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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The Late Gatsby and the Public Domain

Happy New Year in advance!

This year, a huge collection of literary and artistic works will make their way into the US public domain. Interestingly, this is only the second time this has happened automatically since 1978, when the 1976 Copyright Act came into effect (the first time was January 2020). Garin Pirina at Mental Floss explains how this happened:

Sonny Bono—who was not only half of Sonny and Cher but also the mayor of Palm Springs, California from 1988 to 1992 and a California congressman—is one person who is responsible The Great Gatsby‘s public domain delay. In 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extends the Copyright Act of 1976. The latter established that works like The Great Gatsby would become public domain 75 years after the date of publication. But the 1998 act extended the publication date for certain works—namely: those published with a copyright notice and with copyright renewed—20 more years, giving The Great Gatsby a total of 95 years copyright protection. (The bill was named for Bono when the law passed the House of Representatives shortly after his death in 1998.)

On 1 January 2021 then, 95 years after its publication, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) will be released into the public domain. This also means that F. Scott Fitzgerald and S. A. Klipspringer’s The Late Gatsby (self-published by Shay K. Azoulay) will finally be eligible for publication in the USA—it is currently only available overseas, where different copyright laws prevail. First published in 2012 (three years after Quirk Books’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), The Late Gatsby flew largely under the radar. In the trend of the many literary mashups before it, The Late Gatsby combines Fitzgerald’s text with Klipspringer’s to reveal a dark secret: Jay Gatsby was a vampire. 

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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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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.

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Discussing Deviance at Winchester School of Art

Photos from the Winchester School of Art launch of Gothic Remixed are now available in this event report on the MA Global Media Management blog. Thank you to everyone who could join us! It was wonderful to celebrate with you, and to hear more about the other book presented at the launch, Fashion Crimes: Dressing for Deviance (ed. Jo Turney)

Image © Dr Estrella Sendra

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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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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.

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