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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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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‘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

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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