Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog - Ellen Bulford Welch

The next instalment in Sheffield Gothic's profile blog series focuses on Ellen Bulford Welch from the University of Sheffield. Read on to find out what drew Ellen to the Gothic, her favourite Gothic texts, and who she would invite to dinner!

My name is Ellen Bulford Welch and I am a second year PhD student in English Literature. Before coming to Sheffield I did my BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford and an MPhil in American Literature at the University of Cambridge. 

What do you research?
My current research focuses on the figure of the Gothic author in nineteenth-century America. My thesis works from the premise that pejorative Gothic identities were routinely attributed to practitioners of the Gothic in the literary criticism of the period. In other words, Gothic texts were assumed to be an extension of the dark realities inhabited by their authors. I argue that critics frequently upheld this paradigm by imagining Gothic authors in the roles of traditional Gothic villains, such as witches, ghosts and demons (unsurprisingly, there are many colourful examples of this Gothicisation surrounding writers like Edgar Allan Poe and the infamous 'Monk' Lewis). My thesis also examines the impact of this discourse upon the practice of Gothic authorship, from the adoption of Gothic subgenres designed to provide all of the sensational trappings of the genre whilst simultaneously denouncing or parodying it, to anonymous or pseudonymous publication. 

How did you become interested in the Gothic?
It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment when my interest in the Gothic started. When I think about it, I have always been drawn to fiction and poetry with a Gothic aesthetic. When I was growing up I loved books like Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch series and was a big fan of TV shows like Ghost Hunter and Mona the Vampire. I went through the obligatory Twilight phase as a teenager and am still a sucker (pun intended) for paranormal American dramas from Buffy to True Blood. I've always been interested in the darkness that seems to lie at the heart of a lot of fairytales and folklore and I was delighted when doing an A Level Module in the Gothic to discover Angela Carter's evocation of these undertones in The Bloody Chamber. As well as her adaptation of traditional fairytales, I also loved the decadent Gothicism of her imagery, an aesthetic that I have since enjoyed in works like Baudelaire's poetry and Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak

(Grant Wood's 'American Gothic')
My specific interest in the American Gothic dates back to writing my undergraduate dissertation on Charles Brockden Brown. I find it fascinating just how at home the Gothic always seems on American soil. So much of the nation's history has been imagined through a Gothic lens and the Gothic dominates America's literary canon to a greater degree than most modes of writing. 

What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?
Like most keen Gothicists I would definitely recommend reading many of the classics of the genre: Wuthering Heights, The Turn of the Screw, Dracula, The Scarlet Letter and stories by Poe, Le Fanu, Lovecraft and Arthur Machen (especially the extremely chilling The Great God Pan). I could go on ... 

I think it's always really interesting to read the Gothic works of authors who are not habitually associated with the genre. Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Gaskell and Louisa May Alcott all wrote significant bodies of Gothic fiction that are both a far cry from and bear intriguing similarities to their more well-known, non Gothic corpuses. My next aim is to read the Gothic tales of E. Nesbitt. 

On a more contemporary note, I recently devoured Dan Simmons' The Terror, a fictional interpretation of the fate of the much mythologized Franklin expedition. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the novel provided an amazingly powerful, not to mention terrifying, evocation the Gothicism of the arctic landscape. 

In terms of television, earlier this year I really enjoyed watching the BBC's supernatural thriller, Requiem. The show did a really spooky job of weaving a Gothic mythology around the attempts of the Tudor occult philosopher and general polymath, John Dee, to communicate with divine beings. 

If you could invite any Gothic writer, artist, musician or character to dinner, who would you choose and why?
There's a long list, but if I had to narrow it down then I would definitely invite the contentious and little-known early-nineteenth-century author, John Neal. His prefaces are some of the most cantankerous and audacious that I have ever encountered and I would love to see if his personality was as larger-than-life in reality as it is on the page! The fictional character at the top of my shortlist would undoubtedly be Buffy's Rupert Giles. As far as I'm concerned no one could be cooler than a librarian with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the occult.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog - Celine Frohn

Sheffield Gothic's next instalment in our series of profile blogs sees Celine Frohn, PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield, explore her interest in the Gothic, some of her favourite Gothic texts, and who she would invite to dinner!

My name is Celine Frohn, and I’m a PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Sheffield. I was born in the Netherlands, where I completed my BA in Cultural Studies at Tilburg University, and an MA in Cultural History at Utrecht University.

What do you research?
My research is on a relatively little-known genre of stories from the mid-nineteenth century, called penny bloods (or penny dreadfuls). These cheap periodicals from the 1840s were read almost exclusively by a working-class audience. Their sensational and melodramatic nature made them unappealing for the respectable middle class. I’m interested not only in delineating the genre boundaries of the penny blood, but also in describing how these blood-thirsty yet entertaining stories combine the macabre and humour. How, and why, are these stories funny, and who is laughing? An avenue I’m looking into is how the Gothic and laughter in penny bloods are connected, working together to give rise to a wide range of emotions in the reader. I am currently working on the first story featuring Sweeney Todd, called A String of Pearls.

How did you become interested in the Gothic?
The Netherlands, my country of birth and the place I spent the first twenty-or-so years of my life, doesn’t have a tradition of the Gothic in the way the United Kingdom has. While there were plenty of 'scary' books in the children’s section of the library (called griezelboeken), there was no equivalent as I grew older. Within the Dutch literary field, there is little room for tales of terror, stories that push against the limits of the real and the imaginary. Perhaps this is why I have been drawn more to Anglophone books, reading abridged versions of Frankenstein and Dracula at a young age. It was mainly supernatural creatures, or humans transgressing the boundaries of our world, that fascinated me: vampires, werewolves, and especially witches. My scholarly interest followed when I started studying cultural history, and I discovered how Gothic texts digest and react to societal anxieties.

What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?
  • Ghost – This band revels in satanistic imagery, and turns every gig (called rituals) into a Gothic carnival. For Ghost, everything is about theatre and staging. The band members are masked 'ghouls,' and the front man is replaced every album. After Papa Emeritus III’s failure to conquer the planet, Cardinal Copia is now charged to spread the dark gospel.
  • Emilie Autumn – Incorporating a neo-Victorian aesthetic and referring to traditionally Gothic places like asylums and prisons, Emilie Autumn blurs genre boundaries. Her songs often carry feminist lyrics and promote sisterhood.
  • Zeal & Ardor – Formerly a solo project, Zeal & Ardor is now a full band. Their music combines black metal with spirituals and slave song harmonics. Their songs are unsettling and aggressive, occasionally mixed with electronic influences.


  • What We Do in the Shadows (2014) – Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, What We Do in the Shadows is the best (okay, maybe the only) mockumentary about a group of New Zealand vampire housemates. Who cleans the carpet after bringing home a human to suck dry? Immortality only means that one can pile up the dishes even longer.
  • Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) – This TV show actually introduced me to the term 'penny dreadful' and ultimately led me to my current research subject. Penny Dreadful is a mashup of nineteenth-century Gothic fictions, featuring Dorian Gray, characters from Dracula, and Frankenstein and his monster. Eva Green plays Vanessa Ives in one of my favourite acting performances.
  • Hemlock Grove (2013-2015) – The first season of Hemlock Grove revolves around a series of unexplained killings. The main characters include vampires and werewolves, but in a gritty and gory version. The first season is wonderfully oppressive and engaging. I pretend the third (and last) season never happened.

  • Dead Witch Walking (2004) by Kim Harrison – The main character, Rachel, is probably my favourite witch of all time. The Hollows series is set in a mild post-apocalyptic contemporary setting that brought supernaturals into the open, and the stories are a great combination of each book resolving a certain contained mystery while at the same time slowly revealing more about the world itself, and Rachel’s place in it.
  • The String of Pearls (2007) by James Malcolm Rymer (edited by Dick Collins) – Penny bloods as a whole can be drawn-out beyond the patience of a modern reader, but the original 1846-7 version of The String of Pearls is pretty snappy, melodramatic, and wonderful.
  • Alice: Madness Returns (2011) – This adaptation of the Alice in Wonderland story is the sequel to a 2000 video game, American McGee’s Alice. In this game, Alice works through a traumatic past in increasingly threatening and psychedelic game levels. The game has an interesting commentary on trauma and memory.
  • Bioshock (2007) – In this shooter, something in a 1960s underwater man-made utopia has gone horribly wrong. Bioshock is probably one of the most imaginative and immersive shooters I’ve played; and the sequel Bioshock: Infinite is equally good.
  • Super Meat Boy (2010) – In this 2D platformer you are Meat Boy, a red hunk of meat, that faces giant saw blades that will shred him apart when touched. Since this game is very difficult, playing it feels like a metaphor: we are all just gristle for the machines, and if you fail, it’s pretty much your own fault.

If you could invite any Gothic writer, artist, musician or character to dinner, who would you choose and why?
I can’t choose! Instead of a dinner, can we just have a party with all of the authors and their creations, while Ghost perform in the background? Although, how do we prevent the monsters from making us into their dinner? I guess it might overall be a slightly unsettling experience anyway…

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog: Emily Marlow

The next instalment in our profile blog series focuses on Emily Marlow, PhD researcher at SIIBS at the University of Sheffield. Read as Emily explores what drew her to the Gothic, her favourite Gothic text, and who she would like to invite to dinner! 

Hi, my name is Emily and I'm a PhD candidate with the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) part of The University of Sheffield. I'm a First Class BA (Hons) and MA graduate of the University of Sheffield, born in Tauranga, New Zealand, who grew up in Coffs Harbour, Australia before settling in Sheffield, in the United Kingdom. You can follow my work on my website http://www.emilymarlow.co.uk, or follow me on twitter @EmilyRMarlow.

What do you research?
Broadly I look at religion in video games, film and other media. Specifically, my PhD looks at the journey of Jesus in film, to Jesus-figures in film, to Jesus-figures in video games. This means I get to study Jesus films like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and the popular musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus-figure films such as the Captain America series, and finally video games from the North American game studio BioWare, who often feature Jesus-figures as playable characters. I use queer game studies to look at how we can play with religious narratives in media. 

How did you become interested in the Gothic?
I was never really aware that the media I loved was part of a larger genre that we know as ‘Gothic’, and only realised it when I first became acquainted with Sheffield Gothic. Now that I’m more familiar with Gothic definitions I can see that it has always been a large part of my favourite texts.

As a child I was fascinated by film, art and books. I was raised in a theatre family, which meant that early on I had seen, or been in, several plays that I now realise were inherently Gothic (Little Shop of Horrors anyone?). I loved dark thrillers and supernatural television, such as the X-Files and Twin Peaks. The earliest Halloween costume I remember wearing was Wednesday Addams (my brother was Pugsley), and I remember feeling an immense sense of kinship with her character. Who wouldn’t want to live in that house?

What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?As problematic as he is, I would firstly recommend Stephen King. King has a special place in my reading life – the first ‘adult’ book I ever tried to read was his baffling psychic political adventure The Dead Zone (1979). I still feel that It (1986) is one of the scariest books I have ever read, and finishing it felt like a real achievement. While The Shining (1977) is not my favourite book, I recommend readers check out its sequel Doctor Sleep (2013), which in my opinion features some of the most creatively written vampires in literature.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my absolute favourite Stephen King book (and probably a good contender for my favourite book of all time), The Stand (1978/1990). In this King tries his hand at creating an American version of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and it is a complete tour de force of characterisation, a dynamic fight of good and evil, and above all, delightfully Gothic.

I’m a bit of a Stanley Kubrick fanatic, but instead of recommending the (in my opinion, perfect) The Shining (1980), I’d suggest readers try out Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). This reimagining of the 1926 French novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzler, is sumptuously dark, agonisingly erotic and beautifully acted. Beware if you, like me, find masks a bit spooky!

As far as games, I recommend playing The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (2015). Witcher is a great example of solid storytelling in games and is completely shot through with Gothic references and motifs. I love that I get to study Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) as part of my PhD and as Lauren Nixon reminds me regularly, this too is incredibly Gothic.

For comics I’d recommend Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series or Alan Moore’s From Hell, both of which are excellent works that transcend their genres.

Lastly, I can’t not mention possibly my all-time favourite Gothic text – the rock opera/musical that is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. To me this demonstrates everything that is good in both Gothic media and theatre. It has spectacle, drama, technical skill and horror. Every time I see it I am completely enraptured – it’s just perfect to me.

If you could invite any Gothic writer, artist, musician or character to dinner, who would you choose and why?

I’d probably want to have a whole host of characters, rather than creators – characters are much more entertaining! ;) I’d include John Constantine (and specifically the Keanu Reeves version of the character), Geralt of Rivia (his awkwardness at dinner parties notwithstanding), Eric Northman (who would hopefully not eat anyone), Dorian Gray (for conversation and devilishness), Lisbeth Salander (the ultimate in Gothic heroines), Gomez and Morticia Addams (the greatest married couple in fiction) and finally Hannibal Lecter (who would also hopefully not eat anyone). I can just see it now…

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Announcement: Reimagining the Gothic Creative Competition

Reimagining the Gothic 2018: Aesthetics and Archetypes

Creative Competition

Sheffield Gothic is delighted to announce our 2018 Reimagining the Gothic creative competition!

Each year as part of Reimagining the Gothic we hold a creative showcase: an opportunity to explore the theme through various creative methods. This year, that theme is Gothic Aesthetics & Archetypes - think everything from ruined castles, memento mori and gargoyles to Racliffean heroines, Byronic vampires and The Cure.

The aim of the creative showcase is to offer alternative insights and rethink Gothic conventions through a variety of creative mediums. In the past we've had photography series', music videos, dramatic pieces and short films. Want to get involved? This years competition is now open!

All submissions will have the opportunity to be displayed at the Creative Showcase on Saturday 27th of October, where the winners will be announced after our creative keynote from comics writer Kieron Gillen. Any and all are welcome to submit creative pieces in all shapes and forms that explore, imagine and challenge the theme in anyway. Want to design the costumes for a potential adaptation of your favourite Gothic work? Or adapt it for a Graphic Novel? Great! Want to rewrite a classic Gothic trope from a new angle? Wonderful! Feel like taking atmospheric photos of a haunted ruin at night? I mean, be careful, but sure! Got an idea but not the creative skills to realise it? Group projects are also welcome!

The competition is for submissions of all kinds, and the winning entry will receive a £75 Amazon gift card and a copy of The Wicked + The Divine

Rules and Regulations:

1) The work must be original. You're welcome to riff off, be inspired by and reinterpret any existing works (copyright allowing) but all entries must be original pieces.

2) Submissions must abide to the Sheffield Gothic code of conduct. The Gothic is a language of anxiety, taboo and the other and we encourage submissions to fully interrogate and explore those themes. However we reserve the right to refuse any submissions that are intentionally offensive, contain hate speech or are unnecessarily aggressive.

3) Entrants must have permission to have their pieces displayed. We welcome submissions from all ages, all over the globe (so long as we can in some display them!) from either single creators or teams. However if your work has been previously shown elsewhere or commissioned as part of another project, or you are submitting on behalf of a group or another individual you must have permission to do so

The closing date for entries is Monday 17th September. Submissions should be sent to reimagininggoth15@gmail.com with a short bio - we may also ask for a short written piece explaining the ideas and process behind your piece for the showcase.

If you have any questions, or want any further information then don't hesitate to contact the team at reimagininggoth15@gmail.com. We purposefully keep the themes as open as possible to encourage a variety of interpretations, but we're always happy to answer any questions or queries!

@SheffieldGothic | @TheReimagining 

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Artistic vampires, obsession and reality denying mechanisms in ‘The Oval Portrait’

This is the third and final part of a blog series by Alan D. D. exploring Edgar Alan Poe and the Gothic. You can read his first post discussing Poe's 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar' in relation to death and immortality here, and his second post examining the human mind in 'The Fall of the House of Usher' here.

('The "Thompson" Daguerreotype' by William A. Pratt)
Many have written about the effects of art on humankind. One could not even imagine what life would be with no creative objects to be appreciated, with no paintings, no music, no drawings, nothing at all. A person may not have the ability to create, but everyone appreciates a descent sensitive distraction depending on personal likes. Art is defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018.). It is interesting to note that creativity, evidently, is linked with the words creator and creation, and one could even go further and assume it is also a connection to the concept of a Creator, be it a deity, a mysterious force behind life itself or a scientific event like the Big Bang, but the association couldn’t be more obvious.

However, it is also reasonable that the power to create also confirms the power to destroy. Is art, no matter its many forms and shapes, capable of destroying as much as it is capable of creating? Edgar Allan Poe seemed to think so, and I am a sceptic to the idea that this was just a coincidence to find such a proposal in one of his stories.

‘The Oval Portrait’ presents a rather unsetting plot: an anonymous traveler, who is also injured, finds refuge in an abandoned mansion in the Apennines, and in the night discovers a painting with a disturbing story, that of an artist that turned the soul of his wife, which was also the model, into a piece of art and so killing her: ‘the painter (who had high renown) took a fervid and burning pleasure in his task, and wrought day and night to depict her who so loved him, yet who grew daily more dispirited and weak.’ (Poe, 1845). The first thing I can think about is that this is clearly some form of obsession-leaded vampirism. It is not enough for this artist, this husband, to slowly steal his wife’s life in an attempt to immortalize her, so he needs and has to complete the painting, not even aware that he would widow right away, making an artist, which also means a creator, a destroyer of life as well (Meyers, 2000.).

('The Oval Portrait' by Jean Paul Laurens)
Vampires have also been linked with obsession by different psychological conditions. Medicine has a term for this mania to drink blood: Renfield Syndrome. This syndrome is named after a character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and it is interesting to note that individuals who are part of vampire cults ‘may also demonstrate certain psychopathologies such as dissociation, obsessive thought, delusional thinking, and hallucinations’ (White & Omar, 2010: p. 192.). This becomes relevant when we discover that Poe’s first version of this tale, titled ‘Life in Death,’ published in Graham's Magazine in 1842, included details on how the narrator had been wounded and that opium was used to relieve the pain. However, the author eliminated this part of the narration for considering it made the story be seen as a hallucination (Sova, 2001.).

It doesn’t matter if the narrator is living this or only imagining it. Either way, it is clear that this characters has some kind of mental imbalance just like the artist, for it is stated that the narrator ‘thinking earnestly upon these points, I remained, for an hour perhaps, half sitting, half reclining, with my vision riveted upon the portrait’ and more explicitly that ‘in these paintings my incipient delirium, perhaps, had caused me to take deep interest’ (Poe, 1845.).Yet, I’m inclined to think that maybe there was something worse, something Poe tried to avoid and process, when he wrote this tale, if we consider that ‘horror stories are a means through which artists implicitly comment on the state of human affairs at a particular moment’ (George & Green, 2015: p. 2345.).

It was around this time, when ‘The Oval Portrait’ was written, that Poe’s wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, started a health decline that would end on her dead in 1847, (Silverman, 1991,) and which the writer himself stated made him ‘insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity’ (Poe, 1848.). This could suggest that Poe had an ambiguous, bittersweet relationship with his work: although it offered him a distraction from reality, an escape from the inevitable event that would cause him a severe depression, maybe he felt his art was somehow murdering his own wife. He didn’t need to be part of a vampire cult, for in his mind he was a vampire already.

These creatures have been linked with sexuality, sexual desire and liberation (Hughes, 2012,) but it is clear that obsession, death and life also play an important role on the figure of the vampire, which, apparently, is also capable of becoming an artist, ‘the creator of beautiful things,’ (Wilde, 2014,) given the impact and influence this tale had. Some may be familiar with a certain Mr. Gray, which story was inspired by this tale of Poe, and whose writer praised Poe’s work five years before Gray was born (Sova, 2001.).

Sova, D. B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts on File.
Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - E. A. Poe to G. W. Eveleth (January 4, 1848). (2018). Retrieved from https://www.eapoe.org/works/letters/p4801040.htm
George, D. R., & Green, M. J. (2015). Lessons Learned From Comics Produced by Medical Students: Art of Darkness. Jama, 314 (22), 2345-2346.
Hughes, W. (2012). Fictional Vampires in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. In D. Punter, A New Companion to The Gothic (pp. 197-210). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Meyers, J. (2000). Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press.
Oxford Dictionaries. (2018). Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/art
Poe, E. A. (1845). The Oval Portrait. Alex Catalogue.
Silverman, K. (1991). Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial.
White, M., & Omar, H. A. (2010). Vampirism, vampire cults and the teenager of today. International journal of adolescent medicine and health, 22(2), 189.
Wilde, O. (2014). The Picture of Dorian Gray. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved June 13, 2018 from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/174/174-h/174-h.htm

Alan D. D. is an author, blogger and journalist who has been freaking the world since 1995. Hailing and writing out of Venezuela, Alan D.D. has worked with books, comics, music, movies and almost anything else that catches his attention. 99% of the time, it's something about witches. He's currently trying to get his first novel in English published and searching for a 24/7 chocolate supplier.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog: Andrew Smith

The next instalment in Sheffield Gothic's series of profile blogs focuses on Andrew Smith, co-director of the Centre for the History of the Gothic at the University of Sheffield, and he explores his interest in the Gothic, his favourite Gothic text, and who hewould like to invite to dinner!

Andrew Smith is Professor of Nineteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield where he co-directs the Centre for the History of the Gothic. His 20 published books include Gothic Death 1740-1914: A Literary History (Manchester University Press 2016); The Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History (Manchester University Press 2010) and Victorian Demons: Medicine, Masculinity and the Gothic at the fin-de-siècle (Manchester University Press 2004). His best-selling Gothic Literature (Edinburgh University Press 2007), was revised and republished in 2013. He co-directs four books series, ‘Gothic Literary Studies’ and ‘Gothic Authors: Critical Revisions’ for the University of Wales Press, ‘The Edinburgh Companions to the Gothic’ for Edinburgh University Press and ‘Interventions: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century’ for Manchester University Press. There have been 48 titles published across the series. He is currently writing Gothic Fiction and the Writing of Trauma, 1914-1934: The Ghosts of World War One for Edinburgh University Press. He is a past President of the International Gothic Association.

What do you research?
I have published on Gothic literature from the eighteenth century to the present day although my main focus has been on Gothic texts published in the nineteenth century. I’m currently writing a book about ghosts stories and World War One as my two previous monographs (on the history of the ghost story, and on death) stopped before the war, so it felt like a period I was avoiding although I was conscious that it needed a book to itself to do it justice.  I am interested in how the Gothic uses certain tropes to capture historically specific forms of anxiety – so, for example, how it is that the disembodied form of the ghost embodies concerns about money (in the nineteenth century) and the problem of the returning soldier (in and after World War One).

How did you become interested in the Gothic?
As a child growing up in the early 1970s my parents allowed us to watch 1930s horror films on the TV on the grounds that they were so daft that they couldn’t be frightening. Not so. I found werewolf films particularly harrowing because so often the ostensible hero became, under lunar influence, transformed into the villain. In a child-like pursuit of moral clarity I would close eyes and pretend that they were separate beings which, of course, then made the plot-lines utterly unintelligible. In my early teenage years I discovered Herbert Van Thal’s Pan Book of Horror series and was hooked. As an undergraduate and as a postgraduate I became interested in the type of provocative cultural work undertaken in the Gothic and wrote my PhD on how a Gothic tradition from the 18thc to the late 19thc critically interrogated an Idealist tradition from Kant to Freud, which in turn became my first monograph, Gothic Radicalism (Macmillan 2000).

What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?
Almost anything by Poe. Poe is both horrifying and funny (although funny peculiar perhaps), by turns and I find that an interesting blend. You can also see it in M.R. James’s ghost stories which I’m working on at the moment. I’ve also enjoyed more recent publications such as Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney (2014) and his Devil’s Day (2017). I don’t tend to watch much horror on film – my wife’s not at all keen so we don’t go to the cinema to see such films, although she has been known to sit through the occasional Hammer House.  I still think that The Exorcist (1973) is amazing, especially how it builds tension. I saw Aronofsky’s Mother! (2017) on a plane recently, which was genuinely shocking even if a little predictable as a Biblical allegory, but an interesting and serious horror film.

Who would you invite to dinner?
I’ve always been intrigued by the recipes that you find at the beginning of Dracula, so perhaps eating through some of those with Bram Stoker would be appropriate. Poe would, I fear, be a nightmare dinner guest but M.R. James would be charming, I think. I’d invite Ann Radcliffe but I’d probably be too nosey about her life and she’d make a quick exit.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog: Kathleen Hudson

The next instalment in Sheffield Gothic's series of profile blog focuses on Kathleen Hudson (Anne Arundel Community College), one of the founding members of Sheffield Gothic and eternally our Goth Queen. Read on to find out Kathleen's interest in the Gothic, her favourite Gothic text, and who she would like to invite to dinner! 


Greetings, goths! My name is Dr. Kathleen Hudson, and I’m a researcher studying Early Gothic Literature. I earned my undergraduate degree at the University of Scranton and my Masters and PhD degrees at the University of Sheffield. In addition to working as a web developer for the International Gothic Association and the Centre for the History of the Gothic, I have also been a member of the Sheffield Gothic Reading Group for several years and was one of the founding members of the Re-imagining the Gothic Project. I currently work as an adjunct faculty member at Anne Arundel Community College and my first book, entitled Servants and the Gothic: 1764-1831, A half-told tale, is scheduled to be published by University of Wales Press in January 2019. 

What do you research?

My main focus is on servant narratives in early Gothic novels, plays, and chapbook adaptations. Servant characters are frequently included in these works, and my research specifically looks at instances where Gothic servants tell stories or gossip to other characters. Such tales are often compact in-set Gothic narratives and offer fascinating insights into the way the Gothic mode is structured and into the gender and class identities that shape them. While my work mostly focuses on the early Gothic mode, it also has implications for books, TV shows, and movies up to the present day.

How did you become interested in the Gothic?

I actually became interested in the Gothic as a research area in a very roundabout way. I was never overly interested in scary or creepy things as a child, and it wasn’t until I went to university that I started looking seriously at Gothic and horror works. One of the first things I invested in as a new college student was a Netflix subscription. This was back in the days when the streaming service was still very limited, but many of the movies that you could watch whenever you wanted seemed to be cheesy, gory horror films from the 1970s and 80s. I watched Evil Dead, Reanimator, Dead Alive, The Thing, Alien, and all these great classic movies and was utterly fascinated by them. Curiosity about how the filmmakers managed to scare and shock turned into an interest in the reoccurring engagements with psychological issues and human fears and the way those elements were then represented visually in film. 

My interest in Gothic horror remained in the background of my academic life until I took the “Rise of the Gothic” course at the University of Sheffield while getting my Masters Degree in Nineteenth Century Studies. In that class I started to see where many of the elements of horror and humor I so appreciated in my favorite films came from. I learned about the literary origins of haunted houses and villainous parents and thoughtful heroines and developed a new appreciation for the mode as an evolving examination of the very basic building blocks of the human psyche. 

Servant characters and their narratives then emerged as an extension of this interest – they embody many of the elements that intrigued me and were key to understanding how fear and grief and family were reflected through narrative self-expression. I started to focus on why these characters kept popping up and how specific servants were similar or different from others, and that lead me to my fascination with Gothic servant narratives as a whole.

What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe 

This is a classic text and it will probably surprise no one when I include it, but in all honesty, it is one of those books that I finish reading and then immediately want to reread again. Radcliffe’s work is an amazing collection of individual vignettes, complex set-pieces, and individual studies of people. She creates an amazing fictional world that is at once fantastic and very recognizable and personal, and this is absolutely my favorite novel of hers. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

This is another one that feels a bit cliched to include, but in terms of classic Gothic must-reads this is one of the essentials. Shelley’s work is just a profound study of humanity and it never ceases to blow me away. You think you know the story but it’s a tricky text with complex psychological implications – and watch out for the subtle political jabs and the undercurrent of feminist angst. 

Vampire City by Paul Féval 

This one is cheesy and camp and wonderful, and despite some truly goofy moments it is also surprising creepy. It takes all of the more extreme elements of the Gothic and embeds them in an off-the-wall work of what is essentially nineteenth century fan fiction, and the results are a profoundly unsettling re-imaging of the mode. This book also includes my favorite depictions of vampires (which is saying a lot) – they depart from almost every recognizable trope and in some ways are very silly and outlandish, but they also violate and reshape their victims in terrifying ways that really speak to the spirit of the vampire myth. 

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski 

Profoundly beautifully and profoundly unsettling re-imagining of the Gothic haunted house and the boundaries of space, time, and narrative. It’s one of the few books I’ve read that genuinely scared me, but it also makes you think. I reread it every year or so and I always find something new in it to chew on. 

Slade House by David Mitchell 

Part anthology, part vampire story, and part revision of the classic haunted house trop, this book gave me massive existential dread. 

The Evil Dead Trilogy directed by Sam Raimi 

As some of the first films that really inspired my love of horror and the Gothic, these three movies – Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and Army of Darkness – will always hold a very special place in my heart. They cross horror and gore and “The Three Stooges”-style comedy, but they also don’t shy away from exploring the fragile boundaries between humor and horror and the impact the absurd has on the unstable ‘self’. 

Who would you invite to dinner?
I’d probably invite Annette and Ludovico from The Mysteries of Udolpho and Theodore from The Monk to dinner – they’re all chatty servants and I imagine dinner would devolve into one big Gothic storytelling competition before too long.