Scrapbooking the Wasteland—A Posthumanist Terror Management Theory Toolkit

Are you interested in critical posthumanism and the creative arts? Did you see images from our zine-making workshop and wish you’d been able to join us? Now is your chance! Our next Creative Posthumanism workshop will be on Wednesday, 1st June 2022, from 2-4pm at Winchester School of Art. This week, our theme (and the focus of our collaborative making project) is ‘Scrapbooking the Wasteland—A Posthumanist Terror Management Theory Toolkit’.

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Creative Posthumanism

IMAGE BY 愚木混株

This summer I’ll be launching a series of pilot workshops as part of the Creative Posthumanism project, including sessions on zine-making, scrapbooking, and performance art. More news on these sessions will follow soon, but in the meantime I wanted to share a little bit about the rationale behind the project. Humanistic principles underpin key discourses in biology (we are individual entities), psychology (we are individual actors), economics (we are rational actors), law (we are responsible for our actions), art (we are individual authors of human stories), AI research (the goal is to produce computers which “think like us”), medicine (there is a clear idea of a healthy human which we should aim to remain in line with), and ecology (the earth should be optimised for human habitation). In many of these areas, however, the centrality of such thought is being questioned. Critical posthumanism is an academic field of inquiry that deconstructs the human (and humanitarian) impacts of these liberal humanist systems and institutions, particularly in the ways that they have been accelerated and exacerbated by advancing technologies.

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Waste Age: What can design do?

It’s been almost a year since I’ve ventured out to a museum exhibition, and more than two since I had the chance to catch one in London. But with delayed research projects on salvage and upcycling kicking off again, and a small but very welcome early career grant from the University of Southampton’s Humanities Faculty, February seemed like the time to take another trip to the Design Museum to visit its exhibition on ‘Waste Age: What can design do?’

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Do the Monster Mash: Universal’s “Classic Monsters” and the Industrialization of the Gothic Transmedia Franchise

Almost two years after I announced I was writing it, my chapter in Gothic Mash-Ups: Hybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling is now out with Rowman & Littlefield (EU) / Lexington Books (USA)!

My chapter, ‘Do the Monster Mash: Universal’s “Classic Monsters” and the Industrialization of the Gothic Transmedia Franchise’, takes the Universal Monsters as a prime case of early Gothic transmedia and mashup, as well as highlighting the importance of unoriginality to Gothic storytelling more broadly.

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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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Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies Spring 2021

The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies has just announced its Spring 2021 semester, and I’m very excited to be part of the lineup, talking about monster mash! The Miskatonic Institute has been running for over ten years, and features regular talks and events with horror scholars and creators. In their words, Miskatonic are “an international organization that offers undergraduate-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses. The Miskatonic is a largely volunteer-run endeavour through which established horror writers, directors, scholars and programmers/curators celebrate horror history and culture with a unique blend of enthusiasm and critical perspective.”

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