Gothic Times 26 October 2019

Gothic Time Piece

In the opening decades of the twenty-first century, with Trump in the White House and Brexit on the horizon, Angela Carter’s famous assertion of 1974 that ‘we live in Gothic times’ has never been more apt. But from the eighteenth century onwards, the Gothic mode has routinely placed the present moment under scrutiny, exploring the terrors of the age whilst calling into question the comforting fantasies upon which the established order rests. In this, the Gothic text might be seen to offer a culturally and politically engaged exploration of the historic period in which each text was produced, interrogating the contemporary present even as it calls into question standard historical narratives about the past.

Date: Saturday 26 October 2019

Location: Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University

Tickets: £10 – Released soon!

Organised by Dr Linnie Blake

This event is part of the 7th annual Gothic Manchester Festival which is themed on ‘Gothic Time and organised by the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

OGOM will have a strong presence at this year’s festival and we hope to see you there. Here are our contributions:

Daisy Butcher: Mummy Dearest: Nineteenth-Century Women Writers and the Mummy

In this paper, I aim to interrogate the pioneering short stories by female authors who gave us the mummy curse tale as a politically charged symbol of resistance against patriarchal imperialism and posited the unwrapped mummy as a metaphorical rape victim. I will argue that the origins of the mummy curse tale date back to Frankenstein which was an inspiration to Jane C. Loudon. She created a time-travelling sci-fi saga in ‘The Mummy’, paving the way for short stories from Louisa May Alcott, Jane G. Austin, and Charlotte Bryston Taylor. Shelley’s novel refers to Frankenstein’s monster as a mummy (in Chapters 5) and my aim is to celebrate Mary Shelley’s legacy, while also giving critical attention to female writers and their underrepresented texts. I aim to be the first researcher to explore the link between Frankenstein and the female authored mummy curse tale in depth.

Bill Hughes: When did Gothic times begin? Vampiric memory and modernity in Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Angela Carter famously announced that we are living in Gothic times. This seems paradoxical: at least since the inception of the Gothic novel, ‘Gothic’ has signified a barbaric past in contrast to modernity. The onset of modernity itself is slippery; in one sense its birth lies around the eighteenth century but it may be aligned also with the modernism that emerged between the fin de siècle and the First World War.

Almost as famously, Nina Auerbach said, ‘Each age embraces the vampires it needs’. Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown exemplifies this as a vampire paranormal romance set in a neoliberal dystopia where commodification dominates and surveillance abounds. Vampires had revolted against an older, secretive feudal order and now openly market their glamour through Reality TV. Significantly, this revolt, depicted in flashback, took place in the Vienna of 1916, where the ideas of Freud circulated and also where neoliberal theory was born. This paper will examine the paradoxes of Gothic modernity in Black’s novel.

Sam George: Fairies, Fallen Angels and Spirits of the Dead: Edwardians Living in Gothic Times

In the present, we believe fairies have nothing of the dead reawakened within them; they are often viewed as a consolation for modernity, or the loss of wild environments, but this has not always been the case. Fascinated by ghosts, vampires, angels, etc., Victorians did not see fairies as differing from spirits of the dead. In 1887, Lady Wilde gave voice to the Irish belief that fairies are the fallen angels, cast out of heaven. Elsewhere, Evans-Wentz (1911) popularised the idea of piskies as the souls of the dead. In an age of widespread religious doubt, thought turned to the persistence of the dead and to occult methods of communicating with them, and, rather than dispelling fairies, death and loss in WWI reawakened a belief in airy spirits.

It was in this climate that the Cottingley fairy photographs emerged in 1917. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s defence of them in The Coming of the Fairies (1922) was influenced by Theosophic views of fairies as evidence of a shadowy spirit world. Believing in fairies and spirit photography, and surrounded by memories of the dead in the aftermath of WWI, Edwardians like Doyle really were living in Gothic times.

About Sam George

Associate Professor of Research, School of Humanities, University of Hertfordshire Co-convenor OGOM Project
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