Monster Theory 2.0: Remix, the Digital Humanities, and the Limits of Transgression

‘Is remix a monster, and digital humanities the means through which it is destined to bring down the old-fashioned, exclusionary, and hierarchical modes of humanities past?’

This is the question I ask at the beginning of my chapter in the new Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, and xtine burrough, and the answer is not as simple as it may seem. There are lots of great chapters in the book, divided into sections on ‘Epistemology and Theory’, ‘Accessibility and Pedagogy’, ‘Modularity and Ontology’, and ‘Aurality and Visuality’. My own chapter, on ‘Remix, the Digital Humanities, and the Limits of Transgression’, uses the metaphor of Frankenstein and his creature to suggest that the transgressive potential of remix and the digital humanities lies less in the form of these disciplines, and more in their practice: How they are allowed to intersect, evolve, and escape their traditional (anti)humanist foundations.

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Gothic Remixed Now in Paperback

At long last my first book, Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture, is available in paperback from Bloomsbury!

The bestselling genre of Frankenfiction sees classic literature turned into commercial narratives invaded by zombies, vampires, werewolves, and other fantastical monsters. Too engaged with tradition for some and not traditional enough for others, these ‘monster mashups’ are often criticized as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture. These hybrid creations are the ‘monsters’ of our age, lurking at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation.

Featuring 23 black-and-white illustrations, this book explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix and related modes, including adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, and postmodernism. 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. In Gothic Remixed, I use these monstrous works to show how the thrill of transgression has been contained within safe and familiar formats, resulting in the mashups that dominate Western popular culture.

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Ask the Expert ‘Tea Talks’ Episode 6: Monsters and the Posthuman

They're there for their afternoon tea mug featured in video
The mug featured in said episode.

The University of Southampton has just launched a new series of Ask The Expert videos, called ‘Tea Talks’. These 20-to-30-minute videos feature Belinda Milestone, Teaching Fellow in the university’s Academic Centre for International Studies, as she interviews staff from WSA about their lives, careers, teaching, areas of specialism—and, of course, favourite cups of tea.

In the most recent episode I talk to Belinda about remix, monsters, and the posthuman over a cup of Chinese white tea:

You can watch the entire first season (six interviews) on YouTube. It includes discussions about festivals, advertising, luxury, fashion and sustainability, and more. Season two will hopefully be on the way very soon.

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The Monster Mash: Remix Horror from the Magic Lantern to the Small Screen (13 April 2021)

A few weeks ago I posted about the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies spring 2021 lineup of classes. This week I’m excited to share more information about my own contribution to this series. Join me and Miskatonic London on Zoom, 13 April (7pm UK time, tickets £8) to talk about remix and appropriative horror, from magic lantern to monster mash to meme. At the event we’ll also be celebrating the paperback launch of Gothic Remixed. 

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Gothic Remixed Coming to Paperback

2021 hasn’t had a great start. But there’s been at least a little bit of good news in the form of a book update.

After selling out before publication in 2020, and then coming back on print-on-demand at an inflated hardcover rate, Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture will finally be coming to paperback. It’s currently available for preorder—due out on 25 March 2021, and retailing at £28.99 ($39.95 in the US).

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Darkly by Leila Taylor: A Gothic Love Letter to America

I’ve been sitting on this review of Leila Taylor’s Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul for almost a year. It’s not difficult to summarise my feelings—Darkly is a brilliant book. I’ve mainly been unsure how to do it proper justice. Darkly is everything I love about the Gothic as a mode: it contains multitudes. As Taylor writes, ‘Goth alone is too big, too broad’ (20) to capture, and likewise ‘Black contains multitudes…literally. As a pigment it is all colors at once, but black is also the complete absence of all light. Black is […]everything and nothing at the same time’ (83). There are many ways to be a Goth, and to be a Black Goth.

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Gothic Mash-Ups: Hybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling

Over the past year I’ve been slowly working on a chapter for a new edited collection, Gothic Mash-Ups: Hybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling, and I’m pleased to announce that both chapter and book are now finally confirmed! Adapted from the CfP:

Under contract with Lexington Books’ Horror Studies series, Gothic Mash-Ups will theorize and trace the way that producers of gothic fiction – from the 18th century to today – appropriate, combine, and reimagine elements from earlier texts and genres. In particular, it will include essays about individual texts (or groups of texts) that bring together characters and storylines from two or more prior gothic narratives or cross gothic storylines with other kinds of stories. From Walpole’s early generic hodgepodge and Universal Pictures’ monster film crossovers to such contemporary “Frankenfictions” (De Bruin-Molé) as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Penny Dreadful, this collection will examine the fundamental hybridity of the gothic as a genre.

My contribution to the collection will be (tentatively) ‘The Franchise That Just Won’t Die: Universal Studios and the Industrialization of the Cinematic Monster Mash-up (1931-2020)’, and will look at the use of mashup as a branding and trademarking tactic in early Hollywood.

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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).

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(CfP) We are all Monsters/We are all Saints: Haunted Migrations and LatIndigenous Ghost Story

You still have two weeks to send in an abstract for this fantastic-looking edited collection, under contract with the new University Press of Mississippi’s Horror and Monstrosity Studies Series. The collection is edited by Dr Shantel Martinez.

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‘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