic. Her previous education includes an MA in Literary Studies from the Complutense University of Madrid, an MSt (1830-1914) from the University of Oxford and a BA (summa cum laude) from Georgetown University, Washington, DC, where she completed Honours Theses in both the English and Spanish Faculties. She has an article on “Mesmerism in Late Victorian Theatre” in the Complutense Journal of English Studies (2020) and a forthcoming book review of Valerie Sanders’s Margaret Oliphant (2020) in Victorian Periodicals Review. She has presented papers on Arthur Machen (Warwick), Margaret Oliphant (Edinburgh) and Robert Louis Stevenson (Oxford).

Glimmers of fairy sight in Margaret Oliphant’s Scottish Gothic

The prolific Scottish novelist Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897), remembered for biting literary criticism of her contemporary authors as well as for her realist fiction, turned at the end of her life to writing ghost stories and supernatural tales. This paper explores her use of the term ‘fairy’ in two of her Gothic narratives. The Wizard’s Son (1882) follows a young man whose newly inherited lordship brings with it the malevolent spirit of an ancestral Warlock Lord, while ‘The Library Window’ (1896), perhaps Oliphant’s most renowned ghost story, concerns a young girl sighting a kindly academic ghost. In both narratives, however, fairies are mentioned in tandem with Scottish summertime and its uncannily endless daylight. Liminal, mysterious light signals the otherworldly presences in both texts. The demonic adversary of The Wizard’s Son appears with the glow of a mystical lamp that mirrors the shine of ‘fairy lights’ on the Highland loch. In ‘The Library Window’, the veil between what Oliphant terms the ‘seen’ and ‘unseen’ erodes precisely at the twilight hour, ‘when the fairy folk have power’ (p. 18). Fairy temporality and fairy vision link the realm of the living with that of the dead, offering the heroes of both stories a prophetic sight that destabilises and even threatens the epistemic boundaries of reality. Oliphant’s fairies combine intertextual and historic contexts (most notably in references to Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene in The Wizard’s Son) with allusions to popular technological advancements (for instance, inventor Samuel Clarke’s patented fairy lamps) and a uniquely Scottish environment. In this paper, I propose that fairies in both narratives reflect the increasingly syncretic fusion of spiritualism and Christian mysticism of the 1880s and 1890s.

 

24. Dr Monica Germana (University of Westminster)

Monica Germanà is Reader in Gothic and Contemporary Studies at the University of Westminster. Her research concentrates on Gothic and popular culture, with a specific emphasis on Scottish Gothic and gender. Her publications include Bond Girls: Body, Fashion, Gender (Bloomsbury, 2019), Scottish Women’s Gothic and Fantastic Writing (EUP, 2010), Ali Smith: New Critical Perspectives (Bloomsbury, 2013) co-edited with Emily Horton, and Scottish Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion (EUP, 2017), co-edited with Carol Davison. She was awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship from the University of Aberdeen in 2019 to explore the Special Collections of the Sir Duncan Rice Library. She is currently collaborating with Scottish and Icelandic academics and practitioners on a collaborative research project under the title of The North and the Scottish Imagination: Arctic Pasts and Futures. Her own research in the field concentrates on Scottish/Arctic cultural links with particular reference to the ‘otherwordly’, Gothic and fantastic themes recurrent in the representation of Scotland and the North in travel diaries, fictional accounts, oral superstitions and maps.

The perpetual hauntings of borderland creatures: Finfolks and selkies in European and Inuit tales of the sea

Alongside the colossal sea serpents and spectacular blue whales infesting the waters of the far North and the Arctic, stories about selkies and finfolk, supernatural half-human/half-animal creatures, are recurrent features in the literary and artistic traditions across the Northern regions of Scotland, Scandinavia and Greenland. This paper investigates examples from a diverse range of cultural traditions, including Scotland, Iceland and Greenland, to explore the significance of the liminal condition of these creatures. Half-human, and half-animal, the selkie inhabits an in-between position also symbolised by their preferred habitat, typically located along the shorelines, between land and sea. But selkies and finfolks also embody darker set of borderlands, that between life and death, according to some traditions that trace it back to ancient Egypt, as well as to the Inuit mythology of Sedna, the sea goddess. Indeed, the finfolk’s supernatural associations enable us to establish an ecoGothic dialogue between European and Inuit cultures, pointing simultaneously to a shared blurred human/animal categorical distinctions on both sides of the Arctic, but also, and most importantly, drawing attention to the European’s exoticisation of native Arctic people, and the neo-colonial environmental hauntings on today’s Arctic territories.

 

25. Prof. Pauline Greenhill and Dr Heidi Kosonen (University of Winnipeg)

Pauline Greenhill is Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her recent grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada deal with narrative and justice in media. Her recent books include Reality, Magic, and Other Lies: Fairy-Tale Film Truths (Wayne State University Press, 2020), Fairy-Tale TV (Routledge Television Guidebooks, 2021, Jill Terry Rudy co-author); and Clever Maids, Fearless Jacks, and a Cat: Fairy Tales from a Living Oral Tradition (Utah State University Press, 2019, Anita Best and Martin Lovelace co-authors and co-editors). She has published in scholarly journals including Signs; parallax; Theoretical Criminology; Marvels & Tales; Resources for Feminist Research; Studies in European Cinema; Feral Feminisms; Narrative Culture; Law, Culture and the Humanities; and The Journal of American Folklore. Heidi Kosonen gained a PhD in Art History from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, in Fall 2020, and is currently conducting post-doctoral research at the University of Winnipeg, Canada, studying justice and equity in audiovisual media productions. She is focused on examining social concerns and affective phenomena like taboo, biopower and disgust from visual cultural, feminist, queer, eco-critical, post-colonial and other perspectives. Kosonen is co-founder of the international Disgust Network, exploring from Humanities perspectives phenomena related to the affect of revulsion. She has published in Finnish and English on suicide cinema, death and mourning, vampires, disgust, hate speech and both the contemporary art world’s and media culture’s affective phenomena.

‘Something’s not right in Silverhöjd’: Crimes against the environment and Scandinavian forest beings in Jordskott

In the Swedish/Finnish/British/Norwegian television series Jordskott (2015-2017), White children are human victims whose quintessential blameless vulnerability signal, as one character puts it, that ‘something’s not right in Silverhöjd’. In the first season, police detective Eva Thörnblad (Moa Gammel) returns to her hometown, Silverhöjd (Silverhill), seven years after her daughter Josefine (Stina Sundlöf) disappeared during their lakeside picnic. With national detective Göran Wass (Göran Ragnerstam) and local detective Tom Aronsson (Richard Forsgren), Eva learns that her father’s business, Thörnblad Mineral & Cellulosa, is implicated. Together they uncover a conflict between the locals who depend on the industry and preternatural human-like but non-human forest beings and those who support them. These hybrid creatures include Josefine, who returns, profoundly changed, and Esmeralda (Happy Jankell), a vulnerable teen with supernatural powers, identified as a fairy-like ‘Skogsrå’ or ‘Huldra’ from Scandinavian tradition. Both humans and semi/non-humans (many of whom hide in the midst of humans, blending in and passing by cutting off their tails) are morally ambivalent, but what sets the latter apart is their implication in caring for nature, protecting it, and punishing those who harm it. We analyse this series’ instantiation of a popular green criminology, based in the idea that popular discourses’ representations of crimes (acts formally codified as against the law) and harms (acts causing individual, social, and ecological damage but not necessarily classified in the legal system) offer serious interventions into issues of environmental, ecological, and species justice.

 

26. Catherine Greenwood (University of Sheffield)

Scottish-Canadian poet Catherine Greenwood is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing Poetry/Gothic Studies at the University of Sheffield, working on a dissertation titled Gothicising a Poetics of Displacement: Immigrants/Effects. For her MA thesis at the University of New Brunswick she wrote a neo-gothic adaptation of Matthew Lewis’s novel The Monk.

The Ballad of Isabel Gunn as The Daemon Lover: The economic migrant and enchantment as a recruitment strategy

The story of an Orcadian woman who secured employment in Canada’s early fur-trade disguised as a man is depicted in Scottish-Canadian poet Stephen Scobie’s long poem The Ballad of Isabel Gunn (1987). Following the poem’s publication, it was regarded in terms of feminist, postmodern, and post-colonial criticism and received only passing mention of its debt to dark romanticism, with scant notice of its engagement with gothic motifs inherited from the supernatural folk ballad. My paper will demonstrate that the deep structure governing The Ballad of Isabel Gunn follows the template of the traditional ballad called ‘The Daemon Lover’, and purposely so. Both narratives recount a mariner enticing a woman away from her home with the promise of wealth and exotic far-off lands, then defaulting on the deal. In 1806 Isabel Gunn disguised herself as a man and signed a three-year contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company to work in Rupert’s Land, now Canada, for £8 per year. Scobie’s covert retelling of the traditional ballad is both a fictionalised biography of this Scottish migrant worker – who, in true ballad style, enters an underworld in changed form – and an imbedded critique of Empire’s exploitation of a cheap floating labour pool. Scobie combines elements pulled from several variants of The Daemon Lover and permits himself some ‘shuffling’ of the traditional ballad’s timelines in order to align his adaptation with the actual history of Gunn and works in several pointedly revisionist inversions. In my paper, I will provide a brief overview of the traditional Daemon Lover’s history and evolution, then demonstrate how Scobie’s own innovative iteration depicts how actors constrained by the economy of the ballad world are mirrored in colonial history, and how the didactive function of the ballad is borne out with Isabel’s story serving as a ‘warning’.

 

28. Jeremy Harte (Folklore Society)

Jeremy Harte is a researcher into the overlap between folklore and archaeology, with a particular interest in sacred space, tales of encounters with the supernatural, and the traditions of Dorset, where he grew up. He has published widely in popular and scholarly journals, and is reviews editor of Time & Mind, the journal of archaeology, consciousness and culture. He is a member of the Council of the Folklore Society, and has organised its annual Legendary Weekends since 2005. His books include Cuckoo Pounds and Singing Barrows, The Green Man, English Holy Wells and the award-winning Explore Fairy Traditions, as well as a paper in Magical Folk. He trained as a museum professional, and is curator of the Bourne Hall Museum at Ewell in Surrey. He has been described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘the most passionate yet abstruse lecturer I have ever seen since Geoffrey Hill’.

Prisoners of the gods: The captivity narrative in supernatural folklore and fiction

The slave raids of Faerie took young women from the warm world of human solidarity into solitude, wasting, grief and madness. Supernatural abduction was a theme which preoccupied nineteenth-century story-tellers across the social spectrum, from oral Irish seanchaís to Barrie and Machen. The fairy fort was a place of incarceration for captive girlhood as much as the bandit’s lair or midnight abbey of the Gothic romance and the Indian camp of travellers’ tales. Helpless, the heroine preserves herself through the resistance of extreme passivity, neither eating nor speaking, awaiting the happy end when her threatened self will be rescued by her male kinsfolk. This combination of the hostile other, femininity and victimhood spoke to contemporary concerns but it also reflected social realities. Bride-capture and slavery had existed as real practices in remote areas, while the hardships implicit in exogamous patriarchal marriage were covertly expressed through a supernatural frame. Fairy abduction, which took away the real, vital person and left behind an empty shell, was a powerful metaphor for the disordered mind. Once a troubled person had remembered themselves as someone led astray by fairies, they could imagine their way back to human society, returning to it with the gifts of those who had been lost on the other side: prophecy and healing.

 

29. Kate Harvey (University of Stirling)

Kate Harvey has completed both a BA (Hons) in English Studies and a Masters degree in The Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling, with the final dissertation looking at The Female Werewolf. Current research interests include the Monstrous Feminine in the Contemporary Ecogothic, and Ballet Gothic – with a work in progress for an edited collection in the latter.

La Fée Verte: Absinthe and the Green Fairy myth in twenty-first-century Gothic

If you drink the Green Fairy you will dance with the Devil! (Maurin Quina Absinthe Advert, 1906) Absinthe was a green tinted spirit (originally used for medicinal purposes) made popular in the mid to late 1800s and was particularly associated with artists such as painters Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edouard Manet, French poet Paul Verlaine (and his lover Arthur Rimbaud) and even (perhaps unsurprisingly) Oscar Wilde. It was adopted as the tipple for the Bohemians, yet was vehemently opposed by prohibitionists, and was banned in the United States and several European countries in the early 1900’s for over 100 years, after ‘The Absinthe Murder’ in Switzerland. The allure of Absinthe, although not as popular a drink as it once was, still has an impact as a signifier of decadence and bohemia. This paper will look at the inclusion of Absinthe, and the myth of the hallucinogenic muse the Green Fairy, in twenty-first-century Gothic depictions. It has appeared in TV Shows such as Carnivàle (2003-2005) and Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) as well as the 2001 movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s From Hell, but it is the portrayals of the Green Fairy in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001), the subsequent live performance of Moulin Rouge: The Ballet (2017) by choreographer Jorden Morris, and the current Spiegelworld Las Vegas burlesque show Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace that will be the focus of this paper. In these three examples, The Green Fairy takes physical form, and by examination, it can be seen how the myths and stereotypes of Absinthe are reinforced, exaggerated or undermined within these performances.

 

30. Dr Michaela Hausmann (Leipzig University)

Dr Michaela Hausmann received her PhD at the University of Vechta, Germany, where she also worked as a research assistant and lecturer in English literature. She currently teaches at Leipzig University. Although she has taught and presented on various aspects of English literature, her particular research interests include poetry and narrative theory, fantasy and Gothic literature, and literature from the nineteenth to the early twentieth century. In 2020, her first monograph appeared with Routledge: ‘Music Makers’ and World Creators: The Forms and Functions of Embedded Poems in British Fantasy Narratives.

An arboreal femme fatale: George MacDonald’s Maid of the Alder-tree and her literary and folkloric roots

Ever since Tolkien’s Ents marched through his stories and across the cinematic screens they have shaped the image of humanoid trees as protective, mostly benign, and invariably male characters. Yet one of his presumed sources (cf. Manlove 2008: 110), George MacDonald’s fairy romance Phantastes (1858), is haunted by a sinister and seductive female tree spirit who enchants and preys on the story’s protagonist in an almost vampiric manner: the Maid of the Alder-tree. In this talk I analyse the characterisation of the Maid of the Alder-tree as an arboreal femme fatale in Phantastes and explore several of her literary and folkloric sources. While the Maid of the Alder-tree’s encounter with the protagonist of Phantastes is strongly reminiscent of the fairy encounter in Keats’s ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ (cf. Reis 1972: 92), her appearance and demonic sexuality are rooted in European folklore and fairy tales. With her hollow back that looks like “an open coffin” (MacDonald 2000: 46), the Maid of the Alder-tree is related to Scandinavian elves such as the elle-maid or huldra (Hausmann 2020: 77). These folklore creatures also appear as seductive female fairies and are similarly deformed by a hollow back or a tail (cf. Bane 2013: 124-125, 185). In addition, the Maid of the Alder-tree’s eponymous tree species has often been invested with notions of witchcraft (cf. Folkard 1884: 92, 209) and malignant ghosts (cf. Jäger 1863: 38) due to the alders’ red sap and boggy habitat. In light of such aspects, I argue that the Maid of the Alder-tree represents the threat of female sexuality in general but also embodies a perverted, demonized image of Mother Nature. She thereby demonstrates man’s conflicted relationship with feminized nature in George MacDonald’s novel and certain strands of folklore.

 

34. Dr Bill Hughes (Open Graves, Open Minds Project) Bill Hughes 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. 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. Bill 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. 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) and In the Company of Wolves: Wolves, Werewolves, and Wild Children (Manchester: MUP, 2020).

Fairy carnival: Music, dance, and food in the re-enchantment of modernity from Hope Mirrlees’s Lud-in-the-Mist to paranormal romance

In fairy folklore, three things are frequently represented as both dangerous and irresistibly alluring to mortals: fairy food, music, and dancing. Food, music, and dance are metonymous with the glamorous fairies themselves and of the realm of Faerie. When these themes are self-consciously reworked in the literature of late modernity, they are also invested with utopian promise, foreshadowing a carnivalesque world of pleasure and beauty beyond the drabness and functionalism of the disenchanted mundane world.
I begin with Hope Mirrlees’s pioneering fantasy novel, Lud-in-the-Mist (1926). This witty satire on bourgeois philistinism and repression lays out some of these motifs, with its narrative of the illegal trade in fairy fruit and its addictive and transfigurative pleasures. I then look briefly at later reworkings of these themes in some contemporary paranormal romances.
When, in paranormal romance, the demonic lover is cast as dark fairy (rather than, say, vampire or werewolf), folkloric characteristics are appropriated and modified to create a distinctive subgenre that exploits themes not present in vampire or werewolf romances. The formal expectations of the genre, however, and associated expectations of a readership alert to feminist concerns, mean that the allure and danger are not always one-sided – the mortal may be as addictive to the fairy as they are to the mortal lover. Thus the prospect of mutuality counteracts the traditional helplessness of the, usually female, human seduced by fay.
Max Weber and, subsequently, the Frankfurt School discerned a state of disenchantment in modernity, whereby industrialisation and instrumental rationality had erased the sense of the sacred in life with ambiguous effects. The appeal of fairy narratives in the modern era may be their power to re-enchant our desacralised world.
The re-enchanted world adumbrated by fairy romance offers aesthetic delight, a transformed relationship with nature, and a revisioning of love that is wildly sensual yet freed from the domination that the demonic lover seems to threaten. The manifestation of Gothic in these fictions comes about through the generic encounter between horror and romance novels but also with the older sense of ‘the fairy kind of writing’ that Dale Townshend talks about, which invokes wonder and enchantment.

 

35. Desmond Huthwaite (University of Cambridge)

Desmond Huthwaite is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge researching Gothic novels and transgender theory.

Fairy form in Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya

Among the Marchese di Loredani’s dying words to his daughter Victoria, the protagonist of Charlotte Dacre’s novel Zofloya, or The Moor (1806), is a reminder that ‘we are but the creatures of a day, existing we know not how, and reserved for—we know not what.’ The remaining plot seems to justify this statement’s epistemological timidity. The reader of Zofloya is asked to bear witness to physical transmorfigrations, satanic possession, and acts of cruelty so violent as to render suspect any stable notions of human nature that the reader might bring to the text. If we are to believe that Zofloya truly is the devil incarnate; if we are to place a woman with Victoria’s talent for evil-doing in the category of human; it should perhaps not be too difficult to take literally the several instances where Dacre likens the beautiful young Lilla to another ‘creature’ which, like the Marchese’s humankind, is difficult to approach empirically. To read her, that is, as a fairy. By positioning Zofloya in a Romantic tradition of folklore revivalism, this paper offers various strands of nineteenth-century discourse on the fey as lenses through which to approach the principal characters in Dacre’s sensational tale. Under this rereading, Zofloya himself comes to represent a religious view of fairies as fallen angels, and Lilla to represent a secular understanding of fairies as the lingering wights of a pre-Christian, indigenous culture. The capricious Victoria must choose between these competing models of fairyhood: a black, foreign devil or a white, anglicised fairy. Dacre thus incorporates folklore into her novel’s nationalist, white-supremacist ambitions. Finally, the paper uses the concept of changelings (sacrificial babies) to consider how Victoria herself can be viewed as a kind of fairy, whose pedagogical formation should be a test case for British women readers seeking to produce a materially robust, enduring, and human progeny.

 

36. Caitlin Jauncey (Independent Researcher)

Caitlin Jauncey recently completed her MA in Gothic Studies at the Manchester Metropolitan University (graduation pending the end of Covid…) and is now an independent researcher currently working on a study of the Gothic in Wales whilst agonising over a suitable PhD topic. She graduated from the University of Oxford in 2017 and her research interests include the videogame narratives and the Gothic portrayals of both art and neo-paganism.

Aerial creatures: Fairy women and the Romantic ballet

‘His heart is a prey to remorse and despair; …lacking the strength to tear himself away from the being that like a phantom captivates and bewilders his senses and enthrals his mind.’ ‘Romantic ballet’ is, like ‘Gothic’, an often nebulous term, but is mostly known today for white tutus, supernatural stories, and the sublimity of the female dancer. With the premiere of La Sylphide in 1832, breaking new ground in choreography, costume design, stage mechanics, and lighting design, the recurring figure of the fairy was brought to life on the Romantic stage. From La Sylphide to La Péri, Ondine to Éoline, the balletic stage of the 1830s through to the 1890s was dominated by the figure of the supernatural woman – whether fairy, witch, nymph, or ghost. This paper looks at ballet’s many fairy women through the nineteenth century and beyond, their Gothic and Romantic contexts, and the ways in which these inhuman women shape and are shaped by the gender politics of the balletic stage. Whilst the women of contemporary Gothic literature are terrorised by the domestic space, these supernatural women of the Gothic stage exist outside of this space, found in the liminal woods and forests, their matriarchal communities closely knit and their relationships with human men often lethal and always dangerous. This paper attempts to locate the fairy within the Romantic ballet canon through her portrayal as both monster and ingenue, temptress and tragedy, and how these sylphides contribute toward the wider depiction of the Gothic and the faerie.

 

39. Györgyi Kovács (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest)

Györgyi Kovács is a fourth-year PhD student at the Modern English and American Literature and Culture programme at the Doctoral School of Literary Studies at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. My field of research is eighteenth-century Gothic literature, specifically the connection between sensibility and the supernatural in Ann Radcliffe’s novels. I have presented papers at some conferences, e.g. at the Gothic Hybridities conference in 2018 organized by the International Gothic Association and at The Place of Memory and the Memory of Place conference held online in 2020, organized by the London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research. My article ‘“I am all that stands between them and chaos”: A monstrous way of ruling in A Song of Ice and Fire’ was published this year by Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.

Fairies in Ann Radcliffe’s poetry

Ann Radcliffe was one of the most influential authors of early Gothic novels. Feminist literary criticism regards her as the originator of the Female Gothic tradition, and scholars note her characteristic use of the explained supernatural. In my presentation, I am going to explore the poem titled The Glow-worm published in her most famous novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), allegedly composed by the heroine Emily St. Aubert, and probably written by Radcliffe herself. The poem describes the dance of the fairies and their queen from the viewpoint of the title character. I am going to explore how the representation of the fairies and the realm of the supernatural illuminates an important aspect of the heroine’s character, specifically her creative power, a manifestation of the female genius that characterizes Radcliffe’s heroines and how it is tied to aesthetic quality following Addison’s interpretation of the fairy way of writing. In my analysis, I am also going to rely on Terry Castle’s argument on how the supernatural became part of the everyday world and on Robert Mayhew’s essay on the Latitudinarianistic aspect of the belief system of the main characters.

 

40. Dr Meriem Rayen Lamara (University of Northampton)

Meriem Rayen Lamara has earned a PhD in English Literature, specializing in Gothic Studies and Young Adult Literature at the University of Northampton. She holds a Master’s degree in African, British, and American Cultural and Literary Studies from the University of Constantine, Algeria. Her research focuses primarily on the supernatural Gothic, folklore, and mythology in Young Adult literature. Her adjacent research interests include cultural representation and diversity, Islamic mythology, and North African literature and folklore.

‘Twilight creatures’: Dark fae and fire spirits in Young Adult Gothic and fantasy

Young Adult (YA) Gothic and Fantasy has witnessed a significant surge of narratives reimagining and rewriting traditional fairytales, folktales, legends, and myths from around the world. Fae stories, in particular, continue to rise in popularity. This paper examines a range of texts featuring the Fae and variants of faeries from various mythologies. Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series, S. A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass, Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful, and Cassandra Clare’s The Shadowhunters Chronicles are read as Gothic texts wherein Otherness and boundaries are central. In the lands of the Fae, a Gothic space par excellence, it is the human characters who are Othered. In the selected narratives, humans yearn to be non-human, and supernatural Otherness is craved rather than rejected. The powers, agency, and sense of belonging that the Fae offer make all the trials and challenges the human characters go through worth it. As such, the paper focuses particularly on the ways in which fairies are portrayed in contemporary YA Gothic and Fantasy, and looks at how human characters navigate the world of the Fae.

 

41. L. B. Limbrey (Poet)

L. B. Limbrey is a poet, writer and environmental activist who studied English with Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, writing their final project on fairytales and folklore. They have work published in Rituals and Declarations, Corvid Queen, Cypress Journal’s The Red House Anthology and Dust Poetry. They write the ‘Queer as Folklore’ blog, which focuses on queer interpretations of folklore and myth, and they are currently writing a series of talks on queer folklore and women’s fantasy writing.

Fairyland: Fantasy literature’s queer liminal space

Fairies have long been associated with the societal other, and of people and cultures outside of the everyday. Thus Fairyland too has come to be a place of transgression and deviance from the norm, often with a focus on rich, aesthetically overwhelming decadence, and liminal, or in-between space, similar to that of the Gothic. Queer spaces also occupy a sort of opulent, gothic excess in the cultural mind: drag shows, cabaret bars, the burlesque, and the party atmosphere of modern day pride inform much of how queer bodies are perceived, with all the implications therein of transgression from the hetero-patriarchal; the acceptance and exploration of the liminal spaces of gender and desire, as well as the in-between of the need to hide identity for safety and desire to celebrate it. (What space more liminal than the fabled closet?) With an especial focus on Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, Hope Mirlees’ Lud-In-The-Mist and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin, I will look at the literary manifestations of this queer liminal space through modern queer theory, fairy folklore, and literary analysis to uncover how authors have used the fantastical to explore queer identity and societal difference through the capricious landscape of fairy.

 

42. Prof. Anastasia Lipinskaya (Saint Petersburg State Forest Technical University)

Anastasia Lipinskaya graduated from Russian State Pedagogical University in 2000 (MA). She completed her PhD about John Gardner’s novel Grendel in St. Petersburg State University in 2003. Anastasia is an associate professor (Saint Petersburg State Forest Technical University) and a guest lecturer in Saint Petersburg State University and St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Fine Arts, Sculpture and Architecture. She teaches English and foreign literature (mostly 19th and 20th centuries). Her scholarly interests include late Gothic fiction (especially ghost stories and their cultural context), narrative strategies and theory of genre. She translates ghost stories and books based on the Warhammer universe. Co-authored (translations, introductions, annotations) several anthologies of classic ghost stories and prepared materials for the Russian annotated edition of William Hazlitt’s essays. Among her other professional interests is training the regional team for national school Olympiads in literature. Anastasia lives with her husband and two daughters in Saint Petersburg.

‘Between the Lights’: A self-reflective Christmas among the fairies

E. F. Benson’s ghost story ‘Between the Lights’ (1912), a notable late example of the genre, is rich in reflection and reworking of traditional themes and structural elements. First, it recaptures the ritualistic component of the genre making it explicit: characters ‘remember’ that they should tell ghost stories on and about Christmas. A complex and extended narrative frame is followed by the story itself, that is also multi-layered. The protagonist’s supposed experience is very typical for fin-de-siècle Gothic fiction, it is centered around a dreamlike encounter with fairies, or little people associated in late Gothic fiction with the archaic pre-human past and the danger of degeneration (cf. A. Machen, G. Allen, J. Buchan etc.). But, curiously, stereotypical words like ‘beasts’ and ‘abomination’ are dissolved in the poetic atmosphere of the story. Everard says he feels like an actor in Hamlet, thus stressing the inner theatricality of ritualistic storytelling, in which there is no exact difference between illusion and reality, metaphor and its literal meaning (‘soft tread of many little people’ which can be simply snow, ‘eight skeletons present’ for Everard and his friends). ‘Between’ is actually the leitmotif of the story: between sunset and sunrise, between human world and world of ancient mythic creatures, between different layers of reality. Benson is clearly more interested in how to tell than in what to tell – racial and evolutionary themes are gradually stripped of their usual meaning and give way to the author’s reflection on the inner structure of a ghost story and to lyrical, mildly ironic scenes of a festive evening among friends.

 

44. Dr Jane Mainley Piddock (Aberystwyth University)

PhD English literature, Aberystwyth University, ‘A Jungian and Historical reading of the Ghost Stories Of M. R. James’. Research Interests: Victorian, Edwardian, and Modernist Fiction, American Fiction, in particular the novels of Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Andrews, Fairytales and Folklore, contemporary fiction, especially the novels, stories and journalism of Angela Carter, and the plays of Andrea Dunham, Jungian, Freudian and psychoanalytical theory. I have been the recipient of a poetry apprenticeship mentoring award from Writing West Midlands/Nine Arches Press, for the mentorship 2016-2017, by the poet Jane Commane, to help edit my poetry collection The Fully Human Race, which I am busy developing and am crowd-funding my book (Casting The Runes – The Letters of M. R. James) with unbounders.com at the moment.

Was M. R. James away with the fairies?

‘On writing of M. R. James’s academic and fictional oeuvre the folklorist S. T. Joshi said, [a]t times it seems as if Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) led not one life, but a multitude. That the same man could have described all the mediaeval manuscripts at the various colleges of Cambridge University, prepared an edition of the Apocryphal New Testament and other works of biblical scholarship, and, almost incidentally, produced four landmark volumes of ghost stories in the course of a fifty-year professional career that also saw him as dean and Provost of King’s College, Cambridge, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and Provost of Eton – all this makes one admire anew the native talents of one whose unassuming modesty would have shrugged off these attainments as all in a day’s work.’ This is the standard description of M. R. James’s academic and fictional writing that many Jamesian researchers use to talk about M. R. James. What however may surprise even them is that James was also an admirer and a writer of The Fairytale. For a small body of fictional work, (31 ghost stories and a full length book The Five Jars) no fewer than 10 stories have fairytale references and allusions woven into the structure. This conference paper will be outlining the world of what I am terming the Jamesian debt to the fairytale. Although the term ‘debt’ is a fiscal term, I am not concerned with a materialist analysis here, but rather the intertextual play in James’s stories between often what started as ghost story and morphed rather like a shape shifter into something else entirely. Often as in the best fairytales the mortal land will open up suddenly to a portal to the fairies realm, James would surprise his readers with an inclusion of say, a talking owl, a cannibalistic fairy godfather or bawdy fairies….

 

45. Dr Martina Massarentemand and Dr Mathias Mocci (Digital Gothic Project)

Dr Martina Massarente (Genova, 1988). Graduated in History of Art and Enhancement of the Artistic Heritage and PhD researcher in Digital Humanities, Performing Arts and Multimedia Technologies. Her main research interests are focused on topics concerning the history of art criticism, the history of photography, photographic archives and new media. She taught masters and university courses and she is the founder, together with Mathias Mocci, of the Digital Gothic Project. She is currently a contract professor at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Genoa. Dr Mathias Mocci, Cagliari (Cagliari, 1988), graduated in Critical History and Organization of the Arts and Performing Arts at the University of Parma, he specialized with an Advanced Training Course in Documentary and Experimental Cinema. He deals with videomaking and culture of audiovisual image and digital communication. He is the founder with Martina Massarente of the Digital Gothic Project.

Fairies, witches and mermaids: The Gothic myth and the terrible enchantment of the Dior house in Matteo Garrone’s film.

Le Mythe Dior is the new masterpiece film – advertising signed by Matteo Garrone that brings to the stage an unpublished imagination characterized by the passions of the Roman director: the fairy tale, the fairies and the precious, pleasant and at the same time terrible settings. This contribution aims to investigate the filmic work, which brings the autumn/winter 2020 collection on stage, from the point of view of its mysterious and magical aspects and its protagonists that mix ancient fears, wonders and contemporary disenchantment. Fairies, witches and mermaids, mythical creatures of a distant past are now the protagonists of an itinerant atelier suspended between reality and dream. The fascination of fairies is powerfully manifested in Garrone’s teaser, attracted by a magical chest as if it were a doll’s house, desire is manifested with beauty and darkness, a surreal and gothic fashion theatre that sublimates some of the most hidden aspects of the imagination. The aim is therefore to analyse the numerous interconnections present in the film with the implications of Gothic in contemporary fashion and imagination in order to understand how it has redefined itself over time, involving the cinema and the fashion industry, flooding it with characters from literature and art. In fact, the gothic in the sense in which David Punter speaks about it, does not stop to describe it, but enters into things, reflecting on time, on the sense of vagueness of the contemporary, on the omens and shadows of society. And so it is these points of connection between Gothic mood and society that interest Garrone, who with his fairy creatures conveys the values of one of the most famous fashion houses in the world, reconstructs its history in 15 minutes to reveal the transience of time and man’s tendency to fulfil his desires where Gothic becomes erotic, as sensual and erotic is the love of Garrone’s fairies, who, behind the splendour of their robes, hide an attractive sense of sinister love.

 

46. Anna Milon (University of Exeter)

Anna Milon is a second-year PhD student at the University of Exeter, researching the Horned God as an environmental image in modern fantasy literature and Live Action Role Play. Her previous credentials include a BA in English from Royal Holloway, University of London and an MA in Medieval Literatures and Languages from the University of York. Anna has been involved in the British LARP community both as participant and creator for the past six years. Her work has been published in the Hellebore zine (2020) and in Luna Press Publisher’s academic anthologies (2017 & 2019).

Playing Fae: Embodying the uncanny in live action role play

Having lost sight of enchantment in our daily lives, we seek it in our leisure. One opportunity for rediscovering it lies in Live Action Role Play (LARP), a Bakhtinian carnivalesque space where participants can embody supernatural or folkloric characters in a mundane physical location transformed into a magical realm. Elves and fae are a popular element of LARP, appearing in a majority of settings. Their popularity belies the players’ interest in uncensored folklore and the darker themes of supernatural horror. In creating their fae characters, players are more likely to draw on the likes of Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004) than on Victorian diminutive pixies. However, being defined by their otherness, fae characters present a challenge both for the players portraying them and for those interacting with them. How does one convincingly embody a being who is meant to be unlike a human? How does one instil awe and terror in other participants without that terror spilling out of the carnival setting into the real? And what leads players to explore these specific alien identities? These questions will be discussed in the paper, informed by a combination of interviews and participant observation, as well as the analysis of the players’ source material in literature and film.

 

48. Tam Moules (University of Glasgow alumnus)

Tam Moules has an MLitt in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Anglia Ruskin University. Their research is currently focused on the work of Sylvia Townsend Warner, and they have previously presented papers at the 2019 Fantastika and Fabled Coast Conferences, as well as at Glasgow’s GifCon in 2018 and 2019, and co-hosted a writing workshop at the LSFRC’s Productive Futures conference.

The Gothic aristocracy: Fairies, class, and the power of flight in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin tales

Sylvia Townsend Warner’s politics are deeply woven into her writing, and her Elfin tales present their aristocratic subjects primarily as the venal and corrupt benefactors of a deeply broken social order, one which strictly enforces the boundaries of class. ‘Gothic signifies a writing of excess’ (Botting, 2005) in both style and content, and the luxuriant lifestyles of the Elfin aristocracy are sharply critiqued through their proximity to their poorer counterparts, and through the restrictions that the aristocracy place on themselves, it is made clear that the class system is harmful even to those who otherwise benefit from it. This paper will examine the ways in which the power of flight is used throughout the Elfin stories, both as a class signifier and as a method of transgressing class boundaries. Flight is used by the working class for transport and labour out of necessity, the aristocracy are forbidden from flight due to it being considered ‘a servile activity’ (Townsend Warner, 1977). Several of the stories feature aristocratic Fairies who transgress this social boundary, which follows Botting’s description of ‘the fascination with transgression and the anxiety over cultural limits’ (2005), and this paper will explore the ways in which these transgressions are perceived and punished, as well as analysing the symbolic implications of flight being restricted in this manner.

 

49. Helen Nde (Mythological Africans)

Helen Nde is a Cameroonian-born researcher, writer and artist currently based in Atlanta, GA. She received a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea, Cameroon and a master’s degree in Public Health with a focus on Epidemiology from Loyola University Chicago. She currently curates Mythological Africans, an online space for exploring myths, spirituality, and culture from the African continent. She is interested in leveraging the knowledge embedded in cultural artefacts and living traditions to support creative expression and inform social policy.

The Gothic in traditional African folklore: Tales of wonder, horror and the Otherfolk

The folklore of traditional African societies incorporates elements of the gothic – that is, the supernatural, the enchanting and the macabre, to encode the philosophical underpinnings of the associated worldviews and reveal the complex relationships people have with themselves, their communities and most importantly, with nature. This is because belief in a supernatural realm of benevolent and malevolent otherworldly beings, which exists contiguously with the realm of humans, is a core aspect of all traditional African worldviews. The appearance, characteristics, functions, and symbolism of these otherworldly denizens, as revealed in the existing folklore about them, are similar to the fairies, elves, goblins, hobs, and other supernatural creatures of European folklore. In this paper, I explore the gothic elements in the otherworld-related folklore of traditional African worldviews from Benin, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, with a focus on otherworldly beings and their interactions with the world of the living. Starting with a discussion of why the term ‘gothic’, with the implication of association with the eighteenth-century literary movement which romanticised the supernatural and the grotesque, may be a misnomer, I elaborate on how this folklore does, nonetheless, exhibit characteristically gothic themes. I conclude with a discussion of how contact with the otherworld of European folklore during European exploration and eventual colonization of the continent between the 15th and 19th centuries may have influenced traditional African folklore as it exists today.

 

50. Cynthia Nirmala Rajah (English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad)

Cynthia Nirmala Rajah completed her MA English degree in English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, and her BA English degree in Stella Maris College, Chennai. She worked on the gift economy of modernist poetry for her dissertation. She was a panelist in the IIT DoHSS ‘Rethinking Violence’ conference. She has also presented papers on fanfiction in St Joseph’s College, Bangalore; and on the intersemantic and interlingual translations of the Harry Potter movies; lycanthropy in Harry Potter; and an ecocritical review of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles in the Stella Maris intercollegiate seminars. She is interested in comics narratives, modernist and postmodernist poetry, children’s literature, fantasy, and literary criticism.

The Fay in fanfiction: Drabbles and deliberations on psychopathology and power

Of humanoid fantastical creatures, few are as removed from humankind as the fay—for instance, the werewolf and the vampire share an expired/hybrid humanness, but the fay are undeniably other: they weigh words and promises, wield wild magic, ravage in revelry, and act as custodians of art and nature. In their truer portrayals (before Disney’s tainting and bowdlerizing touch), the fay are often nigh diabolical. The fay have come to symbolize different things through history—they have served as warnings about uncharted territory and the dark, as proponents of feminism, and as a form of escape from the burdens of human life. However, the fay do not fit as well in today’s world as they are creatures of obscurity, and our world a place filled with light and found-out things. Fanfiction — a form of art despised as the lowest of low art — is spared the restrictions and rigidity that govern the other art forms, and gives us a peek into the popular notion of the ancient fay today. Many fanfiction writers use the fairy AU (alternate universe) or fay characters to dabble with hierarchies in faerieland; kinship ties to the land; the changing (and corrupting) nature of power; and how careless bargains lead to creative damnation. Fanfiction writers often turn some TV show/book characters (of the fantasy genre) into fay to explore the amorality or psychopathology of some characters, as the aloofness and agelessness of the fay enhances the innate amorality of the characters, and their complexity. (We see this in like Peter Hale from Teen Wolf in Charm’d by thy Beauty by CracklPop: Peter Hale, the fairy king, strikes a bargain with Stiles Stilinski’s mother, who tries to shield him from Peter’s eyes by hiding Stiles’s name from the world. In the end, Peter uses Stiles’s real name to make him his thrall. This work also uses the fairy notion of name-power as a pornographic device.) This paper explores how fanfiction understands fay, and how it uses the fay to dabble with lust, psychopathology, ecology, theology, and the self.

 

51. Indu Ohri (University of Virginia)

Indu Ohri is the Echols Fellow in the University of Virginia’s English Department. She is working on a book project that examines how the ghosts in women’s supernatural fiction reflect various unspeakable social concerns of late Victorian and early twentieth-century Britain. Her research and teaching interests include Victorian and Edwardian women’s ghost stories, global literatures of the long nineteenth century, and neo-Victorian adaptations of canonical literature. Her articles on these topics have appeared in publications such as the Victorians Institute Journal Digital Annex (2014), Preternature (2019), and the collection Adaption in Young Adult Novels: Critically Engaging Past and Present (edited by Dana Lawrence and Amy Montz) (2020). She is also designing a digital archive of manuscripts from UVA’s Lafcadio Hearn Collection, which will focus on how Herbert Spencer’s writings on evolution influenced Hearn’s Gothic works and their representation of race, sexuality, and gender across Ireland, America, England, Martinique, and Japan.

‘Changed by constant retellings’: Carnival Row’s recirculation of fairy and colonialist narratives

Recently, critics such as Carole Silver, Nicola Brown, and Diana Purkiss have written scholarly monographs about Victorian imaginings of fairies as the dark and primitive Other that threatened humans with evil. The recent neo-Victorian TV series Carnival Row (2019) reverses this premise; instead, humans are the imperialists who colonize the fae world, Tirnanoc, and discriminate against mythical refugees displaced by war. In the third episode ‘Kingdoms of the Moon’, Philo and his fairy lover, Vignette, hold a literary discussion that offers a larger metafictional commentary on Carnival Row’s adaptation of Victorian narratives of folklore and imperialism. Vignette’s fairy history of a human man who courts a fairy queen becomes reworked into Philo’s ‘droll little colonialist fantasy’ of a human explorer romancing a moon princess. My essay will foreground ‘Kingdoms of the Moon’ and its emphasis on Carnival Row’s rewriting of the Victorian fairy-human romance and the colonial adventure tale. Besides being adaptations of Victorian narratives, Vignette’s fairy history and Philo’s colonialist narrative serve as the primary intertexts that inform the rest of the show’s characterization, narrative, and themes. Rather than focusing on the imperialist perspective, Carnival Row identifies fairies as creative storytellers whose folklore challenges the dominance of human culture and preserves their heritage. Specifically, Vignette protects a valuable archive of fairy literature from harm and Philo’s mother uses song to remind him of his half-fairy ancestry. Furthermore, the fairy-human romance is reflected in Philo’s parentage, his love story with Vignette, and his stepbrother’s liaisons with fae women. These multiple love stories suggest that interspecies romances can help characters overcome the hostility between humans and fairies and reveal the pervasiveness of relationships officially deemed taboo. I will argue that Carnival Row’s postmodern retellings of the colonialist narrative and fairy-human romance allow the fae to reclaim these plots from their oppressors.

 

52. Dr Joan Ormrod (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Joan Ormrod is a senior lecturer of Film and Media Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and the editor of Routledge’s Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. Her research is in popular culture particularly comics, gender, fantasy and science fiction. Her latest publications are Wonder Woman, the Female Body and Culture (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), Time Travel in Popular Media: Essays on Film, Television, Literature and Video Games (Jefferson: McFarland), ‘Bodies in Wonder Woman of the 1990s: Good Girls Bad Girls and Macho Men’, in E. R. Helford, S. Gray-Panesi, S. Carroll, and M. Howard (eds), The Woman Fantastic in Contemporary American Media Culture (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2016), pp. 159-76. Orcid 0000-0002-3531-8938. Email: j.ormrod@mmu.ac.uk

‘The magic of England’s trees kills her sunlight, her water, life and stones’: Nature, fairies and national identity in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

This paper analyses the re-emergence of magic in Britain through national and spatial discourses as envisaged in media, art and literary texts of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The paper traces British representations of fairies principally from Suzanne Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but also incorporating their representations in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels and Stardust, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stories and Tessa Farmer’s Little Savages. These texts are analysed using the work of Michel Foucault in The Order of Things to identify the development of British fairies with the emergence of modernity. I show how fairies emerge with the conceptualisation of British national identity in the 18th century when Britain, in lockdown through the French embargo, reimagines itself as a nation through the landscape in art and romanticism. The fairy is reimagined in the early twentieth century through the traditions of British folklore and fantasy literature such as Arthur Machen’s ‘The White People’ and Grant Allen’s ‘Pallinghurst Barrow’. In these traditions the fairy is romanticised as a race apart from humanity that inhabits ancient or liminal worlds within ancient woodlands and burial sites. The darker, more demonic imaginings of the fairy can be identified in contemporary texts in which fairies have their own agendas and operate in liminal and other, ‘fairy’ realms. Imaginings of the fairy in these contemporary retellings evoke the Gothic romanticisation of the British landscape, history, the mystic and the comfort of an earlier time in an age of cultural unrest. Rural and ancient spaces are part of Britain’s heritage cultures and imagined national identity. As such, they represent the fairy as a unique part of the British national landscape, tourist industry and identity.

 

53. Ellen Marie O’Sullivan (University College Cork)

Ellen Marie O Sullivan is a first-year PhD student in Sociology and Gender Studies at University College Cork, Ireland. Having completed a MA in Women’s Studies and focusing on gender violence, I decided to pursue the topic in my PhD and look at femicide in Ireland. My study of fairies is auxiliary, and came about as part of the examination into gendered killings in Ireland and the context that surrounds them. My examination of gender violence and killings is often situated in liminal spaces, and changelings in particular are highly representative of this. This year, I am also proud to be the Chair of Sibeál, the Gender Studies Network of Ireland.

‘Come away, O human child’: Changeling murders in Ireland in the nineteenth century.

Changelings and discussion of fairies in an Irish context has often focused primarily on the presence of fairies in folklore, art, and literature, framing fairies as an active part of the collective imagination. Viewing fairies through metaphorical and metaphysical lenses offers a great insight into the imaginations of the Irish people and our heritage, but often, instances of belief in the daoine sídhe offer an altogether darker view into the collective psyche. When superstitions meet lived reality, the outcome is not always pleasant. Changeling and fairy superstition was prominent, especially in nineteenth-century rural Ireland. The presence of changelings represented a threat to the stability of the home and community, and the response to this perceived threat could sometimes be fatal. While changeling-related murder was not a common crime by any means, such atrocities did take place around the island. Often these murders were intra-familial, with parents turning on children or grandparents, and spouses attacking and killing each other. This presentation will be an examination of the sociological aspects of changeling murder, examining the conditions in which such an event was prone to arise, by considering several case studies, including the now-infamous case of Bridgit Cleary.

 

56. Hannah Pike (University of Hertfordshire)

Hannah Pike: I have studied English Literature along with Film Studies at the University of Hertfordshire and have recently completed my undergraduate degree. I have published my own novel that was released in May 2019 and is a work of fiction based around the concept of Stockholm Syndrome and how it can affect an individual; this is planned to be published as a trilogy and I am currently working on the second book in the series. I am an avid reader of all different genres but Young Adult fiction, Gothic fiction, and thrillers in particular are my favourite to read. I hope to continue my studies further in Literature with an MA course and possibly take that even further to a PhD level and specialise in Young Adult and Gothic fiction specifically, with a greater emphasis on identity in adolescents along with how transgression and ‘taboo’ relationships change their personality and self.

Fae and the Other: Fae identities as threatening in City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta

Supernatural creatures have always been seen as examples of the ‘other’ in fiction across the years; however, this theme is particularly exaggerated within City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta. Fae have always been seen as beautiful and otherworldly broadly across a range of texts, but in this novel they are treated as an active threat and something that humans should be wary of and even fear in some circumstances. From strict rules in place for humans and members of Fae not to touch, to violent figures of authority that don’t care if they hurt members of the Fae as long as they have broken the rules, this world in particular seems dangerous for the Fae community. Much like individuals with mental health and disabilities in fiction, the Fae are treated as if they are somehow a lesser race, even with a treaty in place that keeps the peace between the two races, there is always a source of hatred coming from different angles. Humans in this novel approach the Fae as something they don’t quite understand completely, fearful of the different beliefs that they hold and ways of living as well as the glamour they use to disguise their true selves.

 

57. Dr Amanda Potter (Open University)

Amanda Potter was awarded her PhD by the Open University in 2014 for her thesis on viewer reception of classical myth in Xena: Warrior Princess and Charmed. Amanda’s main research interest is public engagement with the ancient world including audience reception of classics in popular film and television, and creative engagement with classical mythology and ancient history. She has published on a number of television series and films including Xena: Warrior Princess, Charmed, Doctor Who and spinoffs, Wonder Woman, Game of Thrones, HBO Rome and Starz Spartacus. She is currently co-editing a volume on Ancient Epic in Film and Television for EUP.

The fairy who wields the sword: Nimue as Fairy Queen, witch and warrior in Cursed (2020)

Fey girl Nimue is the protagonist of the Netflix series Cursed created by Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller, based on the young adult novel written by Wheeler and illustrated by Miller. Nimue is tasked with saving her people from being destroyed by Christian fundamentalists, the Red Paladins, ‘armed with mysterious powers and a legendary sword’. Nimue, the Lady of the Lake from Arthurian Legend, is a fairy/water spirit, helper maiden and enchantress. In Cursed she becomes a warrior, wielding the sword of power herself, rather than keeping it safe for the male hero Arthur, who here attempts to steal the sword for personal gain rather than use it for the good of the people. In interviews Wheeler and Miller state that they were ‘enraptured’ by and ‘grew up loving’ the Arthurian legends. Both have also written retellings of ancient history (Miller on 300 and Wheeler on the TV series Empire). Better known as a writer of male-centred stories, including Batman as well as 300, Miller shies away from the label of ‘feminist’ retelling for Cursed, while Wheeler, as the father of a daughter, was interested in ‘bringing in a female hero’ to ‘walk in the path’ previously trodden only by men. He states that the production team included a large number of women (as writers, directors, and department heads), in order to ‘get in a woman’s perspective’. In this paper I will discuss the character of Nimue as an amalgamation of the fairy queen, the witch, and the female warrior, drawn from the classical and medieval traditions. I will also evaluate how successful the male writers have been in creating an action heroine out of a female fairy character, in both the novel and the series.

 

58. Dr Madeline Potter (University of York)

Madeline Potter is a tutor at the University of York. She has recently completed her PhD at York, working on theological underpinnings of Geoffrey Hill’s poetry and sermons. Her current project researches the theological implications of monstrous figures in Irish Gothic writing during the nineteenth century. Her research explores the intersection of literature and theology, and she is interested in questions of theodicy, as well as the changing relationship between aesthetics and morality in works of fiction.

‘Hoofs and wheels’: Chariots, theology, and myth in Sheridan Le Fanu’s fairy stories

Two of Sheridan Le Fanu’s stories feature fairies travelling in a carriage pulled by four horses, a trope which finds itself at the intersection of myth and theology, as my paper will show. Rooted in Irish folklore, the ornate chariot and its horses take on a quasi-psychopomp role in Le Fanu’s tales, carrying human victims across to the fairy realm. At the same time, and through the same vehicle, fairies themselves can travel to the land inhabited by humans, the chariot thus opening up a crossway between two typically parallel realms. This slippage in and out of the fairy-land, I argue, allows Le Fanu to explore theological configurations by rendering the spiritual concrete and material. Although traditionally spiritual beings, Le Fanu’s fairies possess a nature as material as that of the carriage they travel in, luring and seducing innocent humans. This process allows Le Fanu to highlight the materiality of death itself, which grows even more conspicuous when the image of the fairy morphs into the undead yet unquestionably corporeal vampire Carmilla. In God and the Gothic, Alison Milbank argues that Le Fanu’s collection In A Glass Darkly seeks to make the afterlife tangible. The same desire is at play in his fairy stories: the eerie portrayal of the fairies and their carriages embody an array of theological tensions between this world and the one beyond. The image of the fairy then, has manifold ontological implications: it encapsulates an eclectic blend of Swedenborgian occultism, symbols of the Book of Revelation, as well as mythology. My paper asks: why is the fairy a particularly powerful symbol for embodying the transgression of life-beyond-death into ordinary existence, and how does the horse-drawn carriage challenge some theological assumptions about how spirits, bodies, and the mind itself can move between realms?

 

59. Dr Prachi Priyanka (Sharda University)

Dr Prachi Priyanka holds a doctorate degree in English literature. Her doctoral thesis is an illuminative study on the convergences between poetry and painting since the publication of G. E. Lessing’s Laocoon to the modern times. Her areas of interest include intertextuality and visual culture, Indian literature, Partition narratives and Victorian studies. Her short stories collection Thistle & Weeds was published in 2016. Her book Caste, Class and Gender in Modern Indian Literature is under publication by Authorspress, New Delhi. Currently, she is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sharda University, India.

Victorian fairy painting: Exploring the unknown, forbidden and concealed anxieties of the era

‘Fairy’ receives three archaic meanings, as ‘the land or home of the fays’, ‘a collective term for the fays or inhabitants of fairyland’, and ‘enchantment, magic’. Fairies have been understood as the first of a class of supernatural beings of diminutive size, in popular belief supposed to possess magical powers and to have great influence for good or evil over the affairs of man. With a surge of industrialisation and scientific advancements during the nineteenth century; both the microscope and the fairy fostered a sense of wonder at the natural world by positing the existence of a miniature world of enchantment. The interest in what was invisible to the naked eye gave newer perspectives to vision and imagination that captivated the audiences of fairy texts. In contrast to the genre paintings of domestic and ordinary lives of Victorian era; fairy paintings created a mysterious glimpse into the unknown and forbidden worlds. With reference to art works of the period, this paper will bring forth how the Victorian fairy acted as a bridge between science and fantasy, past and present, and sensuality and innocence to foster a sense of imaginative possibility. This paper also aims to explore how fairy paintings would dwell on the opposing elements of Victorian psyche including new attitudes towards looking at nature, a growing curiosity about the unknown and forbidden, and a desire to escape into the realms of subconscious and sexuality.

 

60. Dr Saba S. Razvi (University of Houston, Victoria, Texas)

Saba Syed Razvi is the author of the Elgin Award nominated collection In the Crocodile Garden (Agape Editions, 2016) and the Bram Stoker Award Ballot-nominated collection heliophobia (Finishing Line Press, 2017), as well as the chapbooks Limerence & Lux (Chax Press, 2016), Of the Divining and the Dead (Finishing Line Press, 2012), and the Elgin-nominated Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poems, fiction, and essays have appeared in various journals and anthologies, and they have been presented at readings, conferences, and festivals. Her writing has been nominated for and won various awards as well as fellowships. Having earned her PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 2012, she is currently an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX, where in addition to working on scholarly research on interfaces between science and contemporary poetry, as well as gender and sexuality in speculative literature, she is researching Sufi poetry in translation, and writing new poems and fiction. She is the Fiction Editor of Sundress Publications and on the Nominating Committee of the SCLA. She is (or has been recently) a member of various scholarly organizations such as the following: Society for Comparative Literature and the Arts (SCLA), Association of Writers and Writing Program (AWP), Modern Language Association (MLA), Society for Literature Science and the Arts (SLSA), British Society for Literature and Science (BSLS), Society for Critical Exchange (SCE), Speculative and Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), Horror Writers Association (HWA), POG, and New Orleans Poetry Festival (NOPF), among other organizations.

Faerie light and feminist fire: Depictions of the embattled power and sexuality of faeries in the paranormal romance novels of the Southern Vampire Mystery Series and the FaeFever Series

This paper will investigate a particular aspect of the dark faerie in paranormal romance – sex appeal, especially as that of the love object during a time influenced by war in certain novel series. This paper explores the depiction of faeries with regard to sexuality, romance, otherness, and desire in two Southern American paranormal romance novel series that invoke faerie folklore at a degree of distance from its origins. My exploration will discuss the faerie heritage of Sookie Stackhouse in The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris and the faerie origins of malefactors battling against MacKayla Lane in The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning. I’ll be comparing these to some extent with depictions found in the television series Carnival Row and the novel by Jeanette Ng titled Under The Pendulum Sun. Whereas the latter two series invoke a larger, global sense of colonization and war over resources and ideologies even among such ethereal creatures as faeries, the former two tend to take on a more individuated sense of agency in the face of psychological war with faerie creatures, fixating on more personal and intimate battles. In Harris’s series, the faeries are involved in a war with other supernatural creatures. In Moning’s series, the faeries are the invaders destroying Dublin, a context which displaced people are trying to understand and resist. In both of these novel series, both disconnection from human origins and disconnection from states of harmony through war play a part in how love and desire are shaped with regard to the interactions between faeries and humans. Additionally, sexuality is part of the battle for power and supremacy among these beings in both series, which is connected to how desire for another or for belonging can be weaponised in the context of romantic relationships that are influenced by war trauma. Finally, both novel series use a connection to faerie heritage to reify a sense of feminist power and agency, even as the context of battle and rebellion question that power and its origins.

 

61. Jennifer Richards (Royal College of Art)

Jennifer Richards is a Tutor (Research) in Fashion at the Royal College of Art. Her work explores a wide range of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practices. She interrogates the idea of the meta discourse, language, ritual, identity and the body. Recent research publications include articles on aesthetics, performance and the body within film and visual culture. Her current work explores the ‘Influence of the (Gothic) Genre in High Fashion’, in Clive Bloom (ed), The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic. This chapter explores the re-emergence of Gothic modes within contemporary Fashion from street style to haute couture.

Lee and Tinks: The fairytale as muse in the works of Alexander McQueen

‘Life to me is a bit of a Brothers Grimm fairytale’ (Alexander McQueen) For Alexander McQueen, Annabelle Neilsen was both a model and a muse. Known as ‘Tinks’ after the mischievous fairy in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904), she was introduced to McQueen by their mutual friend Isabella Blow, in 1993. The pair quickly became friends and Neilsen would become McQueen’s inspiration for many of his collections over the next 18 years. Neilsen’s huge impact can be felt through McQueen’s early work to his collections at Givenchy and beyond. She also served as an influence on what would be his final collection, Angels and Demons in 2010. Throughout his work, McQueen celebrated the notion of the powerful woman, often choosing to locate his collections around the empowerment of women and also through his sense of high drama and theatricality. Intertwined with this, was his love of storytelling and myth. Often drawing on folklore and the faery realm, he also created his own fairytales, such as his 2008 collection titled The Girl Who Lived in a Tree. Neilsen produced a manuscript to accompany the collection ‘based around a magical girl who travelled like his shows to the end of the world’ and it was on this fairytale that the show was based. Exploring elements such as mythical creatures and warrior princesses, McQueen created his own elaborate fairytales. This paper will therefore examine the impact of Neilsen’s collaborations with McQueen and how she served as an inspiration within his collections.

 

62. Caroline Roberts (University of Suffolk)

Caroline Roberts works in the disability arts sector as a theatre director. She writes contemporary women’s fiction and historical fiction. Her research interests include posthumanism and the representation of mothers and motherhood in fiction and in art. Caroline is currently studying on an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Suffolk.

Magical mothering: Creative responses to motherhood through a re-writing of Malekin

An examination of creative writing practices and the role of Folk tales as a means to critically and imaginatively articulate experiences of motherhood in the 21st century. I will consider the writing of my own short story ‘The Gift’, and how my retelling of Malekin, a Changeling tale, encapsulates the theoretical notion of the child as a stranger, ‘the alien in our midst’ (Jacqueline Rose, 2018). Reflecting on the process of rewriting folk tales for contemporary readers, my paper will look at the ways creative responses to folk tales can, in this case, readdress Rose’s suggestion that Western culture does not always recognise ‘the complex, often painful reality of Motherhood’. The well-known narrative of a changeling story, which has often been told from the perspective of the grieving mother, (and more recently from the perspective of the child), offers the chance to illustrate the ‘real experience’, and emotional complexity of mothering, encouraging readers to consider their own in the space of the imagination. In the quickly changing world of the modern day, when children are increasingly ‘alien’ to their parents, finding ways to articulate mothers’ feelings and state of being is ever more important. I argue that the enchanted realm of the imagination allows a writer (and reader) to create a strong sense of moving beyond the social imaginary towards new understandings. In ‘The Gift’, a child arrives on a midsummer’s eve, casting a spell over the house and its inhabitants. As the curiousness of the welcome interloper is untangled, season by season, mother and daughter grow in understanding that one day the child will disappear. Is the child real or imagined? Has it grown into adulthood, or simply died? In this magical setting, I will further discuss the ambiguous, shifting state of motherhood, and the self.

 

63. Jack Rooney (Ohio State University)

Jack Rooney is a doctoral candidate in English at The Ohio State University. His dissertation, ‘The Phantoms of a Thousand Hours: Ghostly Poetics and the Poetics of the Ghost in British Literature, 1740–1914’, examines the formation of the ghost as a poetical entity from the sepulchral meditations of the Graveyard School to nineteenth-century elegy’s fascination with the dead who speak. His work reads nineteenth-century poetic theory as a site of the ghost’s emergence. His essay ‘Shelley’s Poetics of Evanition’ appears in volume 68 of the Keats-Shelley Journal, and an article on the occultic healing potentialities of Spasmodic poetry and its relationship to canonical nineteenth-century elegy is forthcoming in a special issue of Literature and Medicine. He has presented work at the annual gatherings of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, the North American Victorian Studies Association, the Midwest Victorian Studies Association, and the International Gothic Association.

‘Ever the thought of her abides with me’: Rosamund Marriott Watson and the fairy poetics of the hidden soul

Although Victorian ghost and fairy stories are experiencing renewed critical interest, far fewer scholars have examined Victorian fairy lyrics. Work on supernatural Victorian poetry instead tends to centre ghostly elegy and elegiac lyric. In the account of Tim Armstrong, Thomas Hardy has emerged as the principal ghostly elegist of the Victorian age. In the typically elegiac lyric ‘Her Immortality’, Hardy gives his early prosopopoeic definition of a ghost: ‘A Shade but in its mindful ones / Has immortality’ (lines 33–34). Immortality is a quality that the beloved would, but for the speaker’s intercession, lack after death, but it is equally a quality that, if the beloved is to be believed, she lacked in life. Hardyan hypertrophied subjectivity discovers submissive ghostly others within the controlling speaker. Seeking to problematise Diana Fuss’s genre of ‘corpse poems’, this paper will read Hardy’s spectral elegies alongside the fairy poetry of late-Victorian poet Rosamund Marriott Watson, with whom Hardy developed a fascination. Whereas Hardy casts his elegiac ghosts as figments of living male subjectivity, Watson challenges Hardy by imagining the subjectivity of eldritch “lost beloveds” themselves, in such haunting lyrics as ‘Vespertilia’ (1895). Her fairy poetics imagines in the figure of the fairy enchantress a presiding genius of counter-elegy. This essay will argue that Watson’s fairy poems of high imagination engage with the eldritch conception of imagination’s powers in the work of poetic theorist E. S. Dallas. In Dallas’s masterpiece, The Gay Science (1866), he depicts the imagination as a fairylike ‘hidden soul’ that labours in the dark abeyance of consciousness, much as the fairies of folklore might work in the darkness of night for their unsuspecting cottagers. Watson’s Vespertilia acts as the poetic speaker’s hidden fairy soul and so decentres the conscious elegizing intellect of Victorian ghost poetry in this fairy generic incursion.

 

64. Dr Rayna Rosenova (Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski)

Rayna Rosenova is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the Department of English and American Studies, Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski (Bulgaria), where she teaches courses in the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and an elective course on Horror in Popular Fiction. She has published articles on John Keats and Mary Robinson. Her research interests focus on the long eighteenth century, women’s writing, radicalism in the context of the French Revolution, Romantic poetry, and Gothic literature.

‘[I]n fairy-lands forlorn’: Keats and the enchanted imagination

In a letter to J. H. Reynolds dated 17 and 18 April, 1817, Keats expressed an eager wish to be affiliated with the elfin realm. Remonstrating with the weather, Keats writes: ‘The Wind is in a sulky fit, and I feel that it would be no bad thing to be the favorite of some Fairy, who would give one the power of seeing how our Friends got on, at a Distance’ (Letters 16). Behind Keats’s playful voyeurism lies a significant aspect to his poetics: that is, the insurmountable distance between the fairy world as an everlasting outer-reality and human reality, bounded in time and space. This paper will explore the uses of the world of enchantment in Keats’s poetry (for example, in poems such as ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’) to discuss how Keats employed the fairy topos to construct his dialectical vision of real and ideal. It will focus on how the fairy world is evoked both as an ideal space, desired for its imaginative intensity and richness, which allows for the emancipation from the rationalized world of human suffering, and as a daemonic space of deceit and entrapment, which further deepens the disillusionment with present realities. In this way, the fairy topos in Keats’s poetry reveals itself as a psychic realm of otherness, of escapist yearnings, of limitations and unfulfilled desire.

 

65. Madelaine Grace Sacco (University of Newcastle, NSW)

Madelaine Sacco completed her Honours in Ancient History and Creative Writing at The University of Newcastle, Australia. Her areas of research include folklore, myth and fairy-tale regarding their reception in modern culture. She plans to continue with her studies at a PhD level in History with a focus on the use of Marian Iconography in Malta.

Keys to the doorways to the fairy realm: Travelling to Fairy in modern literature

The Fairy Realm is a liminal space half-way between our world and the next. Gaining access to this realm by mortals was traditionally done by crossing water before being led underground or along a downward slope within the forest by one of the fairy-folk (as is the case for Thomas Rymer and Cherry of Zenor respectively). In modern literature, the idea of a doorway leading to the fairy realm is changing to suit the evolution of technology. Instead of a fairy guide whisking people away over a body of water, the door to the Fairy Realm evolved into a mirror or door that requires a key as the mortal embarks on a portal-quest fantasy. Fairy realms in modern science fiction (sci-fi) and fantasy literature are not always explicitly called as such, and therefore a distinction needs to be made between alternate reality and a modern understanding of the Fairy Realm. According to Julian Goodare, the Fairy Realm has known motifs of ‘music, dancing, and feasting’. Through two conditions—travelling there, and finding music, dancing, and feasting on the other side—we can recognise the fairy realm in fantasy literature regardless of whether the identity of the realm is made explicit. Goodare also makes comparisons between the Fairy Realm and the realm of the dead, arguing that the two often overlap in European folklore. In modern sci-fi and fantasy literature, liminal spaces such as fairy realms—whether underground or virtual—become a place where the living and the dead exist in tandem and can even interact. There is also a link between the reflective properties of the fairy doorway and the appearance of the denizens on the other side that explores notions of the uncanny and carnivalesque as a function of the fairy realm in modern literature. By examining these patterns in detail, we can trace the historic evolution of the entrance to the Fairy Realm as the concept of doorways evolved with the growth of technology.

 

66. Kristof Smeyers (University of Antwerp)

Kristof Smeyers is a final-year PhD researcher at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. His work is on supernatural phenomena in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christianity. More specifically, he has spent the last four years studying the significance of the stigmata on British and Irish bodies. Recent publications include ‘A Christ in curls: the charismatic career of Mary Ann Girling’, Women’s History Review (2020); with Leonardo Rossi, ‘Tyrolean stigmata in England: tracing the cross-cultural voyage of the Catholic supernatural, 1841-1844’, British Catholic History (2019).

Fairy landscapes and the construction of the Belgian nation

Belgian independence (1830-1839) coincided with a growing taste for the gothic in the Low Countries. It manifested, among other things, in the circulation of folk stories about supernatural creatures, most of them menacing and in league with the former ruler, the Dutch. Though often malicious, these beings also evoked a mythological Belgian history: through stories, encounters, and stories of encounters, citizens of a new nation bound their current situation to a distant past. In this paper I examine to what extent these fairy narratives and encounters contributed to a sense of ‘Belgianness’ in the years immediately following independence. Can we speak of a ‘Belgian fairy’? Historians of Belgium have long pointed out how the creation of the nation’s history in the early nineteenth century served a patriotic programme and a purposeful teleology. By presenting that history as centuries of organic community building, Belgium in the 1830s hoped to present itself to the world as a logical nation as well as a modern, rational, and forward-thinking country built on firm scientific and industrial foundations. Underneath these official historiographies, however, developed some alternative, more ambiguous attempts at creating a Belgian (pre)history that relegated the roots of the nation in an enchanted past. This ‘unofficial version’ contrasts starkly with the image of an enlightened, modern state. This newly independent landscape was, for example, encrusted with the ruins of medieval castles, many of which were suddenly found to be haunted by a fairy (‘ruines féodales […] hanté par une fée’, Indépendance Belge, 7 December 1836). How did fairies play a role in conceptions of a Belgian identity? Can we speak of a ‘fairy Belgium’, and what did/does this landscape look like?

 

67. Cat Smith (Nottingham Trent University)

Cat Smith: I am a third-year Postgraduate Researcher at Nottingham Trent University, I am currently working on my thesis: Re-Establishing a Literary Tradition: Twenty-First Century Gothic Literature. My project is concerned with the reappearance of the Gothic genre in twenty-first century literature and the re-establishment and reinvention of its literary tradition in contemporary cultures.

Gods, men, and monsters: Eco warnings in In The Night Wood

Ecological warnings have become a common topic of conversation in tandem with the Gothic mode. The use of faeries in Gothic narratives appeals in contemporary times due to their ability to create utopian natural worlds within the reality of modern societies. Dale Bailey’s In The Night Wood (2018) – a YA, contemporary Gothic fantasy – harnesses the trope of the fairy-tale within the Gothic genre to provide an ecological warning. The question we must ask of the novel, is whether the warning has come too late to protect the future or if it is in fact a warning of past horrors. The repressed desires of inner nature are explored in the figure of Cernunnos, the Horned King, throughout the novel. As the representative of faerie and nature, he inhabits a space of spiritual and physical liminality, caught between the realms of man and nature, the concrete and fantasy, progress and regression to the primitive. Bailey presents his YA readers with a particular image, repeated throughout the text: ‘What if time was a snake that bit its own tail [. . .] What if you lived inside a story and the story had already been written?’ (p.183). The cyclical, inevitable image of the Ouroboros raises questions on the cyclical disposition of nature itself and whether these ecological warnings have been told before or are worth reiterating now. With the twenty-first century Gothic often finding itself in the YA fiction category, its purpose as a new form of fairy-tale allows for the exploration of man’s relationship and responsibility to nature – a topic of popular conversation among younger generations, with figures such as Greta Thunberg in the media. Bailey forces his readers to consider these aspects when detailing the ambivalent nature of Cernunnos: is the representative of nature a god, a man, or a monster?

 

68. Sarah Sproston (University of Wolverhampton)

Sarah Sproston is a fourth-year, part-time PhD student at the University of Wolverhampton. I have a BA in English from the University of Wolverhampton (2011) and an MA in English Studies: The Gothic from Manchester Metropolitan University (2016). My current area of research is the urban fantasy genre and my other areas of interest include the Gothic, paranormal romance, fantasy, young adult literature and series fiction.

A witch, a vampire, and a pixy walk into a bar: Friendship in urban fantasy

Friendship is a key theme that defines urban fantasy; it is just as, if not more, important than romantic love and sexual relationships. Joseph Crawford discusses the emphasis on friendships in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and suggests that paranormal romance abandons this emphasis, instead concentrating on how monstrosity and otherness can be redeemed through the power of love. The emphasis on friendships, however, is continued within the urban fantasy genre. Urban fantasy portrays acceptance and redemption through friendship, because, as Kim Harrison writes, ‘some things were immutable truths: friendship transcends all barriers’. Fairies, alongside vampires and werewolves, have become popular love objects within paranormal romance and this is also the case in many urban fantasies. In urban fantasy, however, the Fae are also frequently portrayed as friends. Numerous different species of the Fae can be brought together through the non-sexual relationships in urban fantasy, where different creatures form bonds, become family and differences are overcome. This is the case in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, which will be the focus of this paper. Rachel Morgan encounters pixies, fairies, elves, leprechauns, trolls and banshees, and whilst her story includes several love interests, her friendship with Ivy (a vampire) and Jenks (a pixy), is at the heart of these novels. Harrison herself describes Jenks as the glue that keeps them all together. This paper will explore the central role of Jenks in The Hollows series and how Rachel’s friendship with a four-inch-tall pixy, who was once considered a non-citizen, highlights the ways in which otherness and difference can be overcome through friendship in urban fantasy.

 

69. Cat Stiles (University of Bristol)

Cat Stiles is in the second year of her part-time PhD at the University of Bristol working on representations of female monsters in early modern literature as ‘Infernal Seductresses’, ‘Malevolent Mothers’ and ‘Queer Creatures’. Her primary research interests include witchcraft, magic, and monstrosity in early modern literature and fairy tales.

Faerie seductions: Faeries, sex, and fragile masculinity in early-modern English poetry

From the Malleus Maleficarum to the early modern stage, anxieties about the effects – both supernatural and sexual – monstrous women may have on men’s erections permeate depictions of witches, faeries & other female monsters in the literature of the period. Whether removing the penis, rendering it impotent, or seducing the man to whom it belongs, these women are in a position of sexual control in a reversal of the established gender dynamics, and the male left (literally or figuratively) ‘unmanned’. These feared female figures are variably women who steal penises, women who destroy penises, and women who have a disruptive sexual control over penises in a way that threatens a social structure predicated on masculine hierarchical control. Focusing on two examples of sexual encounters with faeries from The Faerie Queene and Blackmore’s King Arthur, this paper will explore how these creatures utilise physical attractiveness to ensnare human men, how they undermine the power of the penis, and the implications of the way in which the stuff of desire so quickly turns into the stuff of nightmares. These beautiful creatures are invariably hiding some great monstrosity beneath the surface – either physical or moral – blurring the line between ‘sexy’ and ‘scary’. Their subversion of the sexual power dynamic exposes anxieties about the fragility of male sexual control, begging the question: what is it about beautiful women that men are so afraid of?

 

70. Ashleigh Taylor Sullivan (Swansea University)

Ashleigh Taylor Sullivan is PhD candidate within the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing at Swansea University. Her doctoral thesis examines the ways in which Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) uses the Gothic to explore her own gender identity through fiction. She has undertaken Visiting Student Research Collaboration with Princeton University, NJ and has presented conference papers at the Universidad de Málaga, Le Mans Université, and Cardiff University. Her research interests include the Gothic, gender studies, and the romance genre.

Dirty deals and catching feels: The figure of the Goblin King in Indie paranormal romance

David Bowie’s enigmatic performance in the 1986 film Labyrinth sparked the imagination and sexual awakening of many teenage viewers and still remains hugely popular today. With the ability to grant your darkest wishes, Jareth (Bowie) was the babe with the power. Provocatively controlling, sexually ambiguous and fabulously androgynous, the Goblin King knew exactly what kind of spell to use, even if some found his threatening yet flirty persona mildly disturbing within the context of a children’s ‘coming of age’ movie. The fairy paths of Gothic Romance and Erotica have since crossed as the figure of the Goblin King has been appropriated by Indie (Independently Published) romance authors. In a world where he is neither entirely good nor evil, hero or villain, simultaneously invoking feelings of wonder and horror, fear and desire, the Goblin King stands at the threshold of our darkest, most deviant desires, challenging the romantic and moral conventions of the traditional fairy tale. This article explores the continuing influence of Jim Henson’s cult classic, intertextual references to folklore and Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market (1862) to examine the sinister yet seductive appeal of the fae overlord within Shona Husk’s The Goblin King (2011) and Laura Thalassa’s Rhapsodic (2016).

 

71. Pauline Trotry (Newcastle University)

After graduating from the University of Jean Moulin Lyon III with a degree in Literature, I completed an MLitt in Medieval Studies from St Andrews University and an MA in Film Theory and Practice from Newcastle University. During my masters, I worked extensively on Gothic cinema, in both its relation to medievalism and liquids. I am presently in the second year of a Northern Bridge funded PhD in films at Newcastle University, working on redefining the common understanding of the contemporary Gothic film through an original focus on the trope of flows and liquids. My thesis places the Gothic film as the prime output of our liquid and ungraspable modernity.

Naturalisation and gothicisation: The toothed fairies of Guillermo del Toro

This paper analyses Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic take on the traditional motif of the Tooth Fairy in terms of rationalisation (Ostling, 2018) and gothicisation. One of the most prolific Gothic directors in contemporary cinema, del Toro often plays on the similarities between fairy tales and horror, by mixing the two genres in his dark fantasy world. His Tooth Fairy, or, more accurately, toothed fairies, appear in Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008, written and directed by del Toro) and Don’t be Afraid of the Dark (2010, written and produced by del Toro) and subvert the childish and romanticised Tooth Fairy (Magliocco, 2018) in a highly Gothic fashion: the giving fairy becomes gluttonous vermin-like monster lurking in the dark, nowhere and everywhere. This paper proposes that the gothicisation of the Tooth Fairy correlates with its paradoxical rationalisation, which in turn makes the fairies at once more real and more threatening. Del Toro thus depicts fairies in an animalistic and quasi-scientific way while returning to its pre-romanticised qualities. The director’s rationalised and gothicised answer to the question, ‘what do fairies do with children’s teeth?’ overall deconstructs the conventions of what he describes as the ‘blinky shiny little fucker’ that is the fairy in the modern fairy-tale, thus problematising the Horror genre and particularly the ‘liquid fear’ (Bauman, 2006) found in the Gothic.

 

72. Dr Mario Valori (De Digitali Eloquentia – Le belle lettere)

Dr Mario Valori: Founder and permanent member of De Digitali Eloquentia – Le belle lettere editorial project, my research focuses mainly on the mechanisms of translation, transposition and interpretation of literary texts between different cultures. My literary passions include classical tragedy, Shakespearean theatre, pre-Raphaelite poetry and golden age detective fiction. Comenius fellow (European Union) for 2020/21, I’m currently interested in digital publishing and open access, which is why today I’m pursuing a further master’s degree at the University of Pisa in digital humanities (thesis scheduled for September 2021). In the last month, I presented a study on the peculiarities of the first Italian translations of the Otway’s tragedy Venice Preserv’d (Masaryk University – Brno) and an analysis of the relationship between fathers and sons as they emerge from Seneca’s rhetoric exercises Controversiæ (Pontificia Studiorum Universitas Salesiana – Roma).

Childe Orfeo to the dark world came

Sir Orfeo, an anonymous Middle English Breton lai, is a text that generally hardly arouses interest beyond the close circle of the Romance philology scholars. However, it’s a work that has much to offer the modern reader. Of course, it’s an aesthetically elaborate composition which tells a compelling and little known story. Still, it’s also a useful anthropological tool for exploring Celtic folklore of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, its themes and its ability to absorb and codify external cultural contributions. The analysis I want to propose starts from the Greek myth to analyze parallels and differences with the Breton lai, according to the text obtained by comparing the three manuscripts in our possession (Auchinleck MS., Harley 3810, and Ashmole 61). Secondly, I believe it necessary to identify the legacies that the lai has taken from the first Breton cycle: if the original plot belongs to ancient Greece, characters, values and folklore are unequivocally local. After these necessary introductory steps, I will focus on the fairy realm and its characters: how are they characterized? What meaning do they assume within a history so complex and different from the Greek myth? What world do they live in, and how does this realm differ from ours? And how is it possible to move from one kingdom to another? How do these magical characters relate to the roi faneant figure? What is Heurodis’ role in the fairy kingdom? And how is the magical yoke that binds her to the dark King of the Otherworld dissolved? All these are complex questions but, at the same time, essential to understanding not only the artistic and cultural value of the lai but also its undeniable influence on subsequent English production.

 

73. Dr Brittany Warman (The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic)

Brittany Warman earned her PhD in English and Folklore from The Ohio State University in 2018 and currently co-runs and teaches at The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, an online hub for creative souls who want to re-enchant their lives through folklore and fairy tales. She has published academic work in Marvels & Tales, Gramarye, and numerous books, and her research centers on folk- and fairy-tale studies, the Gothic, and gender and sexuality. Her dissertation – ‘The Fae, the Fairy Tale, and the Gothic Aesthetic in Nineteenth-Century British Literature’ – contends that nineteenth-century Britain remained captivated, and indeed haunted, by the tales and beliefs of the folklore they wanted to trust they had dismissed as mere superstitions, ‘primitive’ relics, and children’s stories. She argues that it is largely this very dismissal that makes these concepts powerful, useful, and provocative tools.

‘You have set yourself to music’: Fairy legend in Oscar Wilde’s Gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde’s controversial 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray calls upon and plays with numerous folk narratives, including stories of vampires, Faustian deals with the devil, and the Greek myth of Narcissus. What has not yet been fully explored, however, are the tale’s links to the author’s intimate knowledge of Irish fairylore (a highly contested concept in Wilde studies.) The son of two eminent and influential folklorists, I argue that Wilde consciously uses fairylore to craft his Gothic story and that the addition of this element to the kaleidoscope of ever-shifting allusions that make up the novel reinforces its understanding as a coded presentation of homosexual desire. Focusing particularly on the use of legends about fairy music – the strange and unearthly melodies that so often charm mere mortals and lead them straight to their deaths – this paper will examine fairylore in the text and interrogate how using this material as a way of expressing the unspeakable aids in the creation of a queer classic. Music, the language of the otherworld, can also be the language of that which ‘dare not speak its name’.

 

74. David Williams (Fireside Canada)

David Williams is the creator, author and host of Fireside Canada, a podcast focused on exploring and explaining Canadian folklore, tall tales, and urban legends through storytelling, historical research, and literary and cultural analysis. His studies have led him on a lore-finding road trip across the country and through the backwoods and ghost towns of his native British Columbia in the company of local historians. He has spent the better part of a decade collecting and researching Canadian legends, and has made it his goal to celebrate and share this rich, fascinating and, sadly, often-overlooked folklore.

Trigger-happy fairies vs. real estate witches: The unseen indigenous in ‘The Baldoon Mystery’ and other settler Gothic tales

In the early 19th century, a family of Scottish settlers in Ontario, Canada endured a series of unsettling, life-threatening and seemingly supernatural events. The episode drew significant attention in the region and, with the publication of a book roughly four decades later, it became a celebrated Gothic legend that includes elements of good versus evil, ghosts, curses, witchcraft, Christianity, clairvoyance, and magic. At the time, and in the years since, ‘The Baldoon Mystery’, as it has come to be known, has attracted a number of diverse experts who have eagerly offered differing explanations for these strange events, ranging from old-world demons and witchcraft, to more modern ideas of poltergeists, untapped psychokinesis, and adolescent outbursts. There is one explanation, however, that has been regularly ignored since the event was first recorded. The Indigenous people who lived nearby were absolutely certain that the troubles visited upon the family were the doings of vindictive Mamagwasewug (literally ‘Little People’ in Ojibwe), summarized at the time by an Indigenous chief, minister and author as the equivalent to what Europeans would call ‘fairies’. Though a few contemporary Indigenous explanations were recorded, they have remained largely overlooked. The story has become a strange bit of folklore that blends fact with fiction and eschews the local explanation, opting instead to embrace a cavalcade of elements found in standard Gothic ghost stories with a witch awkwardly stuffed in for good measure. This presentation will briefly summarize the legend, discuss the nature of these First Nations ‘fairies’, then examine how the narrative of ‘The Baldoon Mystery’ is emblematic of Canada’s historical neglect, suppression and appropriation of Indigenous voices, and how reexamining New World Gothic history and folklore may yield exciting new (and yet profoundly old) ways to interpret and appreciate these texts.