Crisis in Contemporary Writing (BACLS Virtual Conference, 26 June 2020)

There is still time to register for the British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies’ first virtual conference, on ‘Crisis in Contemporary Writing’—free access to this event closes on Monday 22nd June.

The conference will open with a roundtable discussion of contemporary crisis. It will then feature live online discussions of pre-circulated papers, readings, and videos (most already available via the BACLS website) on contamination and contagion, economic, cultural, and social crises, as well as relationships to technology and between the human and the non-human. I will be presenting in Panel 2: Human – Non-human, with a discussion of ‘mindful’ consumption and the rehabilitation of the zombie in twenty-first-century popular culture. Using the metaphor of mindfulness and the mindful consumer, I suggest that rather than dehumanising the other outside of the community, in these narratives the horror is directed inward, to the twin monsters of modernity that cannot be escaped, destroyed, or ignored, and must be embraced and ethically managed: capitalism and consumerism. This work is related to what I have been writing for the forthcoming edited collection Embodying Contagion (UWP 2021).

Read more

Artist Talk with David Blandy (16 June 2020)

How to Fly (2020)

On Tuesday, 16 June 2020 I’ll be talking with British artist David Blandy about his newest work, two specially commissioned videos (How to Fly and How to Live). This online event is hosted by Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery, and I’ll be joined by Jussi Parikka, who is leading and moderating the discussion.

Read more

Announcing Embodying Contagion: The Viropolitics of Horror and Desire in Contemporary Discourse (UWP 2021)

Now that the reviewer reports are back, I am pleased to officially announce the forthcoming publication of Embodying Contagion: The Viropolitics of Horror and Desire in Contemporary Discourse. Bringing scholarship from cultural and media studies into conversation with scholarship from the medical humanities and social sciences, this collection (edited by myself, Sandra Becker, and Sara Polak) aims to give readers a fuller picture of how we make sense of contagion in contemporary global culture.

Read more

The Anne Frank Video Diary

© 2020 Anne Frank Stichting, photography Ray van der Bas.

Many of us in Europe are now in our second or third weeks of self-isolation. The internet being the internet, some commentators on Twitter have started to compare their experiences in quarantine to those of Holocaust refugee Anne Frank, who spent just over two years (25 months) hiding with her family in a small annex in Amsterdam. How, they ask, did she survive all this time shut up indoors, without even the internet to keep her entertained?

One response to this rhetorical question is that she wrote. The published version of Anne Frank’s experiences, The Diary of a Young Girl (In Dutch: Het Achterhuis [The Annex]), is an international bestseller, and the house she hid in is now a popular museum and heritage centre. In 2019 the Anne Frank House saw over 1.3 million visitors, and it has been the 3rd most visited Dutch museum for years. Another, grimmer answer to the question is that she didn’t survive at all: Anne Frank died in Auschwitz in 1945.

Anne Frank’s experiences in the annex are obviously very far removed from our current situation. But the Anne Frank House’s newest production is certainly interestingly timed as a result. The Anne Frank Video Diary is a 15-episode YouTube series, and follows the last five months of Frank’s time in the annex. The spoken language is Dutch (the same language Frank used in her diary), but there are subtitles German, English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Read more

‘Hugely thought-provoking and enlightening’: review of Gothic Remixed on Sublime Horror

The first review for Gothic Remixed is out on the culture blog Sublime Horror, and I am very excited! In his review Daniel Pietersen suggests that we ‘live in a time of remixes […where] everything seems unpleasantly familiar’. He then explores how Gothic Remixed intervenes in these discussions, highlighting the book’s key arguments and concluding: Gothic … Read more

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and the ‘opposite’ of Gothic

There’s a new Penny Dreadful series on the horizon! A departure from the original 2014–2016 series in terms of setting and tone (and casting with one or two exceptions), City of Angels will take place in 1930s Los Angeles. Despite our reservations about the ending of Penny Dreadful season 3, many of us working in horror and the gothic have been excited about this new sequel series for months. And last week the first teaser trailer dropped:

The YouTube trailer page describes City of Angels as a ‘spiritual descendant of the original Penny Dreadful story set in Victorian-era London’. And all in all it feels very Penny Dreadful. Strong female protagonist a la Vanessa Ives? Meet Natalie Dormer’s character Magda, this time literally a demon (not just possessed by one). On-the-nose metaphors about humanity’s ‘inner monsters’? Check: in the teaser Magda explains how ‘all mankind needs to become the monster he truly is, is being told he can’. Visually spectacular supernatural period drama? The sets are lush and colourful, despite the weird sepia filter that’s been thrown over the whole show. Magda gets not one, not two, but six fabulous costume changes in the teaser, two with hats that I need immediately. I’m also excited to see a few Penny Dreadful actors back in new roles—in particular Rory Kinnear, whose performances I found some of the most moving in the original series.

More of this please.

Read more

Now in Open Access: ‘Frankenfiction: monstrous adaptations and gothic histories in twenty-first-century remix culture’

Gothic Remixed sold out in the UK on the morning of its official publication. You can still order (and still use my 35% discount code GLR MP8), but will likely have to wait a while before your copy arrives!

While you wait for the book arrive back in stock (or at your local library), you might be pleased to know that the PhD thesis the book is based on has just gone Open Access. ‘Frankenfiction: monstrous adaptations and gothic histories in twenty-first-century remix culture’ is free to download from Cardiff University’s online research portal, ORCA. The thesis was supervised by Professor Ann Heilmann, and examined by Professor Catherine Spooner and Professor Anthony Mandal.

Read more

Gothic Remixed Now Available!

I’m thrilled to announce the official publication of Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture!

This book explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix and related modes, including adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, and postmodernism. In it, I argue that popular remix creations are the ‘monsters’ of our age, lurking at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Taking a multimedia approach, case studies range from novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, to television programmes such as Penny Dreadful, to popular visual artworks like Kevin J. Weir’s Flux Machine GIFs.

Read more

Gothic Remixed: Coming 31 October 2019

It’s official! Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture is now with Bloomsbury Academic’s production team, and will be coming to a bookshop near you in October. The book is already available to preorder at this link.

If you’re teaching or researching the Gothic, adaptation studies, or popular media, please do consider requesting Gothic Remixed for your library! Alternately, if you have deep pockets you can spring for a hardback edition of your very own (currently retailing at £76.50 on the Bloomsbury website). A paperback edition will hopefully follow shortly.

Read more

“Does it Come with a Spear?” Commodity Activism, Plastic Representation, and Transmedia Story Strategies in Disney’s Star Wars: Forces of Destiny

Continuing on from my previous research on Star Wars (and other related activities), I’ve had an article published in a special issue of the open access journal Film Criticism. I write about the Forces of Destiny Star Wars series on YouTube, addressing the tensions between Disney’s presentation of this girl-focused arm of the Star Wars universe and its reception by fans and consumers. In particular, I look at the ‘Adventure figure’ line of toys marketed with the series, tracing its ‘plastic representation’ within the broader contexts of Star Wars transmedia, commodity activism, and paratextual erasure.

The article is open access and free to read—you can find it at this link. You can also read a short excerpt from the article below:

Few films are more iconic and widely recognized than Star Wars (1977).[1] Now an international franchise with a forty-year history and a multi-billion-dollar box office and merchandising legacy, Star Wars has become a global phenomenon. Amidst ever-intensifying waves of film and television content, transmedia tie-ins, and merchandising outreach, it has become common to speak of Star Wars as though it is a universal constant. Not only can it be found everywhere, the reasoning goes, it is also something that can be enjoyed together by people of diverse ages and backgrounds. As Rogue One (2016) reviewer Rohan Naahar writes for the Hindustan Times, “Star Wars is for everyone; every boy or girl who has ever looked up at the night sky and wondered if there are other worlds out there. It’s for every kid who has ever pretended to be a hero, saving the day, with his friends by his side. Star Wars belongs to us now.”[2] But what parts of the franchise are we talking about when we speak of Star Wars? And is it the franchise’s omnipresence that allows it to appeal to the kid—or the boy, as Naahar’s use of personal pronouns suggests—in everyone?

Read more