Remix has often been called the first modern art form. Enabled by modern copy-paste technologies, by the wealth of material opened up for recycling by the information age, and by the legal and ethical provisions of fair use, remix has been given a central place in the history of the digital revolution. It has also been hailed as an inherently egalitarian practice, open to anyone with a computer or a pair of scissors, indiscriminate in its mixing of media, its combination of high art with low art, and its appropriation of both proprietary materials and those in the public domain.
At the beginning of December, students and staff at Winchester School of Art (where I work) took part in a series of Critical Media Practice workshops, focused around the theme of ‘Gendering Technology’. The workshops developed practical skills, but also explored the gendered dimensions of technology’s access and use, and the framing of debates around gender … Read more
This blog started in 2014 as a chronicle of my PhD research into Frankenfictions—books, films, television, and fine art that remix classic literature and historical documents in monstrous ways.
Now, four years on, I’m very excited to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Bloomsbury Academic for my book Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture. It should be out in hardback sometime in 2019, with a projected paperback release in 2021.
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.
As a teacher, I deal with plagiarism all the time—usually in the sense of advising students how to avoid it in their academic essays. As an academic blogger, though, and a web editor before that, I’ve often had to deal with another form of plagiarism: the visual kind. Where most of us are clear on what constitutes … Read more
The following post is part of an early, discarded draft of the introduction to my PhD thesis on monster mashups. Having just completed a second, and (hopefully) infinitely more readable version, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate by looking back to where I started. Since it will no longer become part of any published work, … Read more
On on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Seven months later, on March 13, 2015, American poet Kenneth Goldsmith sparked an internet controversy when he performed a remixed version of Michael Brown’s autopsy report at the ‘Interrupt 3’ event at Brown University. Recordings of the reading were never … Read more
Calling all fans, acafans, and anti-fans! I’m currently wrapping up a draft of my thesis that looks at the way intertextuality functions in the monster mashup. I argue that it revives the past in a very specific (and monstrous) way, while at the same time having wider implications for studies in historical fiction, adaptation, and remix culture more broadly. … Read more
What follows is part two of a spoiler-free discussion of The Force Awakens (the new Star Wars movie), and its cultural context in science fiction, fandom, and nostalgia culture. You can find part one right here. Last week I started my breakdown of The Force Awakens with the disclaimer that I am a long-time Star Wars fan. I looked at arguments … Read more
What follows is part one of a spoiler-free discussion of The Force Awakens (the new Star Wars movie), and its cultural context in science fiction, fandom, and nostalgia culture. You can find part two here. I, like millions of other people, went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens over the winter holidays. Twice. The first … Read more