Review of Locating the Gothic conference

I write this whilst sitting in my hotel in Limerick, enjoying the free WiFi and a lovely cup of tea, having just come to the end of the ‘Locating the Gothic’ conference. I am feeling invigorated, re-energized, and raring to go. Given that this conference was my ‘a change is as good as a rest’, it worked. What was incredibly refreshing about ‘Locating the Gothic’ was its integration into the wider community of Limerick – very apt given the name and intention of the conference. Everywhere we went people knew that the conference was taking place. Many of the events that were put on for our entertainment included the general public. Indeed, everything seemed to tie in serendipitously (real word) with the conference. On the Saturday afternoon there was a demonstration against the use of water meters and increase in water rates. Among the protesters were two figures dressed in black cowls dragging a coffin and carrying placards which read ‘Vampire Taxes’. Whether it was this friendly atmosphere, or that the Gothic has traditionally been my preferred study area, or that I am far enough into my PhD to have a little confidence in myself, I found myself offering comments and engaging in discussions like never before. This started with the opening plenary by Monica Germana on Jack the Ripper tours, sensationalizing serial killers, and using art to deconstruct the mythologising of Whitechapel. I sat at the front basically bouncing up and down and desperately trying not to stick up my hand shouting ‘Me, Sir. I’ve got some comments’. This was exacerbated by the fact that Germana’s blogpost on consuming death and the Gothic in 21st century culture launched my analysis of the Twilight novels for my MA thesis. (Clearly, I was fan-girling). Once again, I was placed in an excellent panel. The opening paper was about the use of the forest as a character in The Evil Dead (1981). The use of EcoGothic theory and construction of a malignant version of nature segued perfectly with my discussion of wolves as representative of this Gothic Nature. Given that the papers that I am giving are currently buds of potential chapters, feedback is tantamount. People giving me suggestions on who to read and furthering my argument make my life easier. Interestingly, one comment I got was about Georgio Agamben’s work on homo sacer which I would know nothing about had I not been at the ‘SF/ Fantasy Now’ conference. Thereby proving that conferences are an important part of academic life. When asked to sum up what an academic conference is I usually say that they are like a festival: they are a true test of endurance and by the end of them you are absolutely shattered. Conferences give you an opportunity to socialise with other academics. This can mean networking but often means sitting with your peers and reassuring yourself that you are on the right track. The fears and doubts that have haunted your studies can finally come into the light and your demons staked. Loneliness is something that dogs the life of a PhD student and even with social media, nothing beats have a chat over a glass (or two) of wine and nerding-out over your studies.Since the conference, I have done the usual process of adding people on social networking, and have been pleased to see that my sentiments regarding ‘Locating the Gothic’ have been shared. This was an incredibly social and joyous conference.

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