Wednesday, 12 August 2015

International Gothic Association: Conference Report, "Gothic Migrations 2015"

The 12th Biennial International Gothic Association Conference: Gothic Migrations took place in Vancouver, Canada, from July 28th to August 1st this year. John Whatley of Simon Fraser University was the Conference Organizer, with funding and support provided by SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, SFU Department of English, and SFU Centre for Online and Distance Education. The University of Sheffield was represented by Dr. Angela Wright (Co-President of the IGA) and Dr. Andy Smith, as well as PGR students Kathleen Hudson and Kate Gadsby-Mace.

The Conference started off with an introduction by IGA co-presidents Dr. Angela Wright (University of Sheffield) and Dr. Catherine Spooner (Lancaster University). David Punter then awarded the Alan Lloyd Smith prizes to Joseph Crawford for best monograph for his work The Twilight of the Gothic? Vampire Fiction and the Rise of the Paranormal Romance, 1991-2012 (University of Wales Press, 2014), and to Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend for editing the best collection of essays in their work The Gothic World (Routledge, 2013).

On Wednesday the conference started in earnest and delegates participated in a wide selection of panels. Panel topics ranged from Medical Migrations to Transgothic to Neoliberal and Consumerist Gothic, to Gothic media, to Vampires and the Posthuman, to Gothic food and sensory experience. Notably, many papers provided diverse representations of international Gothic studies, exploring Canadian, Latin America, Southern, and Asian Gothic (among others).

The conference had three plenary speakers. Dale Townshend presented first on “16 October 1834: Architecture, Romance, and the Migration of the Gothic Imagination,” a paper on Gothic architecture and the British national identity (specifically reflecting the design of the Houses of Parliament). The next day Julia Wright offered her take on Gothic homelessness in her paper “Spooky Houses and the Unheimlich State.” Justin Edwards provided the final plenary talk with his discussion of kitsch and zombies in discourses of terrorism in “Migrations of Terror; or, Zombification and Everyday Terror/ism.”

There were readings from two fiction writers: David Chariandy, reading from his novel Soucouyant (2007), a work examining post-colonialism and dementia, and Wayde Compton, reading from his collection of short stories entitled The Outer Harbour (2014).

The conference also provided several round table discussions, including one on Southern Gothic, moderated by Charles Crow, and one on Vancouver Gothic Film, moderated by William Dow.

The IGA offered its delegates a range of activities outside of the conference. On Wednesday evening many attended the ‘Festival of Lights,’ a fireworks show at one of Vancouver’s beautiful beaches. On Thursday delegates were treated to an evening of “Liminal Darkness: A Celebration of Canadian Gothic Film.” Hosted by The Cinametheque Theatre, actor William Dow and academics Julia Wright and Karen Budra introduced the event by playing clips from the TV shows X-Files and Supernatural, both filmed and produced in Vancouver, while discussing some of the Gothic elements and specifically Canadian influences. They then screened the Canadian film Ginger Snaps (2000), a darkly humorous horror movie directed by John Fawcett about the relationship between two troubled sisters after one of them is bitten by a werewolf. Dealing with Gothic themes of body abjection, gender, familial trauma, and uncanniness, and filmed in a highly self-referential style, this movie has a particularly Canadian feel, problematizing space, identity, and transitions.

On Friday afternoon members of the IGA attended the Annual General Meeting. At this meeting Angela Wright and Catherine Spooner were re-elected as co-presidents of the IGA, the budget and plans for publications were discussed, and the host institution and theme of the next conferences were announced.

After the meeting delegates attended the Conference Banquet by Sunset Harbour Cruise, a two hour cruise around Vancouver harbor complete with a wonderful meal.

The Conference wrapped up with a few more panels and the closing meeting on Saturday. IGA 2015: Gothic Migrations was a highly successful conference, and we would like to give special thanks to the organizers and participants who made the whole week not only possible but also enjoyable and enlightening.

Papers presented by delegates from the University of Sheffield
Angela Wright presented: “‘Moving Forests’: Gothic migrations in ‘Mont Blanc’ and “The Triumph of Life’ by P.B. Shelley”

Andrew Smith presented: “Anglo-American migrations: Saul Bellow and the Gothic”

Kate Gadsby-Mace presented: “The Gothic Nation: Landscape, architecture and the Wanderer in William Henry Ireland’s Gondez the Monk (1805)”

Kathleen Hudson presented: “‘I say it is mine’: Narrative migration and colonization in Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya, or The Moor”

Report composed by Kathleen Hudson

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