Friday, 30 September 2016

Some thoughts on assembling a creature: editing The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein

This blog is a cross-post of an original article from the Cambridge University website: Here, reproduced. 

Assembling The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein raised some interesting questions at the developmental stage about the type of coverage that students would find helpful. Frankenstein is a novel that is taught in a variety of contexts and courses, including modules on Romanticism, the Gothic, science fiction and gender studies, amongst many others. It is also a novel which has been adapted for stage, television and film and exists in many graphic novel incarnations. It was felt that the volume should embrace the diverse ways in which the novel is studied and that this should be reflected in the very diverse range of topics that contributors could explore. To that end I solicited contributions which would fall into three sections, the first on the historical and literary contexts of the novel includes chapters on the publication history of the 1818, 1823, and 1831 versions, the novel’s literary contexts, its engagement with Romanticism, the political climate of the time, and scientific developments. The second section, on theories and forms, examined how different types of literary theory might be productively applied to Frankenstein. To that end contributors variously explored how ecocriticism, queer theory, models of race, gender and accounts of the posthuman might be applied to the novel. In acknowledgement of the novel’s continuing cultural significance a final section on adaptations explored Frankenstein’s afterlives including nineteenth century stage productions, film, literary rewritings, graphic novels and adaptations aimed at young readers (including Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich [2006]). Taken as a whole, the Companion gives an overview of scholarship on the novel, but also seeks to advance our understanding of the complexities of Frankenstein which should extend the pedagogic reach of the novel as well as interpretations of it.

I was fortunate enough to attract a stellar team of contributors to the volume who were a genuine delight to work with. The chapters reflect their expertise and each of them has thoughtfully reached out to guide what may be new readers to the novel through the complexities involved in reading it and its cultural progeny. Sadly one of the contributors, Diane Long Hoeveler, passed away before the book was published. Diane was a very well respected scholar and much loved person, and it is to her memory that the book is dedicated.

It is somewhat fortuitous that the book should be published in 2016, the bicentenary year of the ghost story competition at the Villa Diodati which inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. 200 years on and, as this Companion demonstrates, the novel still speaks to us.

Dr. Andrew Smith is Reader in Nineteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield. His 19 books include the forthcoming Gothic Death 1740-1914: A Literary History, The Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History (2010), Gothic Literature (2007, Revised edition 2013), Victorian Demons (2004) and Gothic Radicalism (2000). He edits, with Benjamin Fisher, the award-winning series Gothic Literary Study and Gothic Authors: Critical Revisions. He also edits, with William Hughes, The Edinburgh Companions to the Gothic series. He is a past President of the International Gothic Association. 

The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein is available for purchase right now from here. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Is The Living and the Dead "Thomas Hardy with Ghosts"?

Proving that ghost stories aren’t just for Christmas, the BBC deviated from the broadcasting mantra that spine-chilling shows are best served up on a cold winter’s night by including The Living and the Dead in the summer schedule for 2016.

Nathan Appleby, played by Colin Morgan.
Set in 1894, the series centres around troubled psychologist, Nathan Appleby, whose interest in the paranormal stems from the untimely death of his first wife and their young son. Episode one opens with Appleby returning to his ancestral home of Shepzoy in Somerset to visit his ailing mother. When she dies Nathan and his new wife Charlotte decide to leave London behind for good to start a new life running the estate they have inherited. 

Filmed on location at Horton Court in Gloucestershire, the 16th Century National Trust property provides a suitably eerie setting for a ghost story with its dimly lit corridors and creaking floorboards. So far, so Gothic. However, scenes filmed out in the bright summer sunlight can be every bit as unsettling for the viewer. Cue lingering shots of crows circling the expansive corn fields.

The series definitely has a filmic quality to it and the cinematography of The Living and the Dead combines elements of the typically Gothic setting Misha Kavka outlines in her study ‘The Gothic on Film’ (2002), such as ‘heavy built wooden doors that close without human aid’ and ‘high, arched or leaded windows that cast lingering shadows’, with the extremes of light and dark and unusual camera angles which she also identifies as Gothic. [1]

Shepzoy Manor, Horton Court in Gloucestershire
The Living and the Dead draws heavily on local history, folk tales, rural traditions and superstitions, and the village preparations for a Midsummer’s Eve bonfire bring The Wickerman (1973) to mind. True to form, the young couple haven’t been in Shepzoy long before supernatural events disrupt the rural idyll – starting with the possession of the vicar’s daughter by the spirit of an evil man who died without being baptised. Appleby is duly drawn in to investigate, but this is not a series where the supernatural is explained by his psychological insight. Acting against claims that the girl is mentally disturbed, hormonal, or merely staging an elaborate hoax, he treats her demon as a ‘real’ entity who wants something – in this case, a baptism.

The show’s writer, Ashley Pharoah has billed the series as “Thomas Hardy with ghosts”[2] and the debt to Hardy is not only evident in the rural landscape and focus on country life, but also in the female lead. The character of Charlotte Appleby has clearly been inspired by Bathsheba Everdeen in the way in which she is determined to make a success of the estate, and she tackles the typically male role of farm manager with the same vivacity as Hardy’s heroine in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). As a professional photographer by trade, Charlotte represents modernity in the face of tradition and is instrumental in bringing about technological advancement in an isolated community which the Industrial Revolution has passed by.

However, the farm machinery she purchases to increase efficiency is not embraced by her workers, and is later sabotaged. Plans to bring a railway line to Shepzoy, which would enable their goods to reach market faster, are also thwarted. The age-old rhythms of country life are disrupted by new technology, and disturbing land when you don’t know what lies beneath is never a good idea! The Gothic trope of the past resurfacing is repeatedly called upon, perhaps most literally when a young boy is haunted by the ghosts of five orphans when tests on the land unwittingly disturb an old tin mine where they had been left to suffocate years before.

Thomas Hardy is not someone who automatically springs to mind when discussing the Gothic, and despite him having penned stories such as ‘The Withered Arm’ (1888) his links to the genre have not generated a huge amount of critical attention. The idea of adding ghosts to the Hardy aesthetic for The Living and the Dead raises the question of how Gothic is Pharoah’s source material? Hardy certainly knows how to make a heroine suffer without recourse for ghouls or ghosts, and then there are his thematic concerns with origins, ancestry, illegitimacy and fate to consider. To pose Sheffield Gothic’s favourite question (and theme of our meetings this semester), but is it Gothic? 

A Laodicean; or, The Castle of the De Stanceys (1880-1) is an example of a Hardy novel heavily influenced by the conventions of the Gothic Romance. David W. Jarrett identifies the work as ‘a deliberate and comprehensive reworking of the Gothic romance’ and notes how it ‘attempts to bring the machinery of the old romance into the world of Victorian scientific “progress.”’[3] In respect of technological advancement, A Laodicean has much in common with The Living and the Dead.

In the novel Paula Power inherits the castle purchased by her industrialist father from the De Stancey family. Paula is torn between tradition and modernity and the clash between the new world and the old is dramatized in her confusion regarding whether she is more attracted to George Somerset, the architect she has employed to modernise the crumbling castle, or Captain De Stancey, the impoverished scion of the estate who presents Paula with a romanticised vision of aristocratic lineage.

Photography plays a pivotal role in the plot as William Dare, an amateur photographer who is the illegitimate son of De Stancey, manipulates an image of Somerset so that he appears as a dissolute drunkard. The aim, of course, is to promote his father in Paula’s affections with the hope that the De Stanceys will regain the family estate. In The Living and the Dead photography is also important, but not because of its potential to mislead. In this case photographs can reveal truths not perceived by the human eye. Thus Charlotte, the voice of rationality and scientific progress, is forced to re-evaluate her beliefs when she captures an image of Nathan’s dead son on camera.

Charlotte Appleby, played by Charlotte Spencer.
Whilst The Living and the Dead is not the kind of series to give you sleepless nights (that is unless you are of a very nervous disposition), there are a few jump scares as the camera cuts and you spot a face in a mirror or a figure looking in through a window. Where the series is particularly successful is the way in which it questions the nature of ghosts and hauntings by subverting the idea that they are traces or echoes of the past. Pharoah has basically taken the traditional Gothic tropes that we’re all familiar with and then added an unexpected twist.

Without wanting to give too much away, the series raises the possibility that you can be haunted by the future as well as the past. Is that haunting or time travel? You decide. To use a Hardy coinage, the final episode ends on a cliffhanger, but the BBC have said that they do not intend to commission another series – then again, they said that about Ripper Street and that’s still going.

[1] Misha Kavka, (2002). ‘The Gothic on Screen’ in J.E. Hogel (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 209-229.

[2] Ashley Pharoah quoted by Neil Armstrong in The Telegraph [28/06/16]: article

[3] David W. Jarrett, (1974), ‘Hawthorne and Hardy as Modern Romancers’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 458-471. 

Hannah 'Malingering' Moss is a PhD researcher on perceptions of architecture in the 18th Century Gothic novel at the University of Sheffield and is the giddy madness at the core of Sheffield Gothic. She enjoys long walks beneath circling crows, disrupting tin mines and checking her photos for children's ghosts. Rebel.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Gothic Reading Group Schedule, Autumn/Winter 2016

Sheffield Gothic presents:

Gothic Reading Group Schedule for 
Autumn/Winter 2016: 
‘But is it Gothic?’

We’ve done the classics, we’ve done performance, we've done themes- what next for the Gothic Reading Group? This semester we’ve decided to take our favourite question to heart. We’ll be looking at a series of texts that may not always be identified as Gothic, but contain familiar elements (or flavours)and conventions.

October 5th: Macbeth (2015)

We’re kicking off the new semester with a screening of Justin Kurzel’s 2015 film adaptation of the Scottish Play, starring Sheffield Gothic favourite Michael Fassbender in the titular role. Drawing on our previous focus on 17th century texts, such as Dr Faustus and The Revengers Tragedy, as ‘proto Gothic’ we’ll be discussing both the text itself and the films stylistic choices.


October 19th: The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood

What more can there be to say about Atwood’s 1985 classic of speculative fiction, The Handmaids Tale? Well, lots hopefully. Perhaps more relevant than ever, (with a 10-part series on the way), we’ll be discussing the novel with particular focus on Atwood’s use of imagery and language as well its dystopian setting.

November 2nd: The ‘Cartoon Cartoons’ era

Anyone who was blessed with satellite or cable television in the 90’s may remember the days of Cartoon Cartoons: from the ‘upsetting when you think about it too much as an adult’ shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory to the ‘definitely traumatised me as a child’ likes of Cow and Chicken and I am Weasel. In a reliving of our childhoods that we’ll likely regret, we’ll be looking at a selection of cartoons from the 90’s and early 00’s through a Gothic lens.

Look into the cold unnatural whites of their dual-pupils and feel fear!

November 16th: Adventure Time

Since its appearance in 2010, Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time has steadily become a global sensation. As the series’ has progressed it’s delved deeper into the workings of the weird and wonderful Land of Ooo and its origins as a - spoiler alert - post-apocalyptic wasteland. Whilst some elements are obviously Gothic- such as the show's main antagonist of The Lich and Marceline the Vampire Queen, daughter of a demon king- the shows exploration of morality, environmentalism, mental health and spirituality also tread arguably Gothic ground.

November 30th: The Blood of the Vampire, Florence Marryat

Okay, so we’ll admit: this one is definitely Gothic. We’ve been trying to sneak in this tale of a young woman of ‘unusual’ parentage, complete with voodoo and psychic vampirism, for some time. Marryat’s The Blood of the Vampire appeared the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) but takes a rather different route. The focus this session will be less ‘but it is it Gothic?’ and more ‘how is it Gothic?’

December 14th: Spirited Away (2001) 

For our final meeting of the semester, we’ll be screening Studio Ghibli’s Oscar award winning animated film Spirited Away. We’ll be asking ourselves about the relationship between the Gothic and the supernatural, but also the films engagement with the notion of greed. As we stuff our faces with cake, of course.

Pictured: typical Gothic Reading Group session

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Problem of Appropriation - “But is it Gothic?”

One of the common catchphrases of the Gothic Reading group here at Sheffield U is the question “but is it Gothic?” and it’s something that often sparks off serious debate.

(Nerd Alert: incoming heavy geekery and/or hard fanboying. You have been warned).

One would be forgiven for thinking that a TV show that includes ghosts, vampires, technology of the past erupting into the present, possession, frankensteinien creations, sublime monsters, and zombies would slip comfortably into the Gothic genre. Yet who would call The Transformers 1984 anime, the show which includes all these elements, Gothic? A show about giant fighting robots that turn into vehicles hardly smacks of Poe influences or dark terror, but an argument could be conceivably created to argue just that. And therein lies the problem of appropriation that I want to talk about today.

Octane, pursued by Cyclonus, Scourge and his Sweeps,
finds the ghost of Starscream floating in his crypt.
But is it Gothic?

The nature of Gothic is that it is pervasive: it lingers like an infection in society, occasionally resurfacing (as it has recently) into the mainstream consciousness. It’s a nice symmetry with the nature of the genre itself, which deals in pasts long thought buried which return to haunt the present (much like the transformers buried for aeons in a ship under the eart- Okay, I'll stop now). The problem is in over-identification, or rather, the appropriation of texts for the great and growing Gothic canon. The example which always comes to mind here, is that of Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. While I love the text as one of my favourite books of all time, I have never considered it as Gothic. Yet Maria Beville in Gothic-postmodernism: Voicing the Terrors of Postmodernity makes a convincing argument that this text, in its exploration of trauma, can be defined as Gothic. Beville argues that we do not need the paraphernalia of the Gothic, that postmodernist literature touched on contemporary terrors, positing this as Gothic’s supreme purpose.

While I can see this point of view, and the argument is both well made and interesting, I believe that sometimes this kind of textual appropriation can become all too common- Does terror in a text make it Gothic? What about that terrifying section of The Land Before Time VIII with the albertosaurus? Does that make it Gothic? Such thinking perhaps blurs the boundaries of the genre, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I can’t exactly claim innocence of this crime, though. All too easily I see myself identifying certain elements within TV shows, books, films, anything, and attempting to press them into service for the Gothicist in me. But is it Gothic? 

"A-Are we Gothic, Ducky? why am I
suddenly filled with existential dread!"
Let’s take 2002’s Blade 2 as an example. Here we have a film with vampires, the drinking of blood, labyrinthine sewers, warped familial legacies, and the sins of the father damning the future of the son. A big swing on the Goth-O-Meter towards “Gothic”. But the film does seem rejects its Gothicity (is that a word?), performing as an action blockbuster where the hero fights against all odds to defeat the cursed villain with explosions and guile.

The scenes push for a more action-line than horror, though those elements are there. You could, if you were so inclined, make an argument that it is Gothic in some ways, but the film is quintessentially Action, rather than Gothic in genre. Mary Going, a fellow PhD researcher at Sheffield coined an interesting term to resolve this, stating that such texts have ‘Gothic flavours’, and it is a phrase that I think should definitely find some traction, evoking perhaps the taste of blood, of decay and bonemeal, or dusty tombs. And Gothic flavours pervade a lot of artistic output, especially in the contemporary environment.

Sunglasses indoors are still cool, Gothic or not.
Texts like Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Text and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, for example, evoke a sense of the Gothic while not explicitly adhering to the genre. While I believe I could make a somewhat convincing argument for the Gothicity (I’m going to make it happen) of such texts, perhaps I shouldn’t. While it’s interesting to analyse the Gothic flavours of such texts, which can prove valuable in terms of the new ways in which these Gothic tropes are employed, to label these texts as Gothic does them a disservice. It foregrounds issues of terror, death and potential mental illness, which may or may not be main focus of such texts, but merely part of larger themes and subsequently may obfuscate, or worse colour, other readings of the text.

The same retroactive appropriation of texts often occurs in my main research area, that of metafiction. Metafiction, dealing with self-conscious fiction, is often attributed to the earliest of novels- Tristram Shandy is often cited, along with Shamela and even The Canterbury Tales for their elements which make clear their fictitious natures. Linda Hutcheon, in Narcissistic Narrative addresses this issue, arguing that while Metafiction is a relatively recent classification (coined in 1970 by William H. Gass), there have still been metafictitious elements for as long as there have been novels. The aforementioned texts, while displaying the motifs we now catagorise as metafiction, should not be claimed by metafiction, but rather seen as precursors, as containing, if I may, metafictional flavours. On a side note, I imagine that metafictional flavours would probably taste of tongue, or the taste of a tongue that has been rubbed on a book, or of smells. Tasty.

Pictured: Gothic Flavours. 
I think that appropriation is unstoppable in our academic works, as Gothicists, as we are often so enamoured with our lovely little Gothic, our slice of terror, our wonderful everliving genre, that we see it everywhere. And while it is certainly interesting, and often enlightening, to cast our beady vulture eye over other texts and pluck from them the decaying veins of the Gothic, perhaps, in answer to that time old question “but is it Gothic?” we should perhaps be suggesting that it has Gothic flavours. Or, alternatively, is Beville right in asserting that the age of Gothic as defined by a specific set of paraphernalia is over? But... is it Gothic?

"I was sparkling before Vampires made it cool, Octane!"
This question, as luck would have it, is the next theme for this term’s Gothic Reading Group! How fortuitious! Sheffield Gothic will be meeting to discuss texts that we think might be Gothic in flavour, if not in nature, bringing to light a few hidden gems that we think deserve a bit more attention. Stay tuned for the upcoming schedule and please do get in touch if you’d like to come down one day and join us by contacting:

Danny ‘Decepticon’ Southward is a PhD researcher in contemporary Gothic and post-postmodernism at the university of Sheffield. His work focuses on metamodernism, metafiction and creative writing (and also apparently Transformers). He’s not obsessed with Transformers. Honest. No, really. Maybe a little. Okay, quite a lot. FIRRIB, amiright? 

Friday, 2 September 2016

A Fresher Possession- Rob Kirkman's Outcast

From the creator of The Walking Dead comes Outcast: visually stunning and at times genuinely terrifying and creepy, this new horror television series aims to follow the success of The Walking Dead in reimagining an established but perhaps stale horror genre, although here the focus is not Zombies, but demonic possession. Adapted from the comic of the same name, Rob Kirkman’s Outcast follows Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) as he returns to his childhood home in Rome, South Carolina, and reluctantly reconnects with Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister). However, this is no ordinary reunion.

Re-united and it feels so good

Reverend Anderson is investigating a case of demonic possession, and as Kyle helps him to exorcise the demon from a young boy it becomes clear this is not their first demonic encounter. Moreover, it also becomes clear that the demon recognizes Kyle. This demon, and the subsequent demons he encounters throughout the series, identifies Kyle as ‘Outcast’. Although this label clearly pertains to the mythology of the series and Kyle’s relationship with the demons, it is also appropriately fitting for Kyle: having been adopted following violent abuse from his (possessed) mother, the now adult Kyle returns to Rome but without his own family, living as a kind of exile or social pariah, and followed by the rumors of his own domestic abuse.

Possession films form a significant part of the horror genre. Critically acclaimed, The Exorcist (1793) is often featured on lists of the best horror films, and since its release it has inspired a wealth of sequels, parodies, and other related possession films. The Exorcist therefore functions as an exemplar possession film; a forerunner establishing the conventions of the genre and the narrative structure that similar films would go on to typically adhere to.

Some say not to let the evil in... others say
This structure has arguably become somewhat formulaic: someone, usually a woman or a child, becomes possessed; their family and friends identify the possession, seek answers, and eventually discover the surrounding mythology of the possession; and finally, an authority from within this mythology is called upon to perform the exorcism. Following the Gothic’s fixation with Roman Catholicism, its rituals and aesthetics, the mythology used within possession films tends to be rooted in Catholicism, as is the case with The Exorcist. Typically, although not exclusively, the authority figure or exorcisor is a Catholic priest, and the demon is successfully exorcised with a combination of apotropaics, such as holy water, rosary beads, readings of scripture and, of course, the Roman Catholic ritual of exorcism.

This trend has continued into the twenty-first century with films such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), The Last Exorcism (2010), and The Rite (2011) which all follow the conventional structure of demonic possession and Christian/ Catholic exorcism. There are also several films that attempt to modify this conventional structure including The Unborn (2009) and The Possession (2012), which both situate their narratives, demonic possessions, and exorcisms within a Jewish framework. Though such films present some changes to the, by now, well-trodden conventions of the genre, they do not offer a substantial departure; while changing the aesthetics and mythology they continue to stay within the established formula.

Exorcism of a Jewish Dybbuk by a rabbi in The Possesion

However, Kirkman’s Outcast does offer a fresh reimagining of the possession genre. Arguable, this is in part due the medium of the television series which allows its characters, events leading up to and following possessions, and the possessions themselves to be developed and explored in greater length and thus detail. This contrasts with the medium of film which is not only limited in screen time but also tends to focus on a singular exorcism as the crux or the main event of its narrative.

For those who have already delved into Outcast, it is clear that Kirkman is not rushing his story. At times the narrative can seem slow paced, and each episode frequently lingers on extreme close ups, often of the eyes of its protagonists – but this simply contributes to the overall eerie and unsettling tone of series. Additionally, the television series is by its nature more intimate than film, which heightens this tone. Viewed alone or in small groups (unlike films which are geared towards the larger, communal audience of the cinema), the continual inclusion of extreme close ups, along with the often extremely visceral, violent, and even bloody possession scenes themselves, invade the private, intimate space of the viewer at home.

Quite simply, Outcast is unsettling. It unsettles the safety of domestic spaces, the family home, and even the intimate space of the bedroom; it unsettles the harmony of family, friend, and romantic relationships; and it even unsettles ownership of the body. While much of this can be credited to the supernatural textures of the series, the possessions are themselves woven into a story already laced with disturbing and unsettling events stemming from the natural world. Without giving too much away, the story of Megan (Wrenn Schmidt), Kyle’s adoptive sister, perfectly encapsulates the interweaving of natural and supernatural narratives that both contribute to the unsettling of domestic spaces and the body.

Domestic and bodily turmoil in an unsettling space.
Structurally, too, the medium of television allows for more a more detailed exploration. Here, possession is not simply a singular event initiated by an evil occupier that, once cast out, returns the possessed body and the surroundings back to normalcy, or at least a semblance of normalcy that post-possession allows the body and the individual to heal. Possessions and exorcisms are shown to be violent and brutal, the physical and psychological effects lasting far beyond the event itself and even, in some cases, causing permanent damage that cannot be reversed.

Finally, Outcast unsettles the traditional formula of possession and exorcism. From the first episode of the series, which is framed through the possession of a young boy Joshua (Gabriel Bateman), it becomes clear that the traditional formula of exorcism narratives may not be as effective as we have been lead to believe. Structurally, this episode most clearly appears to adhere to the traditional formula, with the opening scenes focusing on Joshua.

These scenes include several extreme close-up shots of Joshua’s eyes, open mouth, and a bug, along with a suitably eerie soundtrack; Joshua is leaning over his bed, scratching his hand and staring at the wall, before suddenly slamming his head into the wall, crushing the bug before proceeding to eat it, blood and all. With blood smeared down his face, we follow Joshua downstairs as he eventually gains the attention of his mother, but not without first attempting to eat his own finger.

This visceral, bloody scene signals the kind of possession we are to encounter in the series. Reverend Anderson is called in to help, and with his reputation within the community of Rome for performing successful exorcisms, fills the traditional role of authority figure/ exorcisor. Later in the episode, as we join Kyle in his reunion with Reverend Anderson, we follow them both into the bedroom of Joshua and witness seemingly traditional features of possession and exorcism: Reverend Anderson employs the apotropaics of the Bible, holy water, and sage, while the possessed Joshua inhabits the traditional physicality and sounds of a possessed child, both animal-like and very, very creepy. Yet, as the exorcism takes place, it is clear that Outcast is not following the tradition of established possession and exorcism narratives. In this case, Reverend Anderson’s attempts have not worked, and instead it is Kyle who successfully exorcises the demon. Moreover, Kyle’s exorcism is extremely unorthodox, and as violent and bloody as the possession itself.

As the series continues, the success of Reverend Anderson’s exorcisms is increasingly called into question, while his identity as preacher/exorcisor is further examined by the community and himself. Without the traditional Christian mythology, the formula of a religious authority figure and arsenal of religious items to protect the community from the threat of possession, the community of Rome, and indeed the viewer of the series, is left incredibly vulnerable. Indeed, the only real protection seems to come from Kyle himself, occupying the new identity of ‘outcast’ which produces more questions than answers. Why do the demons recognize Kyle, why do they call him outcast, why are they afraid of him: these are all questions raised throughout the series and left unanswered.

Kirkman is successful in offering a fresh perspective on the possibly tired possession genre. At times, his narrative seems to invoke parallels with Body Snatchers narratives, while the mythology and the identity of the Outcast he creates moves away from the traditional possession and exorcism formula. This is definitely a series worth watching, and, already renewed for a second series before the first episode of the first series aired, it is one to keep an eye on.

Mary 'Slayer' Going is a PhD Researcher at the university of Sheffield and member of Sheffield Gothic. Her research focuses on representations of Jewish figures in Romantic and Gothic fiction. Despite all evidence to the contrary, she is terrified by the original Exorcist film, and refused to have any pictures of Regan in this blog.