Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog: Amy Jackson

Next in Sheffield Gothic's series of profile blogs is post featuring Amy Jackson, PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield. Read on to find out how Amy became interested in the Gothic, what her favourite Gothic texts are, and who she would invite to dinner!

I’m Amy Jackson and I’m a PhD student in the School of English at the University of Sheffield. I completed my BA (Hons) in English Literature at York St John University and an MA in English Literature at the University of Sheffield. 

What do you research?
I’m researching the ways in which English Renaissance literature, particularly Renaissance drama, anticipated and influenced aspects of Gothic literature.

During my MA at Sheffield I focused on various aspects of Renaissance revenge tragedies and that has continued in the first year of my PhD research. My main interests are early modern religion and the representation of death on stage but I’m also very interested in early modern witchcraft, demonology, and national identity. I usually work on Elizabethan and Jacobean plays such as Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Macbeth, Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi but I plan to work on Caroline drama in the future.

Another aspect of my research explores how eighteenth-century writers and scholars interacted with, and often purposely misread, Shakespeare’s work to create the figure of ‘the Bard’. This is an offshoot of my main research topic but I’m intrigued by the ways in which Shakespeare’s work was ‘corrected’ in the eighteenth century and how often Shakespeare’s ghost was brought onto the stage in prologues to approve or condemn the changes made to his work. 

How did you become interested in the Gothic?
I read a lot of Gothic novels as a teenager including Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wuthering Heights but I can’t pinpoint when I started reading them.

I became interested in Gothic studies when I took Sheffield’s MA module ‘The Rise of the Gothic’. The module led to my current research topic as I was encouraged to explore the links between Renaissance literature and the Gothic. Through this module, I was introduced to novels such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk and Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya and I loved everything that I read for that module. Well, I loved everything except Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey but the Sheffield Gothic reading group has changed my opinion about that novel recently. 

I should also mention that my childhood home was next to the remains of a 12th-century Cluniac monastery so a lot of my childhood was spent exploring the ruins. It makes sense that I’m drawn to Gothic novels and early modern religion. 

What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?
I’d recommend anything that I’ve already mentioned (including the Renaissance plays) but I’d also recommend several other novels and a TV show.

The Italian by Ann Radcliffe (1797)
This is my favourite Radcliffe novel. It’s dark and sombre and it examines religious persecution during the Holy Inquisition. It lends itself perfectly to my research interests around post-Reformation religion but I also just really enjoyed reading it. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
Mary Shelley’s Gothic/science fiction novel is a masterpiece and a must-read. I just love everything about it but I especially love that Shelley engaged with the scientific discourse of the time and set some of her novel in the Arctic. Frankenstein still resonates with readers today and Mary Shelley changed how we think about science fiction.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
The atmosphere that Daphne du Maurier created in this novel is amazing. There are hints of violence and the supernatural but I think it’s the feeling of mystery and terror, along with the wonderful setting of Manderley, that makes this novel such a great Gothic read. 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983) 
This is a novel that is full of silent tension and vindictive ghosts. It feels like you’re reading a classic Gothic novel even though it was written in the 1980s. 

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (1984)
My final book recommendation is a novel that terrified me when I first read it. It’s so intense and I was not prepared for the matter-of-fact discussions of violence and murder that frequently occur in the novel. I suppose The Wasp Factory is a horror novel but it does contain a lot of the conventions of a classic Gothic novel from the isolated, creepy setting to the constant feeling of dread that you experience while you’re reading it. It was described by a reviewer in the Irish Times as ‘a work of unparalleled depravity’ when it was first published and that’s pretty Gothic. 

The Living and the Dead (BBC, 2016) 

As for TV, I have to recommend The Living and the Dead. It’s a supernatural horror mini-series and it’s a very unsettling show. It’s set on a nineteenth-century farm and each episode deals with the disconnect between spiritualism and science through hauntings and possessions. It’s a wonderful series.  

If you could invite any Gothic writer, artist, musician or character to dinner, who would you choose and why? 
I would have to choose Mary Shelley because she’s one of my favourite writers. She lived a fascinating life and she was an incredibly influential writer so it would be amazing to be in the same room as her. 

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, 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 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 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