The Old Gods and the New: Religion in Westeros and Beyond

The Spectatorial

the-old-gods Illustrated by Mia Carnevale

Just as George R. R. Martin draws inspiration from real-world history and politics to add depth to his world in A Song of Ice and Fire (or, as HBO would prefer, Game of Thrones), so too does he look to real-world religions.

Religion, a central aspect of medieval culture, is also an important theme throughoutA Song of Ice and Fire: it pushes the story along, develops characters, and fleshes out an immensely complex world. Many different faiths are depicted and are all shown to have their own power, whether it be politically, in the strength of their followers, or magically.

Drawing from the books and the show, here are three of the major religions in the series, the roles they play within the story, and their real-life historical and contemporary counterparts.

1. The Drowned God 

We Do Not Sow

The Drowned God is…

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Fabricating Histories: Steampunk, Neo-Victorianism, and the Fantastic — Interesting Literature

By Claire Nally A new exhibition on Steampunk and Neo-Victorian culture opens in November – entitled Fabricating Histories, it explores the ways in which we can think about, and challenge, the legacy of history. Dr Claire Nally, co-curator of the exhibition at the Discovery Museum (Tyne & Wears Archives and Museums) in Newcastle, explains what […]

via Fabricating Histories: Steampunk, Neo-Victorianism, and the Fantastic — Interesting Literature

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Monstrously Good Fun with Sheffield Gothic

I’ve neglected the blog somewhat while I’ve been in post-submission/pre-Viva limbo. This is mostly because I was lucky enough to be able to switch to full time hours just as I submitted. While I’m still waiting on the Viva, I have kept my hand in academically witch conferences, seminars and academic discussions on social media and in real life.

I recently attended the Reimagining the Gothic Showcase and Symposium at the University of Sheffield, where I presented a paper on ‘Fear in the age of the sparkly vampire’. It was a wonderful event, with both academic and public talks and even a children’s programme for Little Monsters. (The grown-up academics might have been a little jealous of their monster masks.)

One of the things that I really enjoyed about the event was the live tweeting. This was encouraged early on in proceedings, with the various Gothic hashtags and discussions before people started to arrive. There has been some controversy lately about live tweeting conferences. Much of it stems for the idea that you might not want your conferences paper “published” online as it is new work. Personally I don’t consider there to be any difference between having a discussion about someone’s paper online or in real life. Twitter is a conversation, not a finished publication. If you’re interested on the other side of this discussion you can read about it here.

I tweeted from the Gothic Temporalities account for the day, except for a few instances when I had some personal musings about the day. (Mostly discussing things off topic, like how I’ll never escape references to The Wizard of Oz for the rest of my existence, getting a massive wave of imposter syndrome, or about specific terms that I’m twitchy about.)

Since this is mostly new research and not thesis related at all, I mostly swapped my usual note-taking for live tweeting. It also gave me access to everyone else’s note taking and so I’ve collated them into a one feed using Storify (embded below, or you can get the full screen here). This is also good practice for the upcoming Gothic Temporalities conference, which I’m lead organizer for. Do let me know if you find the Storify uselful.

I should have the tweets from the public Showcase (including public lecture by Xavier Aldana Reyes) and a proper review of the whole event up by next week.

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CFP Deadline Extension

Temporal Discombobulations

We are extending the deadline for abstract submissions to the slightly more Gothic 13th March. (Unfortunately a Sunday rather than a Friday.)

A short version of the CFP is included below. For a more comprehensive call for papers, including an extended discussion of the theme and examples click here.

We invite 20-minute papers on all aspects of Gothic time in art. Suggested topics and themes include (but are not limited to):

  • Temporality in classical Gothic texts
  • Ruinophilia
  • Explorations of ruin and decay in the arts
  • Spectres of the past or future
  • Time and decay in the Gothic
  • Temporal ruptures, such as regression, progression, displacement or echoes
  • Gothic spaces that function outside or beyond time
  • Parallel universes, ruptured time and relativity
  • Temporal excess that “real” time cannot contain
  • Traumatic time, temporal wounds and repairing time
  • Timelessness and immortality
  • Fundamentalism as regression
  • Medievalism in the Twenty-first century
  • The “found manuscript”…

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Radical Fairy Tales and Little Monsters

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the succession of CFPs that have severed as substitutes for my updates of late. I’m currently in academic limbo between submission and viva. I’ve also increased my hours at work, and so have been rather lax on updating here.

Submitting was equal parts stressful and underwhelming. Because I now live some distance from my University, I submitted by posting my thesis to the Registry so I missed out on the big handing it over moment.

At least I avoided this…

The pot-submission slump was soothed somewhat by having a conference planned right after, as I presented at The Company of Wolves. My paper was entitled ‘Little Monsters: Hybrid offspring in steampunk and contemporary gothic texts‘ and my slides are available online.

You can also hear my paper from earlier in the year at the Wonderlands Symposium, as the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tale and Fantasy recorded many of the presentations for the conference and made them available through their online newsletter Gossip and Tales. If you’d like to jump to my panel, you can find my paper ‘Through the Looking Glass: Adaptation as Mirror in Contemporary Fairy Tales’ second in the panel.

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Nine Worlds: Religion Track Talk and Schedule

I’ll be speaking at Nine Worlds Geekfest this weekend on the Religion track. I’m a late addition to replace on of the talks, so I’m not showing on the schedule. I’m now on the track schedule, and will be speaking in the 5pm panel on Saturday in room 32. I’m replacing ‘Religious Origins of Modern Apocalypse’ on the original schedule if you’re using the Nine Worlds schedule planner to work out what talks to go to. (It’s a nifty bit of kit, but as expected I really want to be in at least three places at once, including another panel while I’m giving my own talk.)

My talk is ‘Wicked or Wonderful?: Religion in Gregory Maguire’s Oz’ and it’ll be a 30 minute guide to religion in Oz in the books. I’ll be discussing the necessity of religion for world building in fantasy novels, and how fantastic religion can tell us something about how it works in the “real” world. With luck I’ll also be showing some stills from the musical and talking about how it relates to my academic interests.

I’ll be around most of the day on Saturday and Sunday so if you see me do feel free to say hi. So far, my plan is to arrive on Saturday morning and to hit the Bifrost Cabaret in the evening. My tentative schedule looks something like this:

Saturday 8th

9:00am – 9:45am:      The Origins of London – A city’s birth in legend and in reality
10:00am – 11:15am:   Two talks – Manipulative Bastards and Believable Clerics
11:45am – 1:00pm:     We Are Not Things – Wives, Imperators and Blood Bags in Mad Max:                                        Fury Road
1:30pm – 2:45pm:      Is Horror Evil?
3:15pm – 4:30pm:      In conversation with Naomi Alderman – Unlearning bias and                                                      creating better fiction
5:00pm – 6:45pm:     Two Talks: Divergent & Wicked: ‘Virtue ethics in Divergent’ /                                                      Religion in Gregory Maguire’s Oz
At some point:            Bifröst – Cabaret and Disco

Sunday 9th

9:00am – 9:45am:      Dystopian London in Fiction – The Unreal City
10:00am – 11:15am:   Story Translation and Archaeological Museums – Changing                                                          environments, changing audiences
11:45am – 1:00pm:     Monsters and Theology
1:30pm – 2:45pm:      Two Talks: Order & Old Gods – What’s the matter with Order? /
Can you teach an Old God New Tricks?
3:15pm – 4:30pm:      No More Ms. Nice Minority – It’s time to shout

I suspect that I haven’t given myself enough time to eat and rehydrate so some of the afternoon panels might disappear from my “to do” list on the day but that’s a rough idea. I’m going to quite a few academic panels, as well as some just for fun. I hope to see some of you there, and for those of you who can’t make it I’ll try to take lots of pictures and report back.

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Registration for Company of Wolves now open

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Meet my ‘wolves’ Ted and Brudie (L-R)*

Registration has now opened for the Company of Wolves conference. Taking place at the University of Hertfordshire from the 3rd-5th September, the conference features plenary  presentations from Sam George, Neil Jordan, Catherine Spooner, Stacey Abbott, Marcus Sedgwick, Bill Hughes, Garry Martin and Christopher Frayling. I’m presenting some new research on the figure of the hybrid in neo-gothic and steampunk narratives.

More information on the conference programme can be found here, and you can register to attend here. Places on the ‘Walking with Wolves’ excursion are limited, so make sure you register quickly if you want to attend that one.

I’m going to live tweet the panels that I attend (except for the one I’m on, most likely) and will be using the official conference hashtag #CoW. You can find me on twitter here and some more info about joining on the conversation on twitter from Kaja’s blog about tweeting the conference.

Costs and Registration
Conference fees:
Full registration (3 days including all catering) £200.00
Postgrad rate (3 days including all catering) £150.00
Day rate £67.00
Day rate (postgrad) £50.00

Trips and events:
Walking with Wolves £15.00
(This excursion is limited to 50 people only, so please book early as places will be on a first come, first served basis.)
Lycanthropic Lantern of Fear Show £8.00
Peter the Wild Boy trip £5.00

Meal and accommodation:
Conference dinner (optional) £38.00
UH Bed and Breakfast accommodation £39.00 plus VAT per person per night

*Unfortunately not mine, but they do belong to a close friend. She gave me permission to use their photo.

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Company of Wolves: Conference Programme

The programme for the Company of Wolves conference has been announced. This will be my first conference after I’ve submitted my thesis and OGOM was also the first conference I did as a PhD student at Aberdeen, so an extra special one.

Open Graves, Open Minds

The provisional programme for the Company of Wolves conference is now up on this website: select ‘Conference Programme‘ from the ‘Company of Wolves’ menu (or click on the link).

Most of the abstracts are now viewable from the ‘Session Speakers and Abstracts‘ page; we are still waiting for some contributor’s biographies before all the abstracts are uploaded.

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Review of Other Worlds

An edited version of this review appeared on ShortbreadStories.com on 8th June 2015. In May I visited the British Academy in London for two of the events in their Literature Week programme. This was the British Academy’s fourth biennial Literature Week and a range of public events around the theme of ‘Other Worlds’: exploring the fantastical and the magical with a week on fairy tales and folk tales, literary genres which transcend cultural, historical and national boundaries. Authors, academics, writers, social commentators and cultural figures explored some of the oldest genres in literature in order to understand why, in a modern world, we are still so captivated by the chance to escape to ‘other worlds’…

Literature Week 2015 at the British Academy 11-17 May

Until a few weeks ago I hadn’t ever heard of the British Academy, but an advert for their upcoming public event series featuring a young girl falling down a rabbit hole caught my attention. Given that I live more than an hour’s journey from central London and work through the day, I opted for two of their evening events. The first was the programme launch with fairy tale writer and academic Marina Warner and the second a panel discussion on the irresistible rise of the fairy tale.

Into the Woods Literature Week Launch Night Monday – 11th May – 6-8pm

Author and critic Marina Warner was ‘in conversation’ with award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick to introduce the theme of fairy tales and folk tales. This event featured live storytelling from the Crick Crack Club. I arrived early and, after having a wander round the fairy tale illustration exhibition on the ground floor, I picked up one of the 100 free tote bags on offer. There’s not much in the way of swag inside, but the tote features the Wonderland-like promo image and its good quality. I’ve already designated it as my new book bag. By the time the event was due to start there were very few seats left in the room – most likely because of the combined pull of Warner the academic, Sedgwick the writer and Haggerty the storyteller and performer. Warner opened the event by giving us a whirlwind tour through her latest publication, Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale. This was the only ‘lecture style’ part of the event but Warner is a consummate professional, and never, ever boring. Her talk was beautifully illustrated with some of the images from her book and highlighted the immense history behind the fairy tale form. If Warner emphasised the need for research, Marcus Sedgwick brought the event back to the subject of writing fairy tales. He mostly discussed his book Blood Red Snow White (which I have but haven’t gotten around to reading yet) in which he utilised the fairy tale form in order to save what on the first drafting was a ‘boring’ and linear semi-biography. Warner and Sedgwick in conversation threw up some interesting contrasts between the methods of the two writers; with Sedgwick resisting drawing generalisations form his own experiences as a writer. He reminded the audience that the creatures and characters are not fixed, and that we can make our own stamp on the genre without losing its authenticity. On being a storyteller, he cautioned that ‘as a writer I am not there to give answers – I am there to ask questions.’ However, the highlight of the night was Crick Crack Club founder and high grand master Ben Haggerty who treated us to a live story performance. Real storytelling makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and Haggerty is a master of his craft. As he said, story is alive and well in the world and unique to the moment. There was no recording permitted, not even pen and paper. I can tell you that it featured a Russian Witch with a large nose who flies around in a mortar and pestle. Live storytelling requires precision in timing and engaging your audience with every line, and Haggerty had the audience enthralled.

The Golden Age of Retelling Panel Discussion – Tuesday 12th May – 6-7.30pm

Bringing together the literary with the social sciences, journalist Julia Eccleshare chaired a discussion with Peter Brooks FBA, Sally Gardner, Nicholas Tucker and Jack Zipes to explore why we just can’t stop telling tales. Much less structured and scripted than the previous night’s event, this panel discussion explored the very different ways that academics and writers understand the fairy tale form. While Julia Eccleshare kept the discussion (and the panellists) in check, the main interaction was between the view of fairy tales as the formative narratives of childhood and as adult narratives used to reflect and transform society. While the first viewpoint, mostly supported by Nicholas Tucker, sees a slow dwindling death for the fairy tale in modern society as it is drowned out by today’s multimedia narratives. The second, for which Jack Zipes has been a proponent for most of his career, offers a way forward for the fairy tale as a form of narrative that can offer radical vehicle for contemporary storytellers. This is a view that children’s and YA author Sally Gardner carries forward in her writing. I was lucky enough to have my new copy of Tinder signed by her after the discussion, and I highly recommend it for both the story and the wonderful artwork. I will be getting myself to more events at the British Academy in the future, and recommend that you do too. If you’d like to listen to these events, visit the British Academy website.

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The Hunting of the Snark or In Search of a Final Draft

While I’m back to blogging and sharing CFPs, I’m not quite at the stage of turning the thesis in. I’m awaiting comments from my second supervisor, who is generally more thorough and critical than my first.* Following generally held advice on idle hands and devils’ work, I’m re-revising the current thesis draft. One of the critiques that I’ve received in the past is that there isn’t enough of my voice in the thesis and although I’ve been working on this, my last meeting with my primary supervisor confirmed that I still have some way to go. It was a small comment and not something overly negative, but his assertion that you could tell that it was a thesis and not a book when reading it because of the amount of quotations. Reading through the thesis again, I began to see what he meant.

“Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!” 
(They were all of them fond of quotations:
So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
While he served out additional rations).

“We have sailed many months, we have sailed many weeks,
(Four weeks to the month you may mark),
But never as yet (’tis your Captain who speaks)
Have we caught the least glimpse of a Snark!

Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark 

Now you may, dear reader, be able to work out what I’ve done by including a quotation about quotations from Carroll’s poem ‘The Hunting of the Snark’. But I haven’t yet explained it to you. I’ve left you to do the work and while in this setting I can be reasonably sure that you have managed to make the leap from my supervisors comment about the number of quotations in a thesis and a clichéd quotation in Carroll’s poem, the same move in a thesis is not an adequate mode of argument. And yet my thesis draft is littered with this form of quotation without introduction or response.

It can be difficult to let go of preciously crafted words when working towards the final draft. Whole swathes of argument can suddenly become irrelevant and tangential when you begin to refine your writing on the second or third edit as you hone your focus. The cutting of words feels counter-productive as it is so alien to our goal up until this point.

While quotations aren’t our own carefully crafted words, letting them go can be equally as difficult for a writer still finding their own academic voice. Quotations show the reader – in this case our examiner – that we are aware of the academic typography and can locate ourselves within it. However, once you are flirting dangerously with the upper work limit for your thesis like I am, these large passages of writing from other academics and primary sources are more of a hindrance than anything. It wasn’t until I read Pat Thomson’s post on revision that I understood how to deal with them:

Revision is often so much more than tinkering. It can be moving big chunks of material from one chapter to another, or shifting the order of the moves within a chapter. Rewriting the crappy first draft is not simply about cutting and replacing text at the level of the paragraph and the sentence. It’s also about attending to the overall structure of the argument. […] However, rewriting can also be about adding words as well as reducing them. Yes, not writing less or writing differently, but actually writing more. It’s a mistake to think that revision is always about getting rid of some things and replacing designated dull words with some that are better, more lively.

I highly recommend reading the whole post, but in essence her post explains that revision is not simply cutting out words or ‘tinkering’ with the odd sentence or two. Sometimes a drastic change in tone, order or argument is needed. And sometimes you have to write more in order to revitalise your draft. In my case, I had to think carefully about the purpose of my citations and if I need the whole quotation or if I could paraphrase. My goal is to completely eradicate any ‘orphaned’ quotations like the one above and to make sure the main voice that the reader, examiner or otherwise, encounters is my own.

*This post was started before my second supervisor got back to me. She has since been in touch and is happy with the way my argument is progressing *does happy dance*

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Imposter Syndrome – the cat amongst the pengiuns

Imposter syndrome – we all have it. I’ve yet to meet anyone, academic or otherwise, who hasn’t felt like they were playing at being a grown up. This post from BloggerByResearch sums it up nicely. And I have the same insecurities about being petite and female. I’m not sure if that confirms these insecurities, or just points out that it’s merely physical.

There was a particularly poignant moment a few years ago when Husband had submitted his PhD, but hadn’t yet had his viva and was not getting anywhere with finding a job. I could only reassure him as his wife that he was a smart and capable individual, but not as a fellow academic because we are is very different fields. The best thing I could come up with was to make him watch a graduation commencement speech from the New England Institute of Arts, given by Amanda Palmer on the Fraud Police.

As I’m now pretty close to embarking on exactly the same process, I think it’s time to revisit it for myself. For some reason, knowing that someone who has a pretty successful career as a musician still fears the fraud police is comforting and motivating at the same time. You can watch it here.

As for Husband, the day he passed his viva with minor corrections was also the day he was offered the Post-doctoral Research position he’s in at the moment. I know the chance of lightning striking twice for us is slim, but at least it gives me hope.

bloggerbyresearch

This week I admitted that I worry that I am not good enough to do a PhD. I often think that I don’t have the intelligence or research skills to get anywhere with it. I feel nervous when going for supervision meetings as I don’t think I have done enough work or work of any worth. Coming out of those meetings I feel reassured and quite good about it all and this lasts for about a week until it kicks back in again.

I told a friend about this and she told me about Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor syndrome[1] is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of…

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CFP Company of Wolves: only ten days left to submit and actually walk with wolves!!

A timely reminder if, like me, you’re planning on submitting an abstract for the ‘Company of Wolves’ conference at the University of Hertfordshire and haven’t yet.

I’m going with shapeshifting, hybridity and social change. How about you?

Open Graves, Open Minds

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Following my post yesterday where I lamented the last wolf and talked about Maggie Stiefvater’s ‘Wolves of Mercy Falls’  Shiver books, Radio 4 today featured a discussion of this very topic – in a moment of surprising serendipity. Again, this burst of awareness is extremely timely for our Company of Wolves Conference.

In The Last Wolf Tom Holland meets up with one of Britain’s leading conservation writers Jim Crumley at Stirling castle to discuss the myth of the last wolf.
The symbol of Stirling is a wolf and this refers to a story where the howl of a wolf alerted local people to a Viking raid is the 9th or 10th century. But, after this there are few stories of wolves doing humans a good turn. Invariably, the wolf is ‘bad’ a danger to livestock and children. So much so that Edward 1st paid a bounty to have the wold…

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Folklore Resources – This is not a blog

I’m not really blogging and I am still on hiatus while I finish the thesis but I’ve just come across a really good list of folklore studies resources complied by Ohio State University:

https://cfs.osu.edu/about/resources/journals

This is a very useful list for two reasons. The first is obviously that it collates a wide range of resources in one place. This is a good way to find related journals and research groups that you weren’t aware of, and subjects that you might have not thought of filing under the ‘folklore’ umbrella. It also lets you know which journals are available online and which are print only. One of the things I read this week regarding what you should do if you want to fail your PhD mentioned the propensity for students of the Web 2.0 generation to rely to heavily on online resources, in particular to non-peer reviewed sources like blog posts. I remember not having online access to some journals through my library as a Master’s student and asking our subject librarian about it. She assured me that we had a subscription to those journals, but they were hard copies. She showed me how to look up the catalogue and where to find them. It was a valuable exercise in research but it also really helped me understand why the referencing system needed to be formatted the way it was. Without all of the information, I wouldn’t have found them and google is not always the answer. (Other search engines are available.)

Secondly, this gives those looking to publish research a handy list of the most common journals in the field with their publishing ethos and schedule. Publishing is not something I’m stressing too much about at the moment, however it is a very big part of getting good publications is knowing where to submit and when.

Ok, so that looks pretty much like a blog. It was really just note taking though. That’s what I was doing, taking notes and publishing them online so they are easy to find later. *cough*

 

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Your Minimum Editing Route and How Fonts Can Help You Spot Typos

Proofing and editing is in my future still, nonetheless this is good advice to have to hand.

TheUniversityBlog

Your Minimum Editing Route

I work with words all the time. I have to be careful not to gloss over my writing. If I do, I risk missing typos and worse.

Even with a clear focus, it’s bad enough. Your focus is on conveying meaning more than it is on uncovering typos.

But there’s hope. When you edit your work, go through several runs at the text. First, read for overall flow. Second, read for clarity. Third, read for typos. This should be your minimum editing route.

Editing for different reasons each time helps you to focus on the particular task at hand. These tasks require thinking processes that do not gel with each other. If you tackle them all at the same time, it’s like ineffective multitasking.

Read out loud and look at each word, no matter how trivial. When you read with purpose, you’ll trip over sentences that clearly need…

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thesis know how – beware the quote dump

Reblogging for myself and anyone else who is currently grappling with the balance of their own voices and the voice of the critic in their thesis. I’ve gotten some very good advice on this issue that I’ll be putting into practice today, but as always Patter hits the nail on the head with why we tend to rely on large quotations.

patter

I very often see first drafts of theses – and sometimes completed ones – which suffer from quote dumping. A quote dump is when the writer inserts a very large extract of someone else’s words into a text and then does nothing with it. The quote sits there, highly visible in its indented and italicised state, inert, unyielding, impenetrable.

The quote dump often occurs in literature chapters and/or when the thesis writer is discussing theoretical literatures. It’s sometimes used when people are explaining their methodology. It can happen when people genuinely attempt to engage with other people’s words and ideas and either challenge them, evaluate them or make them into foundations for their own research.

While quote dumping might have been the way to get good marks in essays in undergraduate and Masters work, it is a learned strategy that doesn’t fly so well in a doctoral thesis. Yes, the…

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Goodbye world

I’ve just received an email from the Supervisors about Project Frankenthesis and the long and short of it is that I’ve got to seriously get my head down. There’s nothing overtly negative in their feedback, but it does say out loud what I’ve known and been ignoring for a while – the central tenet of the thesis is still lacking substance and at this stage I’ve really got to focus on getting it all neatly sewn together.

With that in mind I’m going to be taking a more official blogging hiatus. I’ve been less active on here in terms of writing my own posts, but I’ve still been keeping up with CFPs and re-blogging and commenting on other posts. I’ve got a few CFPs queued up for Feb/March but apart from them I’m leaving the blog alone for the next two/three months.

In theory, the next post you get from me should be about what it feels like to submit. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you all in April.

Allons-y

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Fantasy MLitt at the University of Glasgow

Things have come a long way since I did my MLitt in 20*mumble mumble*. Even though I did a course that was considered quite different at the time, it was in a very established academic subject area. While my MLitt dissertation was on a fantasy text, I had to alter the focus of my research to fit in better with the overall area of the course. It’s also a similar situation with my PhD thesis, but working in an area outside of your supervisor’s/discipline’s specialist are is somewhat more expected with a thesis than a taught Masters.

What I mean to say is that I would have loved the change to do an MLitt in fantasy, and Glasgow is a wonderful place for the course. If you’re thinking about PG study I would urge you to apply.

Fantasy Flyer JPEGWhether you are an ardent fan of fantasy fiction, or are you simply curious as to why the fantastic can be found all around us in the twenty-first century, from videogames and films to poetry, songs, television, novel series, and so-called ‘mainstream’ fiction, this programme allows you to engage with one of the most vibrant literary genres of the last two centuries – and one of the most significant cultural phenomena of our time.

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MedHum Monday Presents: The Power of Story

Fantastic post from Brandy on Medical Humanities (Med Hum), Gothic science: Dread & Discovery and the power of story.

Dósis

DailyDose_darkstrokeThe language of logical arguments, of proofs, is the language of the limited self we know and can manipulate. But the language of parable and poetry, of storytelling, moves from the imprisoned language of the provable into the freed language of what I must, for lack of another word, continue to call faith. —Madeleine L’Engle

Story is far older than the art of science and psychology, and will always be the elder in the equation no matter how much time passes. —Clarissa Pinkola Estes

What makes story so powerful to us? Why do we retell and retell them? Look back upon your life, and know that even our histories are revisionist. With each new addition to our lives, the backstory shifts to accommodate. Write it down and record it all you like, we have far more in common with the bards who tailored and expanded their tales in the telling…

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OGOM Company of Wolves CFP – Beyond excited to announce this!

Way back in the mists of time, before I started my PhD, I attended a conference at the University of Hertfordshire called Open Graves, Open Minds. I gave a paper on the monstrous female in the Twilight series, ate lunch from a coffin, bought many books and made some friends for life. The Open Graves, Open Minds project has launched the CFP for it’s next conference,The Company of Wolves, and I can’t wait.

Open Graves, Open Minds

Conference, University of Hertfordshire, Sept 3rd-5th 2015: Call for Papers and Panels

OGOM: ‘The Company of Wolves’: Sociality, Animality, and Subjectivity in Literary and Cultural Narratives—Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Feral Humans

doreWolves have long been the archetypal enemy of human company, preying on the unguarded boundaries of civilisation, threatening the pastoral of ideal sociality and figuring as sexual predators. Yet, in their way, with their complex pack interactions, they have served as a model for society. Lately, this ancient enemy has been rehabilitated and reappraised, and rewilding projects have attempted to admit them more closely into our lives.

Our company with wolves has inspired fiction from Ovid, through Perrault and the Grimms’ narrators, to Bram Stoker and Kipling; and, more recently, to Angela Carter, Neil Jordan, Anne Rice, Marcus Sedgwick and Glen Duncan.

The Open Graves, Open Minds Project was initiated in 2010 with the Vampires and the Undead in Modern…

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From Deerstalker Hat to Black Wool Overcoat: Timelessness in Sherlock Holmes’ Speculative Stories and Drama

Interesting look at Sherlock and how it relates to the Conan Doyle stories. I have a large section in Chapter One on the trope of the great detective as an example of sustained adaptation leading to myth-making. I hadn’t considered “timelessness” as a quality that participates in this process before now. Definitely something to consider.

The Spectatorial

This review contains spoilers.

BBC’s Sherlock is  my favorite TV series. The 2012 reboot of the Victorian detective solving mysterious crimes retains the curious aura of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story. Brain-twisting crime plots, breathtaking adventures, devilish Moriarty, eccentric yet intelligent Sherlock—all of the exciting elements that led to the success of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are contained in the British TV series. After replacing Sherlock’s smoking pipe with a nicotine patch, how did the producers of the critically acclaimed show manage to preserve the enigmatic quality of 20th century speculative fiction in 21st century TV adaptation?

There is one thing that does not change over time in the franchise— Sherlock’s heroic figure!

The detective and his super-brain solves mysteries that would seem impossible to solve to common brains. Despite the fact that the fiction is strictly confined to the Victorian period and contains strong Victorian moral discourse…

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Why I Love ‘John Carpenter’s The Thing’

A really good article on why Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ is an exemplar of the horror movie genre. I saw the film for the first time a few weeks ago and I’d always assumed that it was a bit naff. I was definitely proven wrong.

Funk's House of Geekery

The Thing 2

Guillermo Del Toro once said that 1982’s The Thing was one of the most influential films in his life.  When he left the theater he knew he wanted to be a director.  To me this demonstrates the transcendent power of film, how movies can not only influence our choices, but completely alter the trajectory of our lives.  In a weird way, we can attribute films such as Hellboy and the exquisite Pan’s Labyrinth to John Carpenter. It’s safe to say the movie community, especially fans of the horror genre, are extremely grateful.  I know I am.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the plot, the film revolves around a group of scientific researchers stationed in a the Antarctic led by R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) .  When two  seemingly crazy Norwegian helicopter pilots chase an Alaskan Malamute into the station, one of the members Garry (Donald Moffat) is forced to kill the Norwegian.  The team takes in…

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The Madwoman in the Attic, The Madman In Your Head

Gothic, gothic everywhere…

Very pleased to find this article based on @TheLitCritGuy’s paper at the Gothic Manchester Festival Conference, which I missed because I was in Limerick.

TheLitCritGuy

Conference Q&A sessions can get a little extreme... Conference Q&A sessions can get a little extreme…

I’ve always had an interest in more modern incarnation of Gothic culture and texts. However, with a thesis that focuses on the 19th century this will be my final post for a while on modern Gothic TV. The following is based of the text of a paper I gave at the Gothic Manchester Festival Conference held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in October 2014

There is in literary history a well-established pattern of combining evil with specific places – throughout literature and culture, certain locations are closely linked with encounters with the morally dubious and supernatural – something Professor Christopher Partridge refers to as ‘occulture.’ This particular intersection of interests lends itself quite naturally to Gothic studies. Since 1757 and Burke’s “Philosophical Enquiry” place has been positioned as a means of affecting the self, whether they be the reader or characters within…

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Upcoming Conference and Special Screening

It seems like I’ve got nothing but conferences at the moment. In my defense, I had been under a self-imposed conference embargo until after the thesis was submitted and since I thought I would have been done by now, it made sense to plan ahead. While the last conference was planned as a way to ease myself back in to a neglected research area, this next one is very much business as usual.

Indeed, this conference is so firmly within my research are that my primary supervisor sent me the CFP – something that he rarely does – and the announcement that registration was open.

The Wizard of Oz and the Cultural Imagination: A Conference celebrating and interrogating 75 years of the MGM Musical takes place on the 21st and 22nd November in Brighton (where else?). I’ll be presenting on myth, Oz and Gregory Maguire brining together some of the key elements of my thesis into a 20 minute paper.

Oz at 75 Conference Programme

And, as seems to be the current trend, there is also a related public event following the first day of the conference. This mixing of academic conference and public festival was particularly effective at the recent Locating the Gothic Conference and Festival and I’m very pleased to see a similar ethos at the Wizard of Oz conference with the inclusion of a sing-along screening of The Wizard of Oz on Friday 21st November. As in the tradition of film screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, audience members are encouraged to dress up as their favourite characters. It also includes a cabaret performance by Irregular Arts and you can book tickets here.

I’ll be donning my ruby slippers and gingham dress for the occasion. Whether or not I’ll wear them to present my paper is another question. I did present my paper at the Dorothy Conference in them, so I’m not ruling it out entirely.

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Open Access to Witchcraft Articles until March 2015

The Taylor & Francis Group have made a selection of articles on witchcraft available for free until March 2015.

It seems particularly appropriate to announce this in October – something I think of as the Witching month – and there are a lot of great articles included that explore and confront our ideas of what witchcraft is and how our relationship to the figure of the witch has developed. There are also some articles there from seasoned witchcraft scholars such as Marion Gibson and Owen Davies.

 

 

 

 

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Locating the Gothic and Frankenstein

Next week I’m off to the Locating the Gothic Festival and Conference in Limerick. I’m presenting a paper on memory, narrative and identity in Maguire’s only gothic novel Lost. I’ve always had an interest in the gothic and the monstrous, but it has been quite a while since I’ve presented research in this area. I’ve been struggling a little with articulating my argument for this paper. In fact, a logical and coherent flow of argument is something I’m struggling with in general at the moment. Content and analysis have always been my strengths, and I still have a good eye (or ear?) for language and close textual analysis.  My issue has always been effectively communicating the implications and outcomes of that analysis.

I’m hoping that the general advice from one of my supervisors to get the theory down first will help, so I’m currently doing some of the groundwork on memory, the self and the gothic. I can highly recommend Stephen Bruhm’s work on the Contemporary Gothic and Nicola King’s Memory, Narrative, Identity.

Leaving aside from the usual pre-paper writing troubles, the conference programme looks really good. There are a number of parallel sessions but so far I don’t see too many where I want to split myself in half. I might not get to see all of the papers that I want but that just means that I’ll have to try and catch people in the coffee breaks. One thing about being part of an “offbeat” academic community, like the gothic or folklore, is that it’s small enough still that most people know one another and conferences tend to be more friendly than competitive. Either that or, like the stories of having our heads flushed down the toilet when we got to high school, tales of the hostile academe have been greatly exaggerated.

There are a number of things going on at the same time as the conference that I’m sad to be missing. Oddly enough some of them are also gothic festivals and events such as the Gothic Manchester Festival and events associated with the Terror and Wonder exhibition at the British Library. I suppose that’s just the kind of thing one should expect from attending gothic events in October.

However, I’m also missing the Dundee Literary Festival for the first time in many years. As I used to be part of the team that organised the festival, this is especially odd. On the plus side I get to going in via Twitter and Facebook as the events are live-tweeted, I’m especially excited with a new event this year – the Festival Bookclub. They have chosen to (re)read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein because of Shelly’s connection to Dundee and as it fits in so well with the theme of Locating the Gothic I’ll be joining in from the conference on Friday 24th October via the medium of Twitter using the #festbookclub hashtag.

I’ll also be selectively live tweeting some of the panels at the conference and of course sharing some of the sights and sounds of Limerick. You can see these from Wednesday 22nd – Sunday 26th over at twitter.com/kar_took

 

 

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On Watching Your Proposed Submission Date Fly By

I had been going to frame this post in an entirely different way. I even had about 70% of a post written on the train on my way to the dreaded meeting with my supervisors. The one where when we went over exactly what was wrong with the thesis as to stood, but that disappeared into the unfathomable void that blog posts go to when left in the “quick draft” tab for too long. (At this appropriate juncture may I remind you to always save your work. Don’t rely of auto-save or you will lose stuff.) As this was yet another thing that didn’t quite work out I didn’t have it in me to try and re-write that post. The up side of that is that you, dear reader, are getting a more considered “after the fact” post rather than one from when it was still all quite raw.

My thesis submission date was set for the 31st August by my University based on my start date and as the 31st approached at the end of my 3-year supervised study period both myself and my supervisors decided that I would be applying for the expected 4th year writing-up extension. A new policy meant that this application was a little more complicated than it would have been had I started a year earlier, like my husband did, but it was considered par for the course that a great number of student would need and be granted this writing-up period. By mid-August my extension was granted and I re-matriculated into my 4th year.

As is often the way with the PhD journey, I encountered a number of set backs through the year, both from outside forces and from my own research. As a self-funded student I worked a part-time job for a different University to support my studies and while this is both a necessity and an opportunity for many self-funding students, it can be physically and emotionally taxing to juggle what effectively becomes two jobs. There was the added issue that all of us working in the department that I belonged to faced and that I suspect is becoming more and more common – it took more hours than we were contracted for to be able to do our jobs. This meant either working overtime for time off in lieu or working unofficial unpaid overtime. Working more hours to build up a bank of TOIL leave seemed to make sense at first. I used this to take time off during the quieter months and work on my thesis full time, instead of having to go to continue the juggling act. This made sense in theory as it meant both my team at work and my thesis got the support and attention from me that they needed. It seemed like a good way to honour all my commitments to the best of my ability.

Except this level of working meant that I effectively never had a break and was often unable to do much on “thesis days” except for catching-up on things I should have been doing as I went along: meeting my supervisors, reading articles, doing laundry, applying for funding, submitting abstracts to conferences. The actual writing of the thesis began to slide and in November I came to an agreement with my employer and took unpaid leave to work on writing. And write I did. I just about managed to catch-up, and looked to be on track to submit by August.

Up until the middle of June I thought I was still on track. Except I began to get a little nervous when I still hadn’t received feedback from my supervisors on the (very)rough full draft I had sent them. Even then, the news that arrived from them near the end of July still hit me like a ton of bricks. The thesis wasn’t at a suitable standard to be submitted for examination. It needed at least another 6 months, possibly more.

Part of me was utterly floored. No, I thought. No, I’m supposed to submit at the end of August. I’ve got a plan to start turning it into a manuscript for publication. I’ve got other research on the back-burner to start working on once it’s submitted. I’ve got conferences lined up in which to present the finished research. I was going to be applying for jobs. Real jobs. It needs to be this year. It needs to be now or the whole world will fall apart.

But the other part of me, the part that recognised what they were saying as the truth, the part that new I owed it to myself to present a better version of my research than I currently had on paper, was relieved.

Since then I’ve spoken with friends and family, as well as my supervisors about the situation and I’m much less worried about it. I was unable to shake the feeling that if I had just worked harder then I wouldn’t be in this situation. If I had just written more then the editing would be easier than the job that is currently staring me in the face, judging me for my sloppy argument and tangential offshoots. However, this week I closed the document containing the un-edited full draft and moved away from my laptop. I thought of all of the semi-formed arguments and partly explored analysis that I had convinced myself that I would just have to cut, as there wasn’t time to forge them into full ideas. The ticking clock has been quieted, and I no longer need to edit in a panic. It will be a better thesis for it, and I might just learn something from it.

Today was supposed to be the end of my PhD journey, but it looks like I have a small reprieve. I’ll be travelling this road for a little while longer, and for that I’m both grateful and excited.

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Mirror mirror on the wall…

A quick post to plug a talk I’m giving tomorrow at the May meeting for the Being Non/Human discussion group, 6.30 – 8 pm in room S2.39 at King’s College London. This was supposed to be a quick post about a talk I gave on Monday at the Being Non/Human discussion group, but I forgot to hit “publish” and only remembered when I was having a chat with one of the organisers before the session and she mentioned the blog. I’m talking I talked about reflections of the non/human in Gregory Maguire’s Mirror Mirror. It’s a text that I haven’t presented on since 2012, and I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the the fairy tale adaptations and all the references to mirrors. As the meting report by Sophia, that you can read on their website, shows a lot of the mirrors and reflections begin to conflict and raise questions about the nature of the self and identity. The post raises a very good question that we didn’t quite get round to on the night, as we ran out of time, but that Sophia touches on when she mentions her own research into stone and matter and that we must also consider the materiality of mirrors as glass objects. Glass itself is a form of stone, forged from heat, pressure and sand and Sophia’s observation highlights the connection between the dwarves in Mirror Mirror as stone/stone like and the mirror of the title. She also references J J Cohen and theories of materiality, which overlaps with my research on monsters and the monstrous. Lots of food for thought, and certainly a very good example of why participation in interdisciplinary discussion groups is vital for researchers. The abstract for the talk is copied below and I’m hoping to turn it into a full paper and pitch it at a fairy tale journal. In other news my proposal for The Wizard of Oz and the Western Cultural Imagination was accepted, so I’ll be presenting a paper summarising my PhD research for this conference at the University of Brighton on 21-22 November. If you are interested in attending, or you want to check out what is happening with the conference you can follow them on twitter @Ozat75 or search #Ozat75

It’s good to know that I have a few abstracts “out there” looking for homes, especially after the self-imposed ban on presenting at conferences that has been in place since this time last year. The final write up can be rather lonely and daunting, and I still consider myself especially luck to be a PGR in the digital age. The blog, twitter and facebook have been indispensable in keeping connected to the other PGRs and ECRs out there in both similar and diverse fields and stages.

~~~

Abstract: There remains in popular culture a persistent appetite for adaptation, something particularly evident in the various retellings of fairy tales in literature and film. While the market is, it seems, saturated with these retellings, a change in the perspective of the original tale is evident in the most successful stories. These innovative retellings re-position the antagonist from marginalised other to the main focus of the narrative. It is a vital component of this new form of fairy tale in which the appeal is not aspiring to beautiful, demure perfection as in the Disney adaptations, but the identification of the audience with the ostracised individual who is not accepted by society. At the centre of these narratives lies the questions of what it is to be human, or what it is to be a person and how the two are not always necessarily one and the same thing. Drawing on the existing framework in fantasy, myth and fairy tale, author Gregory Maguire expands on such common tropes as talking animals to highlight the blurring of these boundaries between the human and the non-human to draw our attention to the insubstantiality of these categories. While this aspect of both Maguire’s Wicked series of novels and the Broadway musical inspired by them has been well discussed, his other works based on more traditionally canonical fairy tales have hitherto been largely overlooked in critical discourse. This paper proposes to begin to redress this imbalance by examining the non/human in Mirror Mirror, Maguire’s re-envisioning of Snow White. It will pay particular attention to the intertextual practices used by Maguire in the reforming of the familiar, both in terms of the narrative and the construction of the human within it.

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Style, Form and Function – How Should My Thesis Look?

For any academic out there who somehow doesn’t follow Pat Thomson’s blog Patter, I highly recommend it. So far it has given me expert advice on writing, choosing an external examiner, working with supervisors, publishing, academic blogging, organisation, reading schedules…I could go on.

Her most recent post – should I number my thesis? – brought up something else that I hadn’t even thought about. Granted, at this stage with nearly 60K words down and another 30K-odd to go I’m not really focusing on the layout so much, but that’s part of the point.

I’ve been pretty much left to my own devices in terms of a set format or style for my thesis as far as the University is concerned. There is no template nor any mandatory referencing and style guide that I have to use. While my lead supervisor prefers a particular style guide, it doesn’t suit my writing or requirements and as such he has advised me to choose one and apply it consistently. It’s possible that an external examiner might be inclined towards a particular style, however they are less likely to insist on this if the system used is clear and properly executed. (I hope.)

There are pros and cons to this freedom, and Pat’s article has highlighted one of them perfectly. It is important to choose a style/format that is in keeping with the content and presentation of your thesis. Question your choices, even ones imposed by your department and/or institution, and make sure that you know that they present your work in the best way possible.

For now, as my comment at the bottom of the article suggests, my numbered subheadings are staying. It’s the best way for me to organise my thinking as well as my writing, and it helps at this stage to think about medium-sized interconnected sections. However, I’ll be seriously reviewing this decision once the full thesis is drafted and deciding then if it helps or hinders the reader.

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Reading Round-up: January/February 2014

Earlier this month I added a static Resources page to the blog. There were a few motivations behind this namely:

  1. I found a new online bibliographic tool and wanted to beta test it before using it for my thesis bibliography
  2. I like showing off about my book collection (I have an album on my facebook dedicated to pictures of new books I buy)
  3. I continue to get more and more frustrated by literary scholars using the same two or three myth theorists in their work

On my resources page you will see that you can download something called the Myth Booklist. And now you can download it here also. When it comes to myth, literary scholars tend to think that they know what they are talking about and futhermore that we know what they are talking about when they call something ‘myth’. After all, we all know what we mean when we call a work of literature myth, right? Well, yes and no. We probably do know that by conferring such a title on any piece of literature, the writer/speaker wants us to know that they consider the work of high cultural importance. What we don’t know from simply the use of the term ‘myth’ is neither how nor why this is. That’s usually when a theory of myth enters from stage left and you are more likely to see Joseph Campbell, Claude Levi-Strauss or Carl Gustav Jung on stage than any other theorists. Setting aside my own personal – and admittedly somewhat irrational* – dislike of Campbell, what dismays me most when these theorists come up again and again is not that their theories are any less useful or interesting that other theories but that they are not demonstrably more so. We often get into habits as academics of re-treading the same ground and we all see the same critical approaches within a subject area, like myth or the Gothic or fairy tale or any number of others. We are fascinated by particular theorists in spite of or – as I occasionally suspect – because of the incomprehensibility of their writings. And they should fascinate us, but not at the expense of their usefulness. Par of the reason that I link to the myth booklist is that there is neither a Strauss nor a Campbell in evidence among the authors on the list.

Anyway, that’s more than enough of me on my soapbox. The purpose of this post was not, in fact, for me to have a rant about myth theorists but for me to give my Reading Round-up for Jan/Feb. I have been woefully dilatory in both tackling my academic reading backlog and posting my reading round-ups on here.  Indeed, rather than shrinking my reading list appears to be growing by the minute. However, I have found time to do at least some academic reading in January and February so far:

  •  ‘The Red Angel’ by G. K. Chesterton (from Tremendous Trifles)
  • ‘Introduction: The Impact of Monsters and Monster Studies’ by Asa Simon Mittman (from The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous)
  • ‘The Tyranny of Time and Identity: Overcoming the Past in Gregory Maguire’s Lost‘ by Jason Colavito (in 21st Century Gothic: Great Novels Since 2000)
  • ‘Post word, Postconcept: Contemporary Fiction and Theory’ by Mary Estene (in Contemporary Literature 54, 1)
  • ‘Science Fiction and the Future of Criticism’ by Eric Rabkin (in PMLA 119, 3)
  • ‘Disability, Identity, and Representation: An Introduction’ by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (in Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature)
  • ‘With a smile and a song…: Walt Disney and the Birth of the American Fairy Tale’ by Tracey Mollet (in Marvels & Tales 27, 1)

Have you had a productive month reading wise? Let me know in the comments.

*I am aware that this vague swipe will likely be insufficient information for some of my readers, but my issues with Joseph Campbell are best left for another day.

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(mini)Blog Overhaul

I know it won’t look much different, even to regular followers of Telling Tales, but after discovering a new feature here at the writing end of WordPress I decided to alter the blog slightly. The reason I’m telling you this is that because of my discovery I’m changing what shows up on the home page and where you can find different types of posts.

The main difference is that CFPs will no longer show up on the front page of the blog, which will be dedicated to original content in the form of posts from me or guest blogs.

Don’t worry, I am not going to stop posting CFPs for conferences and journals. While I originally viewed my CFP posts as filler for the blog – something to keep updates regular without having to spend too much time on content management – and something I would phase out eventually, I have completely changed my mind. Very few research blogs post CFPs, and this prompted me to question the value of me continuing doing so. I’ve never been one for shying away from things which aren’t the norm, especially when it comes to my academic career. the consensus seems to be that you should find conference and journals to submit to on your own, that its all part of learning the ropes. While I have always seen merit in inquisitiveness and learning by doing, in reality this is not really how academics find out about conferences and journals. Without fellow academics sending CFPs to my by email or social media, I would likely never have known about some of the conferences that have greatly influenced my research agenda and offered improvement and opportunities I would otherwise never have had. Our community is much more connected, and the idea that we all find this information completely on our own is disingenuous. Nor is it great for those conferences and journals, who might be missing out on excellent new research.

I’ve had a consistently good reaction to my posting of CFPs through twitter, facebook and other research blogs so they aren’t going anywhere. But, they won’t show up on the front page. If you’ve seen a CFP and can’t find original the post url then you can look through the list of CFPs by clicking on the category over on the right hand side of the page: 

I’ve gone back through my posts and tidied up the categories, so now it should be much easier to find the posts that you are looking for. These categories are:

  • Books – Book reviews (both academic collections and fiction) and information on books I have contributed to, either as author or editor.
  • Conferences/Journals – Calls for Papers for conferences and journals that fall under the broad spectrum of my research interests in adaptation; myth, fairy tale & folklore; the Gothic; the Monstrous; fantasy and science fiction; children’s literature; popular culture and some of general interest. I usually only list UK conferences, but there are some exceptions.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole – A catch-all category for posts which aren’t directly related to research. Pretty much me doing things other than the tasks I’m supposed to be doing, like Alice.
  • Reading Round-up – Developed from an original blog about reading as a doctoral researcher and building a reading routine by Pat Thomson who blogs at Patter (which you can read here), these are posts where I take a look at me reading strategies and what I’ve actually read over a period of time.
  • Research Groups – Posts in the Spotlight on Research series and guests posts from research/discussion group participants and organisers.
  • Thesis – Posts directly related to my thesis is some way. These will either be about my experiences of writing the thesis or about the actual content. I anticipate that the posts will be dominated by the former until my submission date, at which point I should be in a better position to produce the latter kind.

I’ve also changed the look of the blog a little, and now have a header image (the full version of which you can see below) and blog icon of my own design. Normal posts will resume next week with the next Reading Round-Up and Spotlight on Research posts coming soon.

On Campus: University of Aberdeen between New Kings and the Old Brewery

And if you’re really interested in the spot, you can visit it here.

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@wethehumanities Launches Today (Guest Post)

After seven weeks of preparation, curator-sourcing and generous support, We the Humanities launches today.  It’s the first rotation-curation Twitter account for the humanities, featuring a new guest editor every week who’ll be tweeting about their work or research in the humanities and their other areas of interest.  Set up by Jessica Sage and Kristina West, who are both part-time PhD researchers and sessional lecturers at the University of Reading, the hope is that it will offer a central platform for discussion and news of the humanities in all its forms.

From humble beginnings (a lightbulb moment whilst wearing pyjamas on a Sunday afternoon) the account now has more than 650 followers and 21 brave tweeters who’ve put themselves forward to curate for us.  Today’s launch sees the account being taken over by Louise Jackson, the Head of Learning Enhancement at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.  Future guest editors include a senior lecturer in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, an Assistant Curator in the Sculpture department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and researchers from Norway, New Zealand, Australia and the USA.  We are also looking forward to adding participants from the business world, primary and secondary education and any other discipline associated with or interested in the humanities.

The account’s set-up has been juggled with teaching and finishing a thesis (Jess) and teaching, PhD research and parenting (Krissie) and so it’s with relief as well as excitement that our first curation is underway.  It has been great fun getting to know some of our followers in the last few weeks – and we’ve been overwhelmed by people’s generosity in sharing the initiative, suggesting avenues of publicity and hosting us on their blogs – but this is a project that’s bigger than two individuals.  It’s this spirit of collaboration and the diversity of contributors that we hope will grow the account to reach more people, from those who’ve dedicated their working lives to the humanities to people with a mild curiosity in one particular area.

Although it’s a modest project, we hope that @wethehumanities will contribute to debates about the importance of the discipline and provide entertaining and informative perspectives on an ever-expanding variety of research, interests and hobbies.

You can follow @wethehumanities on Twitter here and you’ll find the blog here.  If you would like to curate for a week the details and sign-up form can be found here.  You can also get in touch with Jess and Krissie with any suggestions or comments that you may have by emailing them at wethehumanities AT gmail DOT com.

LINKS:

We the Humanities: http://www.twitter.com/wethehumanities

Jessica Sage: http://www.twitter.com/jessisreading80

Kristina West: http://www.twitter.com/krisreadsbooks

Louise Jackson: http://wethehumanities.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/2402-02032014-louise-jackson/

Blog: http://wethehumanities.wordpress.com/

For curators: http://wethehumanities.wordpress.com/for-curators-2/

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Goal Setting: Count Down to T-Day

Or “Eeek it’s February already!”

My thesis submission date (or T-Day as it is marked on my calendar) is getting ever closer and I’ve now had feedback on almost all of the new writing I did during November and December. This can only mean that it’s time to start a new round of goal setting and word count focused progress tracking.

Given that it is now February, calling this NaThWriMo seems somewhat out of place. Luckily the fiction writing blogoshphere has come to my rescue once again and given me Writer Recharge 2014.

Writer RechargeThis is a writing challenge hosted by Sara Biren and you can find her original blog post here.  The idea is similar to NaNoWriMo except the goals you set are specific and individually tailored, rather than the motivational but vague ‘write your novel in November’.

What this recognises is that you can’t always give your writing your total and complete focus like those of us taking part in some form of NaNoWriMo do. In November I took time off work and pretty much eschewed all responsibility other than my thesis. While not everyone participating in NaNo can afford to do this, what does inevitably happen is that focusing so fully on something as monumental as a daily output of just under 2,000 words means that you will inevitably have to let other things in your life slide. (Like doing the dishes – my least favourite chore next to ironing.) This level of sustained productivity is not only close to impossible, it can be damaging to your health, wellbeing and your writing in the long term.

This is something I’ve had to come to terms with in January as I returned to work and had demands on my time and attention that I couldn’t push to one side like I had been doing. As Sara points out in her post, we have had a lot of stuff to deal with in January because that’s just how January works – the weather is bad, it feels like it’s dark all the time and we’re suffering from post-festivus blues. What we need is to recharge our batteries and find our writing motivation again.

So, my writing/thesis goals for February are:

  • Write an average of 500 words a day
  • Write something every day
  • Complete the full draft of Chapter 3 by 28th February
  • Finish reading at least 2 whole items from my academic “to read” pile

If you’d like to join me feel free to post your goals in the comments, on Twitter (I’m @kar_took), or sign up to the official challenge on Sara’s blog.

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Essential Writing Aids

Well, November has come and gone and I managed to reach my target of writing 20k words in a month. Then December happened and the inevitable Christmas/New Year productivity slump. I’ve been getting back into the swing of things this week and in honour of that, and in the spirit of looking forward into what is officially The Final Year of thesis writing for me, I thought that a post on those things that I cannot write without. Not so much the books and the plans, the citation guides and the academic blogs that support and shape the content of the thesis. I mean the aids in the actual writing process that make it a little more enjoyable and that, from time to time, stave of the fears and insecurities that will plague any long-term writing project like a thesis.

  1. Sounds

While some people can only work in complete silence, I need sounds to be able to write. Paradoxically, I tend to tune them out once I really get going. This means that I have a fairly specific set of requirements when it comes to what goes on when I’m working. I cycle between a few different options:

  • Music that I’ know all the words too – any music that I could sing along with the majority of the lyrics to, for when I’m in deep writing mode and can easily loose my train of thought. This allows me to tune out when I’m focused on writing and tune back in when I’m taking a momentary pause. I usually play albums on CD or from my iPod in my hi-fi speaker dock.
  • News  – a television news loop, like BBC News, is good because we are already accustomed to tuning out the voices of other people when we need to; loud people on phones, discussion groups in the library, people’s conversations when we’re walking down the street. It also gives you a little “wake up” call periodically when they repeat the headlines on the hour. Which leads nicely into the next option…
  • Classic FM – no lyrics to worry about as well as the handy “wake up”  all of the news on the hour. The downside to this is that, being a commercial radio station, you get interrupted by adverts on occasion. For some reason I find these much harder to tune out.
  • BlinkBox – I initially used we7, but this was bought over by the Tesco owned BlinkBox Music. Despite Tesco’s involvement, it has remained a very good on demand online streaming service. An alternative to DAB and online radio stations, it works a bit like Pandora in the US. You can either choose and artist or genre and BlinkBox will play a station of similar artists/styles or you can choose from their pre-programme stations by things like mood or activity. I’m writing this post to their ‘Energy Boost’ station, but there are loads to choose from. Only the occasional add to listen through, and because they don’t mess around with volume suppression it doesn’t get louder during the adverts.
  • Fire App for Apple TV – we were very lucky to get Apple TV as a wedding present, and I sometimes use the Fire App streamed through this when music is too much. There are also plenty of videos on YouTube that do exactly the same thing for when I’m not in the house.
Temporary writing cave set up at my parents'

Temporary writing cave set up at my parents’

2. Tea – not always the caffeinated kind, but I like it strong and often. Iced only in the height of summer, but hot the rest of the year. This is related to…

30340_10151224116969183_1002324632_n

Macbeth mug from the gift shop at Shakespeare’s Globe

3. Mug du jour – alter depending on mood. A good variety of styles is essential, as is a variation in size and shape.

4. Glasses – switching from contacts to glasses can sometimes be a Godsend. Not only does this stop my eyes from getting tired staring at the computer screen thanks to the anti-glare coating, it also helps my concentration. Odd as it is having my glasses on = serious business. Contacts are for play, glasses are for work. (Just me? Ok…)

5. Writing cape – also known as my black, witchy looking poncho. Just as cosy as a hoddie, but I don’t have to worry about sleaves getting in the way. Warning: do not leave the house wearing it. It is for writing only. No-one else needs to see that.

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November image for last year’s calendar. © Edward Monkton http://www.edwardmonkton.com

6. Leaving the house – remember to get out on occasion. Go see friends, walk around the park, return books to the library and get new ones, even just go to the supermarket rather than booking a delivery. Reminding yourself that there is a world outside your thesis and that it is waiting on you does two things. It gives your brain some breathing space and it motivates you to keep going so that you can finish your PhD and get back out there.

So, over to you. Do you have an essential writing aids that you can’t work without?

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Wanted: Research Groups/Centres

After my post on the Being Non/Human Discussion Group, I got thinking about all of the small but vital research groups that have been instrumental in my development through my PhD. Groups that have given me the opportunity to present my research in welcoming, yet critical environments. Research centres that have brought together . Individuals within those centres or groups who have offered support and helped me build my confidence in my research aims and my academic clout. Academics who have become friends as much as collaborators or research partners.

With this in mind, I’ll be starting a Spotlight on Research series of blog posts here. They will highlight a selection of these small research groups that I have had the pleasure to work with throughout my postgraduate research, some of whom will be familiar names to those of you who read the blog through the CFPs I post here. 

Are there any research groups or centres, either online or “live”, that you’ve found useful and would like features in the blog series? Let me know in the comments or email me directly at karen.graham{at}abdn.ac.uk

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Being Non/Human Discussion Group: Why We Need Research Groups

Earlier in the year I saw a CFP for a graduate and early career researcher interdisciplinary discussion group at King’s College London. This was, as I’m sure you have deduced from the title of this post, the Bering Non/Human discussion group. So far I haven’t been able to attend, as I’ve been down South either just before or just after each of the sessions. A little frustrating for me, however this is alleviated somewhat by their excellent website. The organisers update this regularly with reports from the meetings, as well as information on relevant events, exhibitions and the all-important abstracts for the papers presented in the discussion group.

Most postgraduate students will be familiar with the PG forums or discussion groups that usually exist within their own departments or colleges. These can be lively and vital life lines for PG researchers, especially those writing dissertations or theses as they tend to spend a lot of time alone with their research and their computer, with only supervisor(s) for regular research discussions. This is especially the case for students like me who do not live on campus and travel in only once or twice a week.

While the PG forums or seminar groups within your department can offer a great opportunity to present and hear research, to test your arguments, and to be inspired by others’, they can also at times be utterly irrelevant to your own focus as in any one department there can be a very broad range of research topics. Discussion groups like the Being Non/Human group differ from the departmental PG forum in that they offer all the benefits of conference attendance where everyone is in the same research area, with the benefits of the PG forum where papers are not expected to be fully rounded, complete research.

Upcoming sessions:

9th December 2013:

13th January 2014:

3rd February 2014:

10th March 2014:

7th April 2014:

12th May 2014:

  • speakers to be confirmed

2nd June 2014:

Previous sessions, for information:

14th October 2013:

11th November 2013:

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Update: NaThiWriMo Take 2

It’s been a while since I posted a blog anywhere, but the silence on here has been deafening of late. Even the CFPs have dried up on here, mostly because I’m on a self-imposed conference paper ban and have therefore been avoiding checking CFPs so that I don’t feel I’m missing out. (Edit: I’ve just posted a CFP. It’s a conference about Heroes and Monsters and I couldn’t help myself. *shrug*)

For now the main thing I am doing is writing and trying to stop myself from getting distracted. Last year I posted up about using the NaNoWriMo fever to inspire and focus work on the thesis. As happens with many good NaNo intentions every year for a number, this quickly fell by the wayside for me. This year I haven’t made an formal commitment to writing to the extent that NaNoers do, but I have written for the thesis every day with a minimum output of 500 words. I had hoped to do more, but so far since the start of November I have managed a little under 13,000 words. In light of the NaNoers I know who are posting 20-30,000 words by this stage it doesn’t seem like a lot but it is the most intense burst of writing I’ve had in quite a while, and I still have a good couple of weeks to go before I have to come out of my writing cave.

My strategy for writing up, as it turns out that’s what you call this panicked fluster at this stage on the PhD is getting words on paper. I’ve given myself a loose target and calculated what I need to do on average each day to achieve it. At the beginning of each day I write down in my notebook my updated word count from the previous day’s writing and stick a post-it note on my laptop with my new starting point. This means that I don’t think in big numbers, just in the hundreds and that focus on quantity has managed to, for the most part, suppress the urges of my inner editor.

It’s definitely a case of quantity over quality, but since the stress about getting ‘good’ words is what paralyzed me for most of the second half of this year that’s a good thing. It is, I think, the very spirit of NaNoWriMo to get over the fear that what you write will not live up to that perfect shining idea that you held in your head and construct something real.

Perhaps, if I’m very lucky, I’ll finally be able to do the same with my beautiful, untouched novel this time next year. But not if I don’t get back to the thesis right now.

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Building a Reading Routine

I remember seeing somewhere that the idea proposed in the latter part the 20th century that reading as a skill was going into an irreversible decline hadn’t reckoned on the invention of the smart phone. It is, they argued, more uncommon to see someone not reading as they walk down the street now that we are all plugged in to the world wide web almost continually. Where people used to turn on the radio or watch the television or read the newspaper first thing in the morning, now they check Facebook and Twitter as soon as they wake up. I know that it is part of my routine.

In that sense, we are constantly reading. However, as a doctoral student reading is something that we have to be more aware of, and an activity that we need to participate in critically. I follow many academics and other professional writers on Twitter, Blogger and WordPress and it can be easy to convince myself that this kind of reading is productive. In a sense it is, but while many of the blogs and tweets and links can be intellectually stimulating, they are still procrastination. More often than not they are procrastination not from writing the thesis, but from reading for the thesis.

As Pat Thomson points out in her blog on reading as a doctoral student, there exists a plethora of advice and support for building up a good writing routine, but very little for building a good reading routine:

“If you’ve not had a reading routine before, and if you’re not used to working with large quantities of texts, then setting one up may not be as simple as it seems. It may not be too different from starting up an exercise regime or changing eating patterns. It’s something new. You haven’t done it before. It’s easy to start out with good intentions and then lapse and feel guilty. Unless you have enormous will power (and you know if this is the case this better than anyone), starting any new routine can benefit from support.”

Many of the comments on Thomson’s post mention something that I have heard a lot from other students and that I recognise in myself: downloading/printing a large amount of journal articles or papers, and letting them pile up. I have a rather healthy stack of papers that I have found and not yet found the time to read. All despite finding the time to read many other, non-thesis related stuff. I call the time I loose to this falling down the rabbit hole, hence the category of a lot of posts on the blog.

As with writing, this can be remedied by a properly structured routine. Part of this routine for me is going to be posting up here blogs about what I’ve read each week, and a little bit about the most interesting aspects of these. I’ll do this every Sunday in the Weekly Reading Update. In addition to this, I’ll also be joining in @MomentsofGuffaw‘s  #Read1Mon on twitter, where we all take an article from our backlog and tweet about it.

What about you? How do you stay motivated to read? How does your reading routine work?

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What’s the difference between an author and a writer?

The TV in our hotel room only really had one proper working channel when we were down in London. We hadn’t been too bothered, as we weren’t really there for watching TV and since the channel was BBC 1 that covered what little we usually did watch on a Saturday or Sunday morning (news, BBC Breakfast and Saturday Kitchen).  When I emerged from the en-suite I was greeted by a question from Husband; “What’s the difference between an author and a writer?” Presumably related to the introduction of a guest on Breakfast.  Husband often asks profound and provocative questions of me without realising that that’s what he’s done. What he wants, sometimes, is what I think of as a dictionary entry answer – an author is x, a writer is y – but what he often gets is treaties on the meaning and construction of language and identity that elicit the response of “you’d be a great politician”. For once, I gave him an answer that wasn’t long and convoluted, most often indicated by my opening statement of “Well, it depends…” What he got instead was the response of “Well, I’m a writer, but I’m not an author.” This seemed very clear to him. “Like the difference between a cook and a chef?” he asked, picking up on an aspect of an ongoing conversation about why my Mother, despite professionally running kitchens and catering companies throughout her career, describes herself as a cook while the people we watch on TV are referred to as chefs. Knowing that being a cook, rather than a chef, doesn’t meant that my Mother isn’t cooking in a professional capacity helps to clarify that the difference is not that of amateur and professional, but between professionals.

I wouldn’t have thought much about this conversation if it wasn’t for reading Explorations of Style’s recent article on the importance of identifying yourself as a writer:

“Writing can be changed by the explicit adoption of the writer persona in two ways. In the first place, being a writer suggests a particular practical orientation towards the way writing fits into your life. And, in the second, being a writer suggests a more conscious awareness of writing as an intellectually complex process of transforming inchoate thoughts into meaningful text.”

I’ve spoken and written about the perceived differences between academic and creative writing before, and I maintain that this is a false distinction. I am no less a writer than the person who writes regularly for an online magazine, or a newspaper. I write in a professional capacity that has nothing to do with how much I get paid for it, or whether I’m creating something factual or fictional.

The problem with this distinction is, for me, two fold. The first is pointed out in the article, when Cayley discusses her students willingly taking on the identity of ‘bad writer’ in reaction to their struggle with academic writing, but missing out on the positives that come with the identity of ‘writer’. Therefore the academic has all of the negative associations, and the creative writer all the positive ones. The second is that it creates an artificial barrier between these two types of writers which in turn leads to distrust. While a good creative writing programme, either in schools, colleges or universities, integrates theory and practice to develop the students’ understanding of the writing process as well as their craft. This, however, is far from the norm and I have heard many experiences where creative writing students were seen as money makers and were essentially left to their own devices to write their novel – something that they didn’t need to pay to do. This same experience is my memory of creative writing in school, and the idea behind this that anyone can write without training, guidance or support devalues the study of literature also. Or rather, it fosters this distinction between ‘writing’ and ‘literature’ and if we continue to proclaim the Romantic fallacy of the individual production of literature in a vacuum, we may well miss out on the opportunity to encounter wonderful art because it falls into a category of writing that can be ‘taught’.

I might not write fiction, and am certainly no author, but I write as a professional. As Cayley says in her article, “saying ‘I am a writer’ isn’t like saying ‘I was born a writer, but am somehow failing to live up to this legacy’. ” Instead, it is acknowledging the effort and craft that it takes to clearly construct meaning between writer and reader. It is acknowledging that, rather than a chore that we must sacrifice our time to, the crafting of language into meaning is the most important part of our academic life.

I am a writer.

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What happened to 2012?

So, NaThWriMo was an unmitigated disaster. November disappeared into the black hole that was the book I’ve been co-editing, and December pretty much went the same way. (Edit: And now January has gone a similar way. *Gulp*)

While this was bad news in the short term for the progress of my thesis, I recognise that it was good news in the long term for a couple of main reasons. Firstly, I’m co-editor of an awesome collection of inter-disciplinary research. The E-Book will come out later this year, and it’s with the publishers at the moment for final checks  so I can’t reveal anything like the title. I can tell you that it’s research from the 10th Global Monsters and the Monstrous conference that was held in September 2012 and that  all of the chapters offer interesting and insightful commentary on various incarnations of the monstrous in art, film and literature. Secondly, I’m also the author of a chapter in the same book so sometime next month I’ll have another publication to my name – this time one directly related to my thesis project. As soon as I’m allowed I’ll post information about the publication here.

dorothy-accurate-but-misleading-demotivational-posters-1293582099I’m just back from the wonderful Returning to Oz: the Afterlife of Dorothy conference in Manchester, where I listened to a keynote and questioned the man himself. Yep, I spoke to Gregory Maguire.

The conference was live tweeted using the hashtag #dorothycon and you can see the results here. The hope is to produce an academic publication related to the papers presented at the conference. Considering that the keynotes were given by Geoff Ryman, author of Was and Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked this is a pretty exciting prospect.

Oh, and I might be in it as well.

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NaThWriMo: Or How the NaNoWriMo Fever Can Help You Write Your Thesis

It’s now officially November, and the blogosphere is buzzing with the optimism of the first few days of National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.

Having presented at two rather large conferences in August and September, and gotten married in October progress on the thesis has been somewhat…slow. I’m not alone in this, and as the dark nights draw in and we’re less inclined to venture out of an evening and instead cuddle up on the sofa with the heating on it seems the perfect time to remedy this.

When discussing how to get motivated into actual writing with a fellow PhD student who is consequently also a friend from my Undergraduate degree, we talked about going into ‘Hermit Mode’ or having a ‘lock-in’ like we did when the deadlines inevitably converged at the end of a semester and we pledged to support one another. At the same time my blogroll on my other, personal blog was filled with writers getting started on NaNoWriMo.

This had me thinking about the connections between creative and academic writing, something I feel is both legitimate and overlooked, and I thought that using the concept of NaNoWriMo for our Thesis writing could be just what we need.

I’m not the only one to think of this, and there are a few blogs discussing NaThWriMo such as this one which was started back in 2008, but nothing more recent than this. In light of this I’ve decided to start NaThWriMo myself, and I’ll be bloging here (and cross-posting with my personal blog) and starting a Facebook group for anyone else who wants to join me.

Right. A thesis in a month. I can do this…sure.

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Do The Wizard of Oz

My thesis looks at new myth in contemporary fiction, and for this I’m currently looking at the mythic status of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the 1939 MGM film adaptation. It is one of those research avenues that is both well established, and conversely a rarely traveled road. By that I mean that plenty has been written on ‘myth and Oz’,  but there is very little agreement or even cross referencing among the critics. Some of the theory is maddeningly vague and simplistic, and some is overly complicated. That is just the nature of research, and something I have to work through to find the ‘good stuff’ that’s locked up in some of the more obscure secondary texts.

I’ve recently returned from the 10th Global Monsters and the Monstrous conference held at Mansfield College, Oxford by Inter-Disciplinary.Net. It was the subtitle of this conference – Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil – that drew me to the conference and got me thinking about the nature of evil and the innovative constructions of identity I was looking at in my thesis. In discussing my own use of the term ‘myth’ and establishing the Oz narratives as myth I wanted to show the following clip of performer Bobby McFerrin:

[Apologies for the poor video quality, the better quality recording was taken down.]

To me this performance displays the way that the sights and sounds of narratives, through ritualistic repetition in a sacred-like space (theatre, cinema, gallery, museum, library) take on an iconic quality which is the first stage for transforming prose narratives into myth.

The comment bellow [original] the video from an audience member is vital in understanding how this performance puts forward a strikingly coherent argument that this is truly a modern myth. This Audience member explains that they mistook the cry from the crowd of ‘Do the Wizard of Oz!’ as them being unable to remember the name of the 1939 film’s main theme song Over the Rainbow: 

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw this. The audience kept calling out, “Do ‘The Wizard of Oz’!” and when he started this song, I thought, “Oh, they just couldn’t think of the title of ‘Over the Rainbow.” BUT NO! The man started doing the whole Wizard of Oz!!!! It was a-MA-zing. It was 1987, and I’d only even found out about the concert because I’d made a wrong turn on the way home from college and wandered into the signal of North Texas State University. Thank heaven for getting lost!” (tejaswoman)

A few things about this video and the comment stand out for me. The interaction between McFerrin and the audience reminds me of learning about Beowulf during my undergraduate; specifically the different translations of the call to listen ‘Hwæt!’ and how this was indicative of the performance of the poem, designed to carry over the noisy Hall and enthral the inhabitants.

The particular instances that are picked out also seem, to me, to be highly significant. Yes, Over the Rainbow starts the performance off, but many of the most memorable of the spoken lines which creep in belong to the Witch. So much is conveyed in the repetition of “poppies”, and it would not be The Wizard of Oz without “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too.” I was comparing Dorothy’s acquisition of the Ruby Slippers in Baum’s book and the 1939 film in my recent chapter, and so had to transcribe the dialogue from the film. I know that I have seen the film many, many times but nonetheless I surprised myself with just how much I could do from memory, without having watched the film recently.

The easiest lines to remember were Margaret Hamilton’s, and I think it is no coincidence that Bobbly McFerrin concludes with the melting of the Wicked Witch.

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Call For Papers: Transnational Monstrosity in Popular Culture

Saturday 3rd June 2017, York St John University

This one-day conference will explore the figure of the monster in transnational popular culture, across cinema, television, games, comics and literature, as well as through fandoms attached to global monster cultures. It is our intention to bring together researchers to consider how transnational monstrosity is constructed, represented and disseminated in global popular culture.

Since the popularisation of monster narratives in the nineteenth century, the monstrous figure has been a consistent border crosser, from Count Dracula’s journey on the Demeter from Romania to Whitby, to the rampaging monsters of Godzilla movies across multiple global cities. In folklore, such narratives have long been subject to specific local and national cultures, such as the shape-shifting Aswang of Filipino folklore or the Norwegian forest Huldra, yet global mediacapes now circulate mediatised representations of such myths across borders, contributing to a transnational genre that spans multiple media. Aihwa Ong has referred to ‘the transversal, the transactional, the translational, and the transgressive’ in transnational ‘human practices and cultural logics’, and each of these categories can encompass the scope of transformations imagined within cross-border constructions of monstrosity.

There has been significant recent interest in the ways in which transnationality, particularly in film studies, has depicted flows of people and demonstrated lines of cultural flow. This conference will explore cultural flow as it relates to the construction of a transnational genre (by producers and audiences), but will also explore the ramifications of representations of monstrosity in socio-political terms. The event also intends to engage with the ways in which monsters metaphorically represent forms of social and political otherness as they relate to cross-cultural or transnational forms and social groups, either directly or indirectly. Monstrosity has long been explored in a number of ways that connect gender, sexuality, class, race, nationality and other forms of otherness with depictions of monsters or monstrosity. The representation of refugees across Europe has been just one example of the ways in which cross-border monstrosity and otherness are culturally fused, with media outlets and political figures contributing to the repeated representation of refugees as a monstrous ‘swarm’ moving into and across European borders.

While the study of monsters in fiction is nothing new, the examination of the figure of the monster from a transnational perspective offers the opportunity to better understand: issues of cultural production and influence; the relationship between national cultures and transnational formations; hierarchies of cultural production; diasporic flows; the ethics of transnationalism; as well as the possibility to explore how shifting cultural and political boundaries have been represented through tropes of monstrosity. Hence, this conference seeks to offer new insights into the nature of transnational cultures and help us to understand how one of the oldest fictional metaphors has been transformed during the age of globalisation.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers, on topics around transnational monsters and monstrosity. Possible themes might include (but are not limited to):

Monstrous-genders/sexualities/ethnicities: transnational approaches to femininity and/or sexuality as monstrous or othered; interpretations of otherness in cross-cultural or comparative approaches.

Monster fandoms: transnational fandoms around monsters, or representations of monstrosity, which might include Whitby Dracula pilgrimages, kaijū eiga, or Pokemon.

Transnational horror and the monster: approaches to investigating particular monster tropes in comparative national cultures or across media that might include the figure of monsters in the slasher film, or the transnational appropriation of folkloric monsters in horror games such as the Wendigo in Until Dawn.

The transnational monster genre: theoretical explorations of the genericity of monster narratives and their relationships with national and transnational cultures (including regional approaches to affinitive transnational areas, such as Scandinavia or Latin America).

Reimagining monsters: cross-cultural appropriations of specific monster figures; issues of cultural power and difference within appropriations that might include Dracula, Godzilla, King Kong or zombies.

Monster as metaphor: cultural metaphors relevant to the figure of the monster as it relates to transnational, cross-border concerns, which might include the reflection of concerns about migration in The Walking Dead and the potential impact of those metaphors.

Proposals are welcomed on any other relevant topics

Please send proposals of 300 words, along with a brief biography (50 words), to transnationalmonsters@gmail.com by Wednesday the 1st of March 2017.

We will be announcing details of our invited speakers early in 2017.

Follow @TNMonstrosity on Twitter.

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CFP: Literary London 13–14 July 2017

‘Fantastic London: Dream, Speculation and Nightmare’

Hosted by the Institute of English Studies, University of London Joseph Gandy, ‘Bank of England as a Ruin’, 1830, Oil on Canvas, Soane Museum, London 



Call for Papers (deadline: 1 February 2017)
Proposals are invited for papers, comprised panels, and roundtable sessions, which consider any period or genre of literature about, set in, inspired by, or alluding to central and suburban London and its environs, from the city’s roots in pre-Roman times to its imagined futures. While the main focus of the conference will be on literary texts, we actively encourage interdisciplinary contributions relating to film, architecture, visual arts, topography and theories of urban space. Papers from postgraduate students are particularly welcome for consideration. Indicative topics and writers who might be addressed:

  • Gaslight romance, the urban gothic, London noir, steampunk & speculative poetry
  • Future catastrophes, technological dystopias, nightmares of policing & surveillance
  • Forms of fictional flight into alternate ontologies of nationhood and urban belonging
  • Architectural caprice, replication and ruin in the development of the built environment
  • Stories of financial catastrophe, uncertain inheritance and precarious fortune
  • The search for ontological wholeness in a divided, doubled or allotropic city
  • The uncanny, arabesque and magical excrescences of the urban everyday
  • Dramatizing the life of hidden underworlds, anti-worlds & allegorical environments
  • The Weird: H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Lord Dusany, M. John Harrison
  • ‘Elsewheres’: Doris Lessing, William Morris, J. G. Ballard, Jean Rhys, Anthony Burgess
  • Urban Gothic: Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Thomas De Quincey, Charles Dickens
  • Underworlds: Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Michael Moorcock, Michèle Roberts
  • Make-believe: J. M. Barrie, Cassandra Clare, Philip Reeve, Christina Rossetti, John Clute

Please submit all proposals using the links under ‘Conference’ above. If you have any queries, please contact the conference organiser Dr Peter Jones at conference at literarylondon dot org

The conference location is the Institute of English Studies, University of London. For more information about the institute, please go to http://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/.

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CFP: Reimagining the Gothic 2017: Gothic Spaces

Sheffield Gothic is pleased to announce our new 2017 conference and showcase event:

Reimagining the Gothic: Gothic Spaces.

The event will take place 12-13th May 2017.

Reimagining the Gothic is an ongoing project that seeks to explore how the Gothic can be re-read, re-analysed, and re-imagined. We encourage both public interest and new academic avenues from students and scholars who wish to present on the Gothic using interdisciplinary and creative methods. Papers for Reimagining the Gothic: Gothic Spaces should explore the use of Spaces within the Gothic: how space has developed over the decades (from architecture, urban, and eco spaces), the ways that space is used to reflect and explore key themes of the Gothic, and to what extent spaces are integral to the Gothic.

The symposium is open to all postgraduates and early career researchers of any field, and joint interdisciplinary papers are most welcome. We are inviting the submission of abstracts papers, which should be no more than 200 words, to be sent to Sheffield Gothic at reimagininggoth15@gmail.com.

In addition to conventional papers, we are also inviting proposals for papers with creative or performative elements such as artwork, photography, audio-visual pieces, dramatic readings or performances (be these live or pre-recorded). If you would like more information, please contact us. The deadline for submissions is 6th February 2017

.As Reimagining the Gothic is a project that seeks to encourage new and unique thoughts about the Gothic: we will consider all submissions, and topics may include, but are not limited to:

  •         Eco-gothic
  •         Gothic architecture
  •         Southern Gothic
  •         Urban/ City Gothic
  •         Post 9/11 spaces
  •         Post-colonial Gothic
  •         Global Gothic
  •         Science fiction and space
  •         The Gothic body
  •         The space of the Gothic text and paratexts
  •         Religious spaces

The nature of the event also means that the criteria for submissions are extremely open, and we welcome papers from any discipline.

As always, these are simply suggestions. We hope to make the symposium as diverse as possible and so submissions of all natures are welcome.

We will also be hosting an interactive creative showcase on the same theme. Any applicants who wish to display their topic creatively in a public display are welcome to include a showcasing idea with their abstracts. For more information, please contact us at reimagininggoth15@gmail.com or see below for more information:

As part of a two day long event to be centred on theme of ‘Gothic Spaces, following the incredible response we have had to our previous events, Sheffield Gothic will be holding a creative showcase of art and interactive activities on Saturday the 13th of May, 2017. As Reimagining the Gothic is a project that seeks to encourage new and unique thoughts about the Gothic, we are inviting creative submissions to display during the event and will consider any and all submissions related to the conference theme.

Reimagining the Gothic is an ongoing project that seeks to explore how the Gothic can be re-read, re-analysed, and re-imagined.  The showcase aims to encourage both public interests in Gothic by using creative and interactive methods, as well as new academic avenues. Projects for Reimagining the Gothic: Gothic Spaces should explore the use of of Spaces within the Gothic: how space has developed over the decades (from architecture, urban, and eco spaces), the ways that space is used to reflect and explore key themes of the Gothic, and to what extent spaces are integral to the Gothic.

The nature of the event means that the criteria for submissions are extremely open. However suggestions for projects include:

  •         Photographic series
  •         Storytelling and creative writing
  •         Music and composition
  •         Costume and cosplay
  •         Artistic reimaginings of Gothic spaces
  •         Dramatic pieces and displays
  •         Film and video

Abstracts for submissions should be emailed to reimagininggoth15@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is the 6th of March. If you would like to be involved, but have no specific project in mind then please do email us as we will be coordinating projects run by members of Sheffield Gothic. In addition to the showcase, our academic symposium will be taking place on Friday the 12th May and delegates are encouraged to submit to both events if they wish.

To find out more about Sheffield Gothic and to explore previous events please visit: http://sheffieldgothicreadinggroup.blogspot.co.uk and https://reimagininggothic.wordpress.com/

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CFP: All about Cinderella: retellings in the cultural imagination

University of Bedfordshire, 9-10 June 2017

Three-hundred and nineteen years since the publication of Charles Perrault’s famous Histories du Temps Passé, the myth of Cinderella remains integral to many current facets of our cultures. Inspired by the University of Bedfordshire’s collection of scripts, books, theatrical memorabilia, designs, ephemera on Cinderella and organised by the Research Institute for Media, Arts and Performance, this conference focuses on the role of performance and storytelling as a way to analyse moments of significant artistic, cultural and social change.

The interdisciplinary event will provide an open debate about this ever-present story from different cultural perspectives across the world and we invite abstracts of 300 words for 20 minute papers. Possible themes include:

  • Cinderella narratives and metaphors
  • Cinderella on screen and stage
  • Transnational Cinderella
  • The publishing of Cinderella
  • Victorian Cinderella
  • Cinderella and design
  • Adaptations of the Cinderella story
  • The psychology of Cinderella

Non-traditional proposals featuring collaborative papers, practice-led research, video-essays, elements of performance etc. where they increase our knowledge of the role of re-narration of fairy tales in artistic, cultural and social change are actively encouraged. RIMAP wishes to offer a prize for the best Postgraduate proposal.

Please include the following with your abstract:

  • Collaborators’ and presenters’ names, addresses, affiliations, contact details in a short biography, together with a URL to a sample of work (if appropriate). Please state if you are a postgraduate research student.
  • Description of the presentation/performance/screening 300 words max (if appropriate)
  • Technical or space requirements
  • Duration (the standard duration is 20 minutes but you may request multiples)

Please send your abstracts and support documentation tocinderella@beds.ac.uk by 11.30pm on 9th December 2016. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 3rd February 2017.

More information about the conference will be posted on the conference website: www.beds.ac.uk/cinderella and on Twitter @cinderellaconf

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