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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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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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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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.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘Perpetual Night’ and ‘The Blessed Dark’ (Season 3 Finale, Episodes 8 and 9)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 8 July 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

In my very first post I rhetorically questioned whether any of the ‘monsters’ in Penny Dreadful would be able to come to terms with their past or their actions. I also asked to what extent the show could be labelled ‘Victorian’ or ‘neo-Victorian’.

When I started writing this week’s post, I had no idea that I would be writing about the end of entire series, as well as the end of the third season. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to finish it is the way this ending has (unexpectedly) forced me to completely re-evaluate the show, and my expectations of it.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘A Blade of Grass’ (Season 3, Episode 4)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 27 May 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

Last week I wished for a quieter episode that focused on one or two characters in a bit more depth. This week, that wish was granted. Seasons one and two both used an early episode to explore a part of Vanessa’s past, and this season does the same. ‘A Blade of Grass’ is a frame narrative that starts and ends as a hypnotherapy session between Vanessa Ives and Dr Seward, and the two women are attempting to discover where Vanessa first met The Master (a.k.a. Dracula).

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘Good and Evil Braided Be’ (Season 3, Episode 3)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 20 May 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

With a third of this season’s nine-episode run now complete, it’s still surprisingly difficult to judge where we should be at this point in Penny Dreadful’s story arc. Season one forced us to slowly stew in dread and suspense until the last few episodes, building up the struggles and motivations of its central characters. Season two jumped straight into supernatural action, then stepped back to let side stories unravel, and plotlines settle into place.

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Frankenfiction: The Book

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.

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Penny Dreadful Review: ‘Predators Far and Near’ (Season 3, Episode 2)

As part of my forthcoming book project, I’ve been revisiting the Penny Dreadful series and comics. This included looking back at my online reviews of the show’s third and final season, which I will be posting here over the coming weeks. This post originally appeared on The Victorianist, 13 May 2016. It has been edited and corrected for reposting.

This post contains plot details for seasons 1-3 of Penny Dreadful, as well as a few minor comments on the HBO series Game of Thrones that might be construed as spoilers.

Penny Dreadful’s identity as a show hinges on a small number of key characteristics. One is its appropriation of Gothic monsters. Another is its status as a premium cable series, and a work of ‘quality television’. 

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