At Gothic Day on May 2nd, I asked two volunteers to write reports of the talks they heard. Here are the reports of talks which Keiran Hennion, a second-year English and Creative Writing student at BCU, heard.
‘Taming the Shrew: Contemporary Art on Gothic’ – Grace Williams
Grace Williams began her presentation by referring to gothic terminology, including the ‘Horrific’, ‘Sexual’, ‘death’ and the ‘supernatural’. She then discussed the work of famous artists and how said work is potentially gothic in nature. She discussed Henry Fuselli’s ‘The Nightmare’ and offered an interesting analysis on how the picture could relate to ideas of female sexuality. There was also analysis of taxidermy as art, more specifically the works of Polly Morgan and Tessa Farmer, which highlighted possibilities of life after death through art. Williams finished by analysing pieces of her own work, which looked at the idea of a disappearing woman through Victorian Contraptions.
‘The Gothic in Outer Space: Building Castles in the Sky’ – Tom Knowles
Tom Knowles’ presentation looked at the cinema of science fiction and related the genre of sci-fi to the gothic. Discussing space ships within science fiction, he suggested that they are vast star bound constructs that act as a plot device, as the ships take the passengers on journeys, usually to mobile cities and stations. He offered analysis on how the spaceship can be likened to the gothic castle in the way that it paradoxically acts as both a prison and a sanctuary to its passengers. He also references how the claustrophobia of the space ship echoes the idea of the female gothic, whilst the idea of exploration using the ship echoes ideas of the male gothic.
‘Coming Out as Werewolf’ – Lisa Metherell
Lisa Metherell’s presentation discussed the supernatural figure of the ‘Werewolf’ and how it relates to gothic themes and ideas, such as the transgression of social and sexual norms. She discussed the idea of racial mixing and how the fear of that is presented through the ideas of blood being involved in the transformation of the ‘Werewolf’. She also discussed contemporary depictions of Werewolves, including Lupin from Harry Potter, where she suggests werewolves are sympathised with if that are neutered, i.e. controlled. She also showed a clip from ‘Being Human’ which showed the Werewolf of the show coming out to his parents as a Werewolf and likened it to the act of coming out as gay, portraying the idea of the werewolf as not normative.
‘Music and Monsters: Revisiting the Gothic in television’s Hemlock Grove’ – Steve Halfyard
Steve Halfyard discussed the role of music in the gothic, and emphasised the use of music in the gothic in relation to the female characters of Hemlock Grove’. She began by highlighting the trajectory of some female characters in gothic novels. She claimed there was a ‘Conservative Trajectory’ whereby the female characters move away from their vampire lovers, and pointed out that examples of this included Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood. The second trajectory was the ‘Transformative Trajectory’ whereby the woman becomes a vampire. Examples of this included The Vampire Diaries and Twilight. She then focussed on Shelley, Olivia and Christina, the central female characters of Hemlock Grove. In relation to music, she claimed that the music which acts as the theme for the character of Olivia has a combination of major and minor cords which emphasises that whilst she looks innocent on the outside, a monster sleeps inside of her. The character Shelley, a character brought from the dead has more of a light and cheerful music that the other females, which contrast her rather off putting monster-like appearance. Christina who acts as a female fetale has music which gradually builds to a more menacing tone when she is around.
‘The Gothic Turn in Contemporary Poetry’ – Derek Littlewood
Derek Littlewood discussed ‘Terror’ by Toby Martinez de las Rivas and particularly fouccsed on the gothic theme of ‘the sublime’. He quoted the latin quote ‘through fire, nature is reborn’ which suggested that fire is purifying. He connected this to the ideas of spiritual and psychological gothic.
‘Putting the black into blackberry jam: The Gothic Valley WI’ – Madeleine Pearce
Madeleine Pearce gave a presentation on the Gothic Valley Women’s Institute. She first informed the audience that a women’s institues was a place that offers educational opportunities and skills, and then focussed on the gothic valley WI as a new wave women’s institute which brings people together based on interests and subcultures. The gothic valley WI enjoys gothic music festivals and baking and crafting.
‘The Relevance of Ruskin: Towards a New Gothic Architecture’ – Luke Nagle
Luke Nagle discussed the work of Ruskin and how it had an influence on many people, including Ghandi, Proust and Clement Atlee. He referenced to Ruskin’s disdain that poverty was coexisting with ostentation and that Ruskin was moist concerned with physical labour and the idea that men were being turned into physical drones. He also claimed that Ruskin saw beauty in neglected buildings and that he admired practical buildings rather than façade.