Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Goths On Tour: Sheffield Gothic attends the IGA and explores a very Gothic Mexico



Unless you’ve been hiding out in a remote convent, been on the run from a vengeful feudal Lord, or have been imprisoned by a vampiric count in his Transylvanian castle, you’ll probably be aware that the IGA’s 13th Biennial conference took place last month. Hosted by UDLAP in Cholula, Mexico, and running from 18th-21st July, this year’s IGA brought together scholars from across the world to discuss Gothic Traditions and Departures, and all of it organised by the wonderful and simply fantastic Dr. Enrique Ajuria. Several members of Sheffield Gothic were lucky enough to be able to attend the conference: presenting papers, chairing panels, and networking with the amazing community of Gothic academics. Yes: us academic Goths are a friendly, unique, and interesting bunch, and we put on the best conferences!

(Sheffield Gothic UDLAP Image)

Gothic Mexico

Before the conference started, Sheffield managed to fit in a *little* bit of sightseeing and exploring (disclaimer: we did a *lot* of sightseeing and exploring!). And we have to say, Mexico is both incredibly beautiful and incredibly Gothic. Touring Puebla, we discovered amazing carved skulls, learnt about the fascinating pre-Hispanic cultures and rituals (yes, Blood Tacos are a thing), and were amazed by the beautiful architecture of its Cathedral, churches, and library! And what better way to get over some post-conference blues than by exploring Cholula, its pyramids, and even climbing up to the church on top of the pyramid. We all agree: Mexico was the perfect setting for a Gothic conference.  

(Carved skulls, churches, and pyramids - Puebla and Cholula)
 
Reimagining the Gothic Panel

Ever keen to promote and share our projects, Sheffield Gothic presented a special ‘Reimagining the Gothic panel.’ For the past three years, our Reimagining the Gothic project has invited papers and creative projects to be presented, showcased, and displayed at our yearly conference and on our project website (reimagininggothic.com) with the aim to explore how the Gothic can be re-read, re-analysed, and re-imagined. At the IGA, we wanted to showcase some of our own research through the reimagining lens.

(Reimagining Panel, L-R: Mary Going, Dr. Kate Gadsby Mace, Lauren Nixon, Daniel Southward)

Chaired by yours truly (Mary Going and Sheffield Gothic co-organiser) the panel was comprised of three members of Sheffield Gothic: Dr. Kate Gadsby (founder of the Gothic Reading Group) with her paper ‘Reimagining the Nation: Britain and the Gothic’; Lauren Nixon (co-organiser of Sheffield Gothic) with her paper ‘Reimagining Gothic Masculinities: Heroism, Villainy and the Figure of the Soldier’; and finally Daniel Southward (member of Sheffield Gothic) with his paper ‘Reimagining the Self: The Development and Dangers of Self-Mythology within the Gothic.’ It is hard to discuss this panel without stumbling into the path of ‘my colleagues and friends are amazing and so is their research,’ but I hope that those who attended the panel enjoyed the papers and found them all thought provoking. And if you have any questions regarding these papers, want to pick the brains of the speakers, or if you want to find out more about the Reimagining the Gothic project itself, then do get in touch with us at gothicreadinggroup@gmail.com (we don’t bite!).

Other Sheffield Gothic papers

Besides our shameless self-promotion through our Reimagining the Gothic panel, there were several members of Sheffield Gothic presenting papers throughout the IGA. Presenting on the ‘18th Century Gothic and the Literary Tradition’ panel was Sheffield Gothic alumni (and continual Goth Queen) Dr. Kathleen Hudson with her paper ‘“Either heare my tale or kisse my taile”: Gothic Servant Narratives and Literary Traditions.’ Since returning to her home country of America, Kathleen has been keeping busy with her brilliant Gothic Servants project, which you can check out here: https://gothicservants.wordpress.com, and you can also follow the project on twitter at: @GothicServants. Also presenting was Hannah Moss and member of Sheffield Gothic, who contributed to the ‘18th Century Gothic: Gothic Origins’ panel with her fantastic paper ‘The Art of Imitation: Copying from the Antique in Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1797).’ If you want to find out more about Kathleen and Hannah’s research, or if you have any questions regarding their papers, then do get in touch!

(Sheffield Gothic, L-R: Christopher Scott, Lauren Nixon, Dr. Kate Gadsby Mace, Dr Kathleen Hudson, Hannah Moss, Mary Going)


On the last day of the conference Sheffield Gothic hijacked one of the final panels on ‘Gothic Theology and Morality’ to present two papers and also launch our Gothic Bible project video. Chaired by our own Lauren Nixon, and also featuring a paper by Carina Hart (on ‘Beauty, Morality and the Gothic Fairy Tale’) Christopher Scott (member of Sheffield Gothic and Gothic Bible project co-lead) presented his paper on ‘Gothic Theologies: Eden, Religious Tradition, and Ecological Exegesis in Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Lost Valley’ and ‘The Transfer’, while I also presented a paper titled ‘A New Cain: Examining Matthew Lewis’ Wandering Jew as the Archetype for the Gothic Wandering Jew.’ If you have any questions regarding our papers, or if you want to find out more about the Gothic Bible project and upcoming conference (see our cfp http://sheffieldgothicreadinggroup.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/gothic-bible-2017.html), then do direct emails to Christopher and myself (Mary) or check out the project homepage: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/siibs/sresearch/gothic-bible-project.

Sheffield Gothic’s Favourite panel

Over the four days of the conference, Sheffield Gothic was able to attend a lot of truly fascinating panels discussing topics as varied as the Female Gothic, Gothic Cosmogonies, and Children’s and YA Gothic Fiction. Unfortunately there were so many panels and papers that, having left our Time Machine in the UK, we were unable to hear them all (our only criticism of the IGA is that there were too many parallel panels!), but if we had to pick one panel as our favourite, then it would definitely be the ‘The Perfom-Antics of the Latinx Gothic in Music, Drama, and Dance.’ While Sheffield Gothic are novices when it comes to Latinx Gothic, this panel was incredibly fascinating! With papers exploring: Indigenism and the Cholo-Goth Aesthetic through the band Prayers; queer assembly, performance, and protest of Zombie Bazaars; the representation of borders and Border Horror in the From Dusk Till Dawn franchise; and a focus on the queer dystopian lens to explore Space as Dystopia – it is safe to say that we learned a lot. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this panel was the demonstration that religious rituals and practices – and especially as lived experiences – is as much a part of Latinx Gothic as it is to the Gothic overall.

Keynotes

Along with the rich variety of papers and panels, this year’s IGA included three fantastic keynotes (and whether unintentional or not, we think it’s great that all three were women!). Sharing their diverse research were: Professor Isabella van Elferen, with her ‘Dark Sound: Being and Timbre in Gothic’; Professor Maisha Wester, discussing ‘Duppy vs Ghost, Obeah vs Witchcraft: Dueling Folklore in Black Diasporic Gothic Fiction’; and finally Professor Aurora Piňeiro, leading us through her talk on ‘A Trail of Bread Crumbs to Follow: Gothic Rewitings of ‘Hansel and Gretel’, from Angela Carter to Mariana Enríquez.’ All three keynotes were excellent and perfectly apposite to the conference theme of Gothic Traditions and Departures. Sheffield Gothic also looks forward to welcoming Maisha Wester to the University of Sheffield as a Fulbright scholar later this year!

Los misterios de las monjas vampiras

Perhaps the highlight of the conference (although admittedly one of many, many highlights) was the premier of ‘Primer misterio: Las monjas vampiras contra el hijo de Benito Juárez’, a short video and first instalment of a larger project created and directed by Antonio Álvarez Morán.  What more can be said of this film other than: if you like nuns, or more specifically if you like Vampire nuns, and if you like watching films about vampire nuns with Mexican wrestling, then you need this film in your life! The film, and the Q&A session with its fantastic director and fabulous vampire nun actress were incredible; and Sheffield Gothic awaits the next instalment with baited breath!

(Top, L-R: Hannah Moss, Dr. Enrique Ajuria, Director Antonio Álvarez Morán, and Dr. Kathleen Hudson.  Bottom, L-R: Dr. Kathleen Hudson, Vampire Nun Actress, and Mary Going)

Conference Banquet Dinner and Gothic Disco

Another highlight of the conference was the banquet dinner and famous Goth disco, held at Restaurante Hacienda Las Bodegas del Molino. The dinner – comprising of traditional Mexican dishes including the delicious mole poblano – was lovely, and the disco everything a Goth academic could want (yes, Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ was a key feature!). Before the dinner, we were also treated to a very Gothic tour of the manor, where we were lead first by a Monk, and then several other characters including a mad man and what I can only assume was a vampire women as they recounted the Gothic history of the manor.

Breaking of the Piñatas

What better way to end an IGA in Mexico than with the breaking of piñatas! Throughout the entire conference, the piñatas (of which there were five: a rather creepy lady and equally creepy gentleman; a witch; a spider; and the much loved Black Philip) were a constant Gothic presence. Certainly, we were treated with a lot of amazing Gothic creativity during the conference, from the specially curated murals to displays Antonio Álvarez Morán’s own artwork before the premiere of his film. However, piñatas are made to be broken, smashed, and destroyed, and the Gothic community gladly obliged. Sadly, Black Philip did not survive – but he will be forever remembered dearly in our hearts.

(Piñatas!)
 
Looking forward

Although this year’s IGA is sadly over, there are lots of things to look forward to and celebrate. The new IGA co-presidents were announced - Professor Justin Edwards (University of Stirling) and Professor Jason Haslam (Dalhousie University) – marking the IGA’s first inter-continental presidency of the IGA, and we look forward to seeing the community of Gothic scholars and the IGA grow under their leadership. We also have not one but two IGA’s to look forward to two IGAs in the next few years: IGA Manchester 2018 and IGA Chicago 2019. Without a doubt, there is a lot of Gothic activity on the horizon to sink your teeth into. #GothsAssemble

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. She is our very own website and vampire expert (especially on all things Buffy!).

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