The remix, the mashup, and the reboot have come to dominate Western popular culture. These texts are the ‘monsters’ of our age—hybrid creations that lurk at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Like monsters, mashups offer audiences the thrill of transgression in a safe and familiar format. And like other popular texts before them, they are often read by critics as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture.
With this context in mind, my research explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix culture and its Others (adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, postmodernism). It often does so by examining remix culture’s most ‘monstrous’ and liminal texts: Frankenfictions, or commercial narratives that insert fantastical monsters into classic literature and popular historical contexts. In this definition, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein serves as a touchstone, offering an ideal metaphor for appropriative creativity in the twenty-first century.
Frankenfiction includes direct appropriations of classic literature, like the bestselling Quirk Classics novels, but also literary-historical dramas like the Sky/Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful(2014–2016), the depiction of monsters through an historical aesthetic in Travis Louie’s photorealistic paintings, and much, much more. It is monstrous not only because of the fantastical monsters it contains, but because of its position on the boundary between remix and more established modes of appropriation. Too engaged with tradition for some, and not traditional enough for others, Frankenfiction is a bestselling genre that nevertheless remains peripheral to critical discussions of remix.
I’m currently hard at work as a Teaching Fellow in Digital Media Practice with the University of Southampton (Winchester School of Art). This means that I get to teach and organise all kinds of fabulous activities for our MA students in Global Media Management. The latest of these is has been a ‘transmedia experience’: a self-guided tour of film locations around Oxford, which formed part of the programme’s annual study visit.
The first part of the study visit involved a trip to the Oxford Story Museum. The museum creates immersive, interactive spaces designed to bring books and stories to life and to deepen engagement with the story. During students’ visit to the museum they took part in the Building Narrative Environments workshop. This workshop looks at the principles behind the museum’s approach to transmedia storytelling, and how they go about creating their spaces. Students also learned about the other ways in which the museum provide immersive experiences—for example their story session for toddlers, or their Extreme Reading Adventures project, which provides immersive experiences to re-engage reluctant or struggling readers. The Oxford Story Museum aims to take children into the world of the story, and they look at story in all its forms: oral, written, film, digital.
The second part of the study visit is the transmedia ‘tour’ of Oxford, realised in an interactive Google Map. Students used this to explore of some of Oxford’s most famous filming locations, immersing themselves in the ‘world’ of stories like The Mummy (2017), Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), and the Harry Potter franchise (2001-2011). They were also asked to add something to these storyworlds themselves, by taking photographs and video at each location and tweeting them using the #GMMTransmedia hashtag.
Here’s another great-looking conference CfP, for an event at the University of Pennsylvania, from 29-31 March, 2018:
Since its inception, the Gothic has been a favorite aesthetic of artists exploring extreme states, whether psychological, political, or numinous, at times of imperial expansion, social protest, world war, global revolution, and government oppression. At the same time, its history dovetails with the emergence of new media from early modern tragedy to eighteenth-century travel writing and circulating library fiction, nineteenth-century melodrama, early photography and cinema, comics and graphic novels, popular music and television, and digital entertainment. Even today, the Gothic thrives as a viable, living language for those features of the psyche, the social order, or the cosmos that are least susceptible to representation and least liable to be controlled and assimilated.
Our chosen theme (‘Gothic States’) brings together these concerns by asking scholars to consider the Gothic’s function across differing ‘states’ as a language for addressing incipient nationalisms, whether to endorse or to critique them, as well as for representing divided consciousness, whether sexual, political, filial, or religious. The most powerful Gothic texts, in fact, place these concerns in dialogue with one another, depicting individuals and communities under duress in times of social and political upheaval. We therefore aim to galvanize our understanding of the Gothic as a single aesthetic tradition and invite scholars to create new perspectives on the Gothic in a transnational, trans-media, and comparative context. What role has the Gothic played in how we imagine the constitutions of both individuals and nations? How has the mode been visualized across different media and technologies of representation? Finally, what lends the Gothic its power? What produces the ruptures, fears, and anxieties we associate with it? What fuels its ability to cross media with such opportunistic ease?
Robin Furth, Marvel Comics, co-author of the Steven King Dark Tower series
Diego Saglia, University of Parma
Angela Wright, University of Sheffield
The conference is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies and the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania, with generous support provided by the School of Arts and Sciences, University Research Foundation, the Penn Humanities Forum, the Program in Comparative Literature, the Program in Cinema Studies, the Restoration-Victorian reading group, and the Gen-Sex Reading Group.
Though I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to submit something to this conference, it looks like a very tempting post-summer project. You can find the original abstract here.
SIIBS and The Centre for the History of the Gothic are pleased to announce an interdisciplinary one day conference exploring the theme ‘Gothic Bible’. Since the creation of the Gothic genre in 1764, religion and the Bible have proved to be major influences on Gothic fiction, and our event aims to explore this important and enduring relationship. The conference will take place at the University of Sheffield on Tuesday 31st October 2017.
This event is part of the Gothic Bible project, which is an ongoing research theme at SIIBS and in partnership with The Centre for the History of the Gothic and The University of Auckland. The project seeks to explore the relationship between the Bible, theologies, and the Gothic, and we hope to encourage existing and new academic interest in this area. We welcome papers that examine the Bible, religion, and theology within the Gothic—including but not limited to: novels, plays, poems, films, TV shows of any period—as well as papers that examine passages or narratives within the Bible or other religious texts that can be read through a Gothic lens. We welcome and encourage papers that approach this theme using interdisciplinary methods.
The Gothic Bible conference is open to researchers from any level (including, but not limited to, undergraduates, postgraduates, and Early Career Researchers) and from any discipline. We invite the submission of abstracts of no more than 250 words to be sent to GothicBible@sheffield.ac.uk along with a short bio. The deadline for submissions is Monday 14th August.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
Theological explorations in Gothic texts
Gothic readings of Biblical passages or narratives
Gothic appropriations and adaptations of biblical characters and narratives
Depictions of The Wandering Jew, Lilith, or other mythological/religious characters
Depictions of religious communities and identities within Gothic fiction
Biblical vampires and other supernatural characters and phenomena
Biblical influences in contemporary horror film and TV
Apocalypse and End Times narratives
In conjuction with this event, and as part of the Gothic Bible project, Sheffield Gothic will also be hosting an ongoing Gothic Bible blog series exploring the broad theme of ‘Gothic Bible.’ As always, blog posts can be an informal and fun way to explore a topic that interests you, whether it be through a TV series, a film, a book, or a particular bible passage, narrative, or character. Extensive knowledge of the Bible, Biblical Studies, or the Gothic is not required – so if you want to explore the Gothic Bible theme, and want to blog for the Gothic Bible series, get in touch!
This excursion report was first shared on the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS) blog. You can find the original post here.
On 1 March, 2015 the Walpole Trust reopened Strawberry Hill House to the public. As the former home of Horace Walpole, famed (and famously eccentric) author of the first Gothic novel, the house has been a popular tourist destination since it was first built up in 1749.
At noon on 16 May, 2017, twenty-three students and scholars from Cardiff University stepped blinking into the parking lot of Strawberry Hill House, out of the darkened bus that had carried them from rainy Wales. The weather in Twickenham was hardly Gothic-appropriate, but since the tour of the house had been arranged for the late afternoon, we had several hours to eat our bag lunches, stretch our legs in Strawberry Hill’s gardens, and snag a leisurely drink along the sunny banks of the Thames. By the time we returned to the House at 4 p.m., the group was happy, slightly sunburnt, and ready to be thrilled, amazed, and educated about Walpole’s ‘little Gothic castle’.
Our guide was Carole, a soft-spoken woman with a sharp wit and extensive knowledge of Strawberry Hill’s history, heritage, and restoration. The tour began outside the house, where we learnt how Strawberry Hill went from a small cottage to the massive, three-part castle it is today. Following Walpole’s death in 1797, the residence passed to various relatives, many of whom led quite dramatic lives. The stories Carole shared included the Engilsh sculptor (and wealthy widow) Anne Seymour Damer, illegitimate heiresses, a ‘slightly illegal wedding’, and a fall into debt that resulted in the sale of most of the house’s contents.
In 1861, the thrice-married Countess Frances Waldegrave took up residence. She established the House as a thriving social salon after her fourth marriage to Liberal politician Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue, who encouraged her to buy back some of the auctioned-off estate. In 1923 the House was bought by St Mary’s University, which still has its campus in the western wing.
Through this intricate history, Strawberry Hill House was rebuilt and redecorated again and again. When the Walpole Trust set about restoring it to its original glory in the twenty-first century, the first question was how to go about it. After all, there was nothing ‘original’ about the House to begin with—from its revivalist architecture to its papier-mâché walls and ceilings, Strawberry Hill House is fake through and through.
In this, it is utterly Gothic. As Catherine Spooner notes, ‘[t]he construction of fake histories is integral to Gothic texts’. Jerrold Hogle, likewise, writes that the Gothic is ‘grounded in fakery’ from its earliest origins. Walpole himself famously stated that ‘my buildings, like my writings are of paper, and will blow away ten years after I am dead’, but today the House seems as solid as ever.
Gloomth and Glory
Our Cardiff tour group took the same route Walpole’s own guests would have, entering onto the base of a dark, curving staircase and ending in a series of glorious gold and blood-red chambers on the upper levels. Virtually every room is decorated in a different, vibrant colour, though all radiate that wonderful ‘gloomth’ (Walpole’s own word, a counterintuitive combination of ‘gloom’ and ‘warmth’) which continues to be so characteristic of both his house and the Gothic genre he initiated. One bedroom, painted a deep lilac and ornamented in pale wood, was apparently never even used. Of the libraries—Walpole had three at Strawberry Hill—the opposite was true. He read voraciously, and none of his books were just for show.
The Castle of Otranto is visibly linked to the house in which its author first dreamt of it, and Walpole himself described Strawberry Hill as ‘the scene that inspired’ the novel. The play between light and dark in the house alone is fascinating, as sunlight and candlelight cast marvellous shadows through the intricate designs in the windows, walls, and balustrades. At the top of Strawberry Hill’s gloomth-laden staircase, Carole read us a passage from the Castle of Otranto, inviting us to imagine walking through the house’s halls at night, by the light of a single candle.
One of the tour’s undergraduate attendees, Laura Robinson, comments on this aspect of the House as well, suggesting: ‘It cannot be doubted that Horace Walpole’s eccentric and unique Strawberry Hill House reflects the Gothic literary tradition that began in the Romantic Period. Strawberry Hill’s architecture and the atmosphere created inside the house itself through the manipulation of light—particularly surrounding the staircase—creates a Gothic impression that we still recognize today’.
Restoration and Revival
Throughout the tour, we saw signs of the restoration project still underway. Teams of volunteers have re-painted, re-woven, and re-embroidered the House’s various embellishments, using historically accurate techniques. The House also contains several pieces of furniture built to spec by the students of a nearby design school. The restoration workers were able to reproduce these designs so faithfully both because Walpole describes them extensively in his records, and because he commissioned a series of watercolours detailing each of the rooms. Even when it was brand new, then, Strawberry Hill House was already busy writing its own history.
Ironically, the pieces of the restoration that felt most faithful in light of Strawberry Hill House’s elaborate self-performance and fakery were not the painstakingly hand-embroidered bedclothes, but the digitally-reproduced sketches and paintings, machine-copied down to the last bump of oil paint. In one of the bedrooms hangs a magnificent, 3D-printed picture frame, which was then gilded and retouched using traditional methods. It perfectly embodies the elaborate, delightful sham that is Strawberry Hill House.
All in the Details
In addition to the grand history Carole shared with us, small details and stories gave us a glimpse into Walpole’s own person and psyche. A muted, pastel-green room once contained Walpole’s curio collection, including numerous heirlooms from his beloved mother. In the dining room hangs a portrait of Walpole’s deceased aunt, who allegedly haunted the house. The legend varies: she either died of smallpox or was pushed down the stairs. Through the window of the best bedroom, we even got a glimpse of the cottage where Walpole would hide himself away during tours of Strawberry Hill House.
As Josie Powell, one of the undergraduate students on the tour, relays: ‘Strawberry Hill embodies all the typical Gothic conventions; vast spaces and dark colours create a sense of entrapment. Yet Walpole’s Strawberry Hill is more than just a Gothic building. It contains so much attention to detail that it is an invaluable example of social history’.
We are very grateful to CRECS (who generously organised and funded the tour), to Learning and Education Coordinators Sally Stratton and Charlotte Hawkes, and to our fabulous guide Carole, who made the house and its tales come alive for us in all their Gothic glory.
 Jerrold E. Hogle, ‘The Gothic Ghost of the Counterfeit and the Progress of Abjection’, in A New Companion to the Gothic, ed. by David Punter (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2012), pp. 496–509 (p. 497).
Dr Alexia L. Bowler, Dr Adele Jones & Dr. Claire O’Callaghan are putting together an edited collection on ‘nasty women’ in popular culture:
Donald Trump’s now infamous phrase ‘such a nasty woman’, uttered about his then rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential debates, was rudely used to patronise and belittle Clinton, who is known for being a strong, independent (and feminist) politician.
In reality, Trump is not the only figure to characterise today’s women in this manner. Indeed, the alt-right commentator and Trump supporter, Milo Yiannopoulos, argues that feminism is ‘a cancer’ and suggests that fixing the so-called online gender wars is merely a matter of women exiting public space. Similarly, in the ‘community beliefs’ section of his Return of the Kingssite, the neo-masculinist, self-styled pick-up artist and infamous internet misogynist, Roosh V, suggests that the elimination of traditional sex and gender roles increases female promiscuity and diminishes the rightful centrality of the nuclear family, for which he blames, among other things, women and feminism.
Nonetheless, in a demonstration of the power of the internet, the phrase was rapidly taken up (and continues to be used) by social media as a rallying cry for feminists, women’s rights groups and their supporters. The result of Trump’s comment was a spectacular subversion of his attempts to discredit Clinton and marginalise women’s voices. Alongside existing feminist slogans such as the Fawcett Society’s ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ and Laura Bates’s the #everydaysexism project, the ‘nasty woman’ slogan has gone viral; used in Twitter hashtags, on a range of merchandise, and as memes. It has inspired poems, theatre, exhibitions, music and collected responses, as well as sparked political activism, visible in the global Women’s Marches that took place across the globe in 2017 at which banners celebrating feminist ‘nastiness’ could be seen: ‘Stay Nasty’, ‘The Future is Nasty’, and ‘I am a Nasty Woman’
Alongside this, the rise in visibility of strong, complex and vocal women in popular media, including television and film, suggests that the time of the ‘nasty woman’ is not over but about to begin. This collection will interrogate and contribute to this ongoing debate by bringing together new scholarship focusing on the idea of the ‘nasty woman’, and the embrace of this label, in late 20th and 21st century popular media and culture. The collection will ask how can we best theorise ‘the nasty woman’? What characterises or who is the ‘nasty woman’ and where can we find her? Is her central characteristic anger, strength, crudity, power, or all of these things? Finally, it will consider the question of whether she bears responsibility for others and what, if anything, makes her different to previous iterations of the arguably feminist female figure?
The collection will both celebrate and problematise the application and endorsement of the term, considering recent debates, responses and trends in popular culture and feminist scholarship.
We seek contributions that engage with the notion of the ‘nasty woman’ in all forms of media (including recent film and television) and popular culture in late 20th and 21st century sex and gender politics.
Possible topics could include but are by no means limited to:
Theorising the ‘nasty woman’
Television and Film (e.g. Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, Claire Underwood in House of Cards, Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag)
Relationship with other feminist movements such as ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ movement and everyday sexism projects, among others
Nasty women and bad language
The ‘nasty woman’ of comedy (e.g. Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sharon Horgan, Phoebe Waller-Bridge)
Nasty women of pop (e.g. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus)
Nasty women of fashion, TV, film, theatre, gaming
Nasty women of history as viewed by contemporary culture
Issues of responsibility and shared identity
Politics, the media and the nasty woman
Controversial commentators and the idea of the nasty woman (e.g. Roosh V, Milo Yiannopoulos, Katie Hopkins, Ann Coulter, Camille Pagilia)
Abstracts of 500-600 words, for chapters of between 6,000-7,500 words, along with a short biographical note, should be emailed to both editors by 1st August 2017. Successful proposals will be notified by 1st September 2017. Completed chapters will be due by 31st January 2018.
Friends, colleagues, and monsters: the time has come. Angels and Apes is going on hiatus over the summer, while I put the finishing touches on my PhD thesis. In a few short weeks, Frankenfiction: Adaptations of the Monster and Monstrous Adaptation in Twenty-First Century Remix Culture (hopefully) comes to life.
I will be back again at some point with regular updates. While you wait, why not check out some of my favourite posts from the past few years:
Three scholars from Leeds Beckett University are inviting chapter submissions for a new edited collection on gender and horror. The call for papers is below.
This edited collection aims to re-examine horror in an era of remakes, reboots and re-imaginings. There have been many developments in the horror genre and whilst much of it has been reliant on previous material, there are also many shifts and changes such as:
cross-over of genres (for example, teen romance paired with vampires and werewolves, or horror in space);
new formats such as Netflix, and cinema no longer being the only place we see horror;
a resurgence of stories of hauntings and ghosts;
and the popularity of ‘found footage’.
We wish to focus specifically on horror from 1995 to the present, as after a brief hiatus in the mainstream, the 1990s saw the return of horror to our screens – including our TV screens with, for example, Buffy The Vampire Slayer – and with horror and its characters more knowing than before.
We are happy for you to compare older material with newer versions, such as the recent Netflix version of The Exorcist (2016) with the original film The Exorcist (1973). The main requirement is that you interrogate whether the portrayal of gender has changed in horror – it may look like something different (more positive?) is happening, but is it?
We hope to encourage diverse perspectives and we welcome early career researchers and new voices to offer a different light on classic material, in sole- or multi-authored chapters.
We’d also like to gently remind potential authors that ‘gender’ doesn’t only apply to women, it applies to men and masculinities, and it encompasses non-binary identities and experiences, as well as issues about ‘race’, ethnicities and class.
The schedule is as follows:
You send your chapter title, 200 word abstract and brief bio by the end of May 2017.
The finalised proposal will be sent to the publisher Emerald in early summer.
Your final first draft chapter (approx 7000 words) should be sent to us by January 31st 2018 (reminder/s will be sent).
We will return any comments/revisions by the end of March 2018, and ask that you send us the final revised chapter by the end of June 2018.
The completed manuscript will be submitted in July 2018 for publication in early 2019.
Please send your chapter titles, 200 word abstracts and a brief bio to the book editors by the end of May.
If you have any queries, or would like to contribute but need to tweak the schedule, please email us.
If you are not familiar with the publisher, Emerald are an independent publisher, established by academics in 1967 and committed to retaining their independence.
And for your future reference: All hardback monograph publishing will be available in paperback after 24 months, and all books are available as ebooks. Emerald commission and cover the cost of indexing if authors don’t want to do it themselves; use professional designers for each individual book jacket; and aim to exceed the royalties of other publishers. They have international offices, but pride themselves on not being a ‘corporate machine’.
My most recent project is with the Critical Posthumanism Network, a group of scholars who ‘share the conviction that the decentring and critiques of the human implied in posthumanism offer paradigms that speak searchingly of the immediate present and of imminent futures’. I’m very pleased to announce that this project, a written Genealogy of the Posthuman, is now seeking 1000-word entries on a broad range of subjects.
A copy of the Call for Entries is below. You can find the original call here, on the Critical Posthumanism website.
What exactly is ‘the posthuman’? What are the nonhuman and the inhuman? What, for that matter is the human? How have these ideas been conceptualised, historicised, framed and reframed in philosophy, literature, critical thought, the sciences and the arts? How can they be critiqued and rethought?
These are some of the questions addressed in the Genealogy of the Posthuman, a growing peer-reviewed, online and multi-authored resource that traces the prefigurations, currency and evolving potential of contemporary thought on the posthuman.
We invite contributions by academics, researchers and doctoral students from all disciplines that explore posthumanist questions, issues, tensions in the work of a given author or thinker, or in a particular theme or motif. The Genealogy features entries informed by the re-examination and critique of posthumanism’s acknowledged, unsuspected and evolving dimensions.
Entries should be informative and should seek to make a critical intervention in the field. Submissions may consist of a standalone entry or one that is linked to and engages with existing contributions. Prospective contributors are invited to browse the entries already published on the site to familiarise themselves with the Genealogy’s form and rationale and to identify potential areas of interest.
Submissions should be around 1000 words in length and should include up to 8 keywords. Images and video clips may also be included with submissions. Contributors are requested to follow the MHRA style sheet, and all references should appear as footnotes. Articles are to be submitted as a Word document, in the form of an email attachment. All entries are peer-reviewed and authors can expect attentive and helpful feedback.
This call is ongoing, with no fixed end date. For more information about Critical Posthumanism and the Genealogy project, visit our ‘About’ page. Email email@example.com for further details or enquires.
It’s been less than a year since Penny Dreadful ended dramatically in its third season, but this week brings the announcement of a collection of academic essays dedicated to the show. Edited by Manchester Metropolitan University‘s Jon Greenaway and Stephanie Reid, the collection looks to explore the show’s Gothic and Victorian heritage, as well as its contemporary contexts.
If you’re working on Penny Dreadful, do consider submitting an abstract to Penny Dreadful: Gothic Reimagining and Neo-Victorianism in Modern Television. The deadline is 15 May. Click here to download a Word version of the CfP. Text version follows:
Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) has become one of the most critically well-regarded shows of the post-millennial Gothic television revival, drawing explicitly on classic tropes, texts and characters throughout its three-season run. However, despite the show’s critical success and cult following, a substantive academic examination of the show has yet to be undertaken.
This edited collection seeks to address the current lack within Gothic studies scholarship, and situate Penny Dreadful as a key contemporary Gothic television text. This collection will seek to trace the link between the continued expansion of Gothic television, alongside the popular engagement with Neo-Victorianism. In addition, the collection seeks to examine notions around the aesthetic importance of contemporary Gothic that become particularly prominent against the narrative re-imaginings that occur within Penny Dreadful. This collection explores exactly where Gothic resides within this reflexive, hybridized and intertextual work; in the bodies, the stories, the history, the styling, or somewhere else entirely?
Possible contributions could include, but are no means limited to the following:
Gothic adaptation and/or appropriation?
Pastiche and parody and Gothic aesthetics
‘Global Gothic’ in the sense of its commercialisation
Neo-Victorianism (styling, politics, economics); as well as explorations of the impact of ‘historicizing’ Gothic
Representation of gender within the text, specifically female monstrosity
The Post/Colonial context, as well racialized characterisation and presentation
The reworking/restyling of monsters in contemporary Gothic
Consideration of a ‘Romance’ aesthetic and how this alters conceptions of ‘Gothic’ texts and the influence of ‘romantic’ themes/styles in contemporary Gothic
What the proposal should include:
An extended abstract of 500 words (for a 6,000-word chapter) including a proposed chapter title, a clear theoretical approach and reference to some relevant sources.
Please also provide your contact information, institutional affiliation, and a short biography.