IGA 2024 Postgraduate/Graduate Student Bursaries

Are you attending the IGA Conference in Halifax this year? If you are an IGA member and a (post)graduate student (Masters or PhD) you are eligible to apply for a bursary to support your travel expenses! Simply fill in our application form by 15 June 2024.

You can find the Postgraduate Student Bursary Application form here.

 

 

 

Gothic Studies Opportunity

Gothic Studies, the journal of the International Gothic Association, is currently inviting expressions of interest in the role of chief editor. Applicants should submit a CV and covering letter addressing the requirements in the job description to info@globalgoth.org by 15 June 2024. Please note this role is only open to current members of the International Gothic Association.

The full job description and person spec is below and you can also find it here.

Editor (Gothic Studies)

Role Description

Person Specification

Final Longlists announced for the International Gothic Association Book Prizes 2024

It is a pleasure to announce the final longlists of all the nominations received for the two IGA book Prizes.

Please see this post for the rationale around the short extension period. All nominations were longlisted. Warm thanks are due to Matt Foley for his work as Secretary to the Prize Committees. The following nominations were received in each category: 

Longlist for the Allan Lloyd Smith Prize for Best Monograph 2024

Amy Bride, Financial Gothic: Monsterized Capitalism in American Gothic Fiction (University of Wales Press, 2023)

Renée Fox, The Necromantics: Reanimation, the Historical Imagination, and Victorian British and Irish Literature (Ohio State University Press, 2023)

Chloé Germaine, The Dark Matter of Children’s ‘Fantastika’ Literature: Speculative Entanglements (Bloomsbury, 2023)

Ruth Heholt and Tanya Krzywinska, Gothic Kernow: Cornwall as Strange Fiction (Anthem Press 2022)

Sam Hirst, Theology in the Early British and Irish Gothic, 1764-1834 (Anthem Press, 2023)

William Hughes, The Dome of Thought: Phrenology and the Victorian Popular Imagination (Manchester University Press, 2022)

Laura Kremmel, Romantic Medicine and the Gothic Imagination: Morbid Anatomies (University of Wales Press, 2022)

Bernice Murphy, The California Gothic in Fiction and Film (Edinburgh University Press, 2022)

Jamil Mustafa, The Blaxploitation Horror Film: Adaptation, Appropriation and the Gothic (University of Wales Press, 2023)

Joan Passey, Cornish Gothic 1830-1913 (University of Wales Press, 2023)

Heather Petrocelli, Queer for Fear (University of Wales Press, 2023)

Faye Ringel, The Gothic Literature and History of New England: Secrets of the Restless Dead (Anthem, 2022)

Andrew Smith, Gothic Fiction and the Writing of Trauma, 1914-1934: The Ghosts of World War One (Edinburgh University Press, 2022)

Jeffrey Weinstock, Gothic Things: Dark Enchantment and Anthropocene Anxiety (Fordham University Press, 2023)

Longlist for the Justin D. Edwards Prize for Best Edited Collection 2024

Simon Bacon (ed.), Future Folk Horror: Contemporary Anxieties and Possible Futures (Rowman and Littlefield, 2023)

Simon Bacon (ed.), The Evolution of Horror in the Twenty-First Century (Lexington Books, 2023) 

Louis Bayman and Kevin Donnelly (eds.), Folk Horror On Film: The Return of the British Repressed (Manchester University Press, 2023)

Rebecca Duncan (ed.), The Edinburgh Companion to Globalgothic (Edinburgh University Press, 2023)

Sue Edney (ed.), EcoGothic Gardens in the Long Nineteenth Century (Manchester University Press, 2020)

Justin Edwards, Rune Graulund and Johan Hoglund (eds.), Dark Scenes from Damaged Earth: The Gothic Anthropocene (Minnesota University Press, 2022)

Sam George and Bill Hughes (eds.), In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children (Manchester University Press, 2020)

Karen Grumberg (ed.), Middle Eastern Gothic (University of Wales Press, 2023)

Ardel Haefele-Thomas (ed.), Queer Gothic (Edinburgh University Press, 2023)

Tina Morin and Jarlath Killeen (ed.), Irish Gothic (Edinburgh University Press, 2023)

Marie Mulvey-Roberts (ed.), The Arts of Angela Carter: A Cabinet of Curiosities (Manchester University Press, 2019) 

Sorcha Ni Fhlainn and Bernice M. Murphy (eds.), Twentieth-Century Gothic (Edinburgh University Press, 2022)

Dale Townshend, Angela Wright and Catherine Spooner (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Gothic, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020-2021)

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock (ed.), The Monster Theory Reader (University of Minnesota Press, 2020)

 

A panel of past Presidents and winners will assess the nominations. The Chair for the prize panels is Sara Wasson. The Secretary for the prize is Matt Foley. A shortlist will be published on the IGA website by the middle of July. The prizes will be presented (or, if a winning author is not present, announced) during the conference which, this year, is hosted at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia, Canada, in late July.

Congratulations to all nominees!

My First Encounters with the Gothic: How I became a Dedicatee of the Dark

I have always been drawn to the dark side. My parents are not into the Gothic, but they unwittingly provided plenty of paths that led me to a fascination with the weird and the wicked. Like Dr Henry Jekyll, I believe this capacity lies within us all – if (in)appropriately triggered in childhood. For those of us lucky enough to be given this early training in terror, the Gothic can take on a darkly delicious nostalgia later in life; a feeling of being at home, a reassuringly unheimlich home.

For me, it was a plethora of encounters from illicit Friday night viewings of Hammer Horrors, Hitchcocks, creature features, and curiosity shows about drinking blood on the tiny TV bracketed on my bedroom wall. The morbidity of Michael Burke’s 999 held the power to entice me back indoors in the long summer nights of the nineties. I was that child in primary school propagating rumours of the murderous ‘Blue Lady’ haunting the toilets – terrified, and loving it. Trips to the London, York, and Edinburgh Dungeons and ‘Chamber of Horrors’, with their creepy waxwork depictions of tortured criminals, fuelled my fire for the fiendish. It was in this chilling chamber’s gift shop that, aged nine, I began my ever-growing Gothic library, with a book by George Riley Scott, full of disturbing medieval woodcuts, entitled The History of Torture.  

As a teenager and young adult, I graduated to horror cult classics: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), and Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and relished the death trap depravity of James Wan’s Saw (2004) at the cinema. I surrounded myself with others who delighted in the dark: a budding horror film maker and Rocky Horror obsessive, a zombie aficionado, a special effects make-up artist, and a flat mate prankster who planted eyeless doll heads under the covers and Cousin Itts in the cupboard. Alongside this, I was devouring Jane Eyre (1847), Wuthering Heights (1847), Dracula (1897), The Turn of the Screw (1898), Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), The Woman in White (1860), In a Glass Darkly (1872), Victorian ghost stories, and everything by Ann Radcliffe, Edgar Allan Poe, and Shirley Jackson. I decided to make it my life’s work to devour the entire canon, so a PhD on the Brontës and Daphne du Maurier was inevitable. 

I fell in love with Gothic literature because it takes us beyond the daylight rigidity of defined categories, inviting us to revel in ambiguity, heightened states of emotion and passion, the frowned-upon recesses of humanity. Even if the Gothic novel winds up containing all this safely within a box, the Gothic is where the darkness is given a day out to parade in full, unashamed glory. Re-reading Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde recently reinforces my conviction that Gothic is a necessary life-force for the soul; however ‘wicked’ its leanings, one must need ‘strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty’. Gothic is transgressive, subversive, and liminal; it flouts in the face of the stuffy, stifling rules of ‘reality’. The Gothic’s interpretation of what ‘reality’ is – that it is multifarious, elliptical, contingent, and unstable – is, for me, the genre’s most alluring and powerful aspect. The death-obsessed Gothic taught me how to live. For that, I’ll never give up on the Gothic. 

By Helena Habibi

My First Encounter with the Gothic… And the Fascination It Triggered

I remember quite correctly the first time I saw a goth person. It was on TV. In the west part of Québec, the city where I grew up, non-conventional looking people were — and still are — a rare sight. Plus, my family was never really fond of gothic literature, let alone goth rock or horror movies. The forbidden attracts, I guess.

In my early teenage years, I avidly watched American crime solving TV series NCIS and one of the characters, forensic Abby Sciuto, struck my imagination with her spider web tattoos, black pigtails, chokers, knee-high platform boots and her taste for industrial artists Android Lust and Nitzer Ebb she would blast in her lab. The 13-year-old I was had never encountered someone like this in real life or even on screen. Abby was also smart, eccentric, upbeat, compassionate, optimistic and dedicated to her work. I was left with one consequential and significant first impression: goth was a positive thing. It went down as the first time I encountered something I knew was ‘gothic’.

What truly made me dive into the rabbit hole of gothic was a mainstream TV show about the investigation service of the U. S. Navy. I know. How ungoth. But the fact remained Abby had opened my mind. Curious in nature, I progressively began searching on what gothic meant. I wanted to know more. From high school to university, I was given opportunities to satisfy that thirst. It started with the poems of Baudelaire and Prosper Mérimée’s 1837 fantastic novel La Vénus d’Ille in literature class. One year in English class, we read a collection of short gothic novels. It is the only English school books I kept after high school.

As I always do when I discover works of art that resonate with me, I dig deeper to know more about the genius(es) behind them. My encounter with Edgar Allan Poe (both the man and his work) was a huge step in my addiction. For those who are wandering, yes, it is possible to be hooked to writers who master the English language via French translations, even more so when translators are poets like Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé. This was particularly true about The Raven, for beyond its rhymes and hypnotic rhythm addressed universal themes, such as the sinister creeping of despair caused by mourning, ultimately morphing into madness.

The gothic had infiltrated my fiction writing, my photographs, and even my academic research. My decision to complete a master’s degree and my choice of master thesis subject was practically based on the fact I wanted to talk about goths’ representation in the media. So, I conciliated that with my interest for the sociological aspect of violence and spent a couple of years researching about the instrumentalization of the Columbine High School shooting. But by that time, I had figured out what my real first encounter with the gothic really was. 

A film I watched repeatedly back in my preschool years was Disney’s 1940 Fantasia, its beautiful drawings and its larger-than-life orchestra music. In Fantasia, one segment used to scare me more than others: the one with the bat-winged demon on top of a mountain, calling for the ghostly skeletons to come out of their graves. The Night on the Bald Mountain by Modeste Mussorgsky which accompanied the animation was frightening in itself. Cold shades of blue and purple contrasting with the bright orange of Hell’s fire, emphasized by the dark minor scale and the musical arrangement made the segment gothic for eyes and ears. It later became my favorite part. 

A classic case of ‘It was there all along’.

Not long after I had discovered Fantasia, I received the 1949 Disney’s adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on VHS that became our family’s Halloween classic. Was I scared? Due to my very young age, maybe a little. But the fascination for the last scene’s gloomy settings — a Halloween party, an old cemetery, a chase through a creepy forest, and a hefty dose of dark secondary colors — overshadowed the fear. To a 5–6-year-old’s eyes, these images were uncommon, uncanny, unreal, so different from everything else. Those images had something magical. Fear went away quickly.

By Léon Isabelle

CFP: Devils and Justified Sinners – 2024 Conference

An ONLINE conference on 24th and 25th August 2024 marking the 200th anniversary of James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

REVISED SUBMISSION DATE: 31st MARCH 2024

The conference is entirely online and is open to scholars and experts from around the world.

In 1824, the Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg, wrote his The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Its intricate narrative structure, complex interrogation of theological extremism, and unforgettable depiction of the demonic made it a pivotal novel in the development of the British Gothic and a distinct Scottish Gothic tradition. This year’s conference seeks to mark the anniversary of the novel’s publication with a conference exploring three key themes:

1) The theological in the Gothic and horror

2) The demonic in literature, folklore and film

3) Scottish Gothic and horror traditions

We welcome papers focusing on demonic and theological traditions globally. We are particularly interested in increasing the number of papers by speakers from the Global South. We define theology broadly in relation to all religious, spiritual and belief systems across the globe. We also welcome approaches which explore practices merging different religious traditions and elements. We particularly encourage papers which engage with historic theologies, religions and spiritual practices. The demonic should, similarly, be understood broadly and interrogated in relation to evil spirits, entities or forces as defined by and within the religious, spiritual and belief systems with which the speakers are engaging.

Romancing the Gothic seeks to encourage innovative conversations across barriers, bringing together scholarship and research from different countries, traditions, sub-fields and perspectives.

We welcome scholars, researchers and experts from all stages of their career and from every background

What are we looking for?

We welcome:

  • 20 minute papers
  • 10 minute lightning talks
  • Panels (3-4 papers of 20 minutes with or without a suggested panel chair)
  • Workshops (cooking, writing, art, music, craft, drama, dance) related to the key themes of the conference

Potential Topics

We welcome papers on a range of topics. The below are suggested areas but we welcome papers from outside these themes. References to the ‘demonic’ refer to any religious tradition, belief or spiritual practice. We wish to include many different faiths.

  • The demonic in literature
  • The demonic in film
  • The demonic in art
  • Scottish traditions of the demonic
  • Histories of the devil
  • Histories of the demonic
  • Folklores of the demonic
  • Representations of the demonic and sexuality
  • Comparative religious studies of the demonic
  • Competing conceptions of the demonic
  • Demonologies (within any religious tradition)
  • Demonic dreams and other demonic activities
  • Demonisation
  • Eblis in literature, folklore and belief
  • Hellscapes
  • Satanic panics
  • Gothic theologies
  • Vampiric theologies
  • ‘Perverse’ theologies in Gothic and horror
  • Religion in Gothic and horror
  • Evil angels
  • Temptation narratives
  • Salvation narratives in Gothic and horror
  • Cults and sects in literature, film, and history
  • Religious extremism in the Gothic/horror
  • Religion and supernatural literature
  • Misrepresentation of religion in Gothic and horror literature
  • The Scottish Gothic and theology
  • Theologies of horror
  • Scottish traditions of the Gothic
  • Modern Scottish horror
  • The wider work of James Hogg
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

An abstract of 150-250 words should be sent to devilsandjustifiedsinners@gmail.com before 31st March 2024. If you have not written an abstract before, I will be running workshops on abstract writing. Please enquire at the email above. Your abstract should function as a short summary of your paper and demonstrate your expertise in the area. You can also include a short biography (<100 words) but all submissions will be judged solely on the abstract and a biography is not required at this stage.

Accessibility Notes

We want to work with all contributors to make sure that the conference is fully accessible for them. We work entirely online. Subtitles are auto-generated during the conference. Information is provided with alt-text where required and accessibility training is offered to all speakers. For the conference itself, clear information on the timetable, running of the event and what to expect is provided ahead of time. We have a clear code of conduct which is used to maintain a welcoming atmosphere and a comfortable space for all participants. We are explicitly queer friendly and aim to be an inclusive conference for all. If you have any questions, queries or requests at this stage or at a later stage, please do not hesitate to contact me at devilsandjustifiedsinners@gmail.com.

CFP: Rotting Corpses: Ecocritical Approaches to Death and Decomposition

Edited Collection Title: Rotting Corpses: Ecocritical Approaches to Death and Decomposition

Editors: Sara Crosby, Carter Soles, and Ashley Kniss

In Julia Kristeva’s seminal work, The Powers of Horror, she describes decay as the “contamination of life by death” (149). She goes on to write that “a decaying body, lifeless, completely turned into dejection, blurred between the inanimate and inorganic, a transitional swarming, inseparable lining of a human nature whose life is indistinguishable from the symbolic—the corpse represents fundamental pollution” (109). Kristeva’s work has influenced countless treatments of Gothic horror, helping to define the parameters of an unstable genre and explain why the corpse features so heavily in a genre where bodies, especially dead ones, are de rigueur. However, as scholars devote more attention to the ecoGothic and ecohorror, the role of the corpse is changing. The rotting corpse, dead or undead, is as multifaceted in ecohorror as the macro- and microinvertebrates that swarm within it. On one hand, the corpse remains a site of uncanny blurring between the familiar, human form and that which is alien, frightening, and inhuman. On the other hand, the corpse, especially when it rots, is also a site that teams with nonhuman life, a thriving ecosystem unto itself that represents potential hybridities, posthuman potentialities, and layers of transcorporeal encounters. Corpses in ecohorror rise from both biodiverse swamplands as well as petroleum-rich wells. Ecohorror’s corpses are not limited to the human, but also extend to the enormous corpses of the monsters in creature features. Ecohorror’s corpses are useful, disgusting, beautiful, and funny. Moreover, rotting corpses in ecohorror challenge the anthropocentric reactions of disgust that Kristeva outlines in The Powers of Horror, and evince new ways of conceptualizing the common materiality that binds the human and the nonhuman together.

This collection seeks essays that feature the rotting corpse in ecohorror, addressing topics such as but not limited to corpses in relation to:

  • Posthumanism
  • Transcorporeality
  • Materiality
  • Disgust
  • Hybridity
  • Monsters
  • Pop Culture
  • Petrohorror
  • History
  • Burial Traditions
  • Green Burial
  • Aesthetics and Beauty of the Corpse
  • Folk Traditions and the Dead
  • Animal Corpses
  • The gothic
  • Ecohorror
  • Extinction
  • The Anthropocene
  • Spirituality
  • Race, Sex, Gender
  • Nonhuman decomposition
  • Mythology
  • Graveyards, Cemeteries, and Crypts
  • Relics and Religion
  • Corpses in Videogames

Please submit a 250 word proposal/abstract to ashley.anne.kniss@gmail.com  along with your name, affiliation, and a short 50-word bio by September 1st, 2024.

A Dream that Leads Me to Become a Gothic Studies Researcher: My Encounter with Gothic

One of my favourite quotes about Gothic is by David Punter’s legend, from the Literature of Terror. “Gothic was chaotic … ornate and convoluted; where the classics offered a set of cultural models to be followed, Gothic represented excess and exaggeration, the product of the wild and the uncivilised”. What he implies here is what most of us might agree with. What he meant with this quote is that it (Gothic) embraces chaos, complexity, excess, and elements considered wild and uncivilised. This implies that most of our wild and uncivilised dreams lead to encounters with the gothic.

As a child, I was fascinated by ghost stories. While no one else in my family liked my weird obsession with ghosts and horror stories, this always gave me the opportunity to explore the world of the undead through my imagination. It was just a different to be in; while others were most into adventure stories and something with moral lessons, I always crave a different angle– the angle of terror and fear. The world of witches, vampires, and monsters was my stomping ground well they still are; I have not left that world. 

Now, what was one dream which led me to become a gothic researcher?

 Well, to be honest, I do not remember how old I was, but that is not the focus. One night, I had a nightmare which shuffled my life. Imagine that you are three or maybe six years old and get chased by a creepy-looking monster who wants to gobble you down raw. You are running and running in an open field filled with overgrown grass blocking your vision (but you can still see your surroundings) and suddenly you fall, and the creepy-looking monster has caught up with you, and by the time you stand, you are eaten alive by the monster. Then, you suddenly woke up, realising that I was just a dream, but no. You look to your left and see the same monster standing right next to you, and you scream the hell out of yourself, breaking the dream within a dream and making your family worry about you for something which can end life.

For years, I have thought about that dream, and why my obsession with terror and fear made me had a nightmare about something which I love the most. Well, that dream or nightmare was my encounter with the gothic which now has opened up many possibilities in my life and led me to think about gothic and studies surrounded by the genre of gothic studies. This dream has led to questions about vampires, witches, monsters, and Dracula.

The first novel I read in Gothic studies that introduced me to the entire cult of gothic fiction is Frankenstein by Mary Shelly during my ‘The Romantic Age’ course in the second semester of my undergrad degree in English Literature (2018). After that, I read the classic Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlow which made me Gothic have several concepts one can deal with. The entire point of ‘selling your soul’ to the devil is one of my main areas of interest, as well as the research question I want to answer. Mathew Lewis’s The Monk: A Gothic Romance which also deals with the same question has also opened a lot of interesting things about Gothic. Not only novels, however, but films also have something which has made to investigate the entire question of the nature of the gothic, especially films which deal with the concept of exorcism, and the plot is entirely gothic or deals with horror. 

My obsession with the gothic has led me to question it, but also to do research on it, and that dream led me to write a dissertation during my Master’s programme. Now I look back at that dream, the only thing I can say is ‘I am glad that I had that dream’ because now I am a gothic researcher. My Master of Arts in English Literature (2021-2023) gave me the option to write a dissertation and, in the beginning, my dissertation topic was Existential Phenomenology; later on, my supervisor made me explore the world of gothic studies and I did my dissertation on a lesser-known gothic novella which in fact made Stocker write his famous novel Dracula. I am talking about Sheridan Le Fanu’s gothic novella Carmilla which, in my opinion, is not known to many researchers or students in the world. My master’s dissertation, Dualism and Repression in Le Fanu’s Gothic Vampire Novella Carmilla (1872), made me discover the notion of Repression and Dualism in a female lesbian Vampire story, but also questioned the ‘trope of Lesbianism’. Now, I am working toward my MPhil and PhD proposal which is in the field of gothic studies and dark academia. 

This rollercoaster journey has made me realise that sometimes dreams or nightmares are for your good and who knows that they can make you a gothic researcher.

By Aditya Kaushal

Call for nominations for the IGA Book Prizes

Call for nominations by February 29th

The Allan Lloyd Smith Memorial Prize for a Monograph of Gothic Criticism, 2024

and

The Justin D. Edwards Memorial Prize for an Edited Collection of Gothic Criticism, 2024

 

In 2011, as a memorial to its founding President Dr Allan Lloyd Smith (1945-2010), the International Gothic Association established the Allan Lloyd Smith Memorial Prize to be awarded for a scholarly publication considered to have significantly advanced the field of Gothic studies. For the current round of nominations, monographs published between January 1st 2022 to December 31st 2023 are eligible.

In addition, as of 2024, the International Gothic Association is inaugurating a new prize to honour the memory of Justin D. Edwards, past co-president of the IGA and beloved colleague and friend. As such, the IGA is inaugurating the Justin D. Edwards Memorial Prize, for an edited collection considered to have significantly advanced the field of Gothic studies. For the current round of nominations, edited collections published between January 1st 2019 to December 31st 2023 are eligible.

We are delighted to announce that there will be £100 awarded for each prize. 

We are now accepting nominations and each IGA member is entitled to nominate for either or both prizes. 

Nominations for the prizes need to be received no later than 23.59 (UTC) on Thursday 29th February 2024

Nominations for either award should be sent to Dr Matt Foley, Secretary to the Allan Lloyd Smith Memorial Prize for Gothic Criticism, via e-mail: matthew.foley@mmu.ac.uk. Please note that self-nominations will not be accepted.

The Chair for the 2024 prize panel is Dr Sara-Patricia Wasson (Lancaster University). A panel of past Presidents and winners will assess the nominations before drawing up a shortlist that will be published on the IGA website. The panel reserves the right not to make an award should no nominated work satisfy the criteria of the Prize. 

Nominations may be submitted only by individual members of the IGA, though nominated works do not have to have been published by a member of the Association. Short articles, individual chapters in longer volumes, original fiction and poetry are not eligible, though scholarly (i.e., introduced, annotated and resourced) editions of Gothic texts may be considered. 

The panel will advise the serving Joint-Presidents of their decision on the winner prior to the IGA conference, which, this year, is hosted at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia, Canada, in late July. 

The prizes will be presented (or, if a winning author is not present, announced) during the conference.

Dracula and why I fell in love with the Gothic

I cannot remember a time when I was not fascinated by the uncanny and the supernatural. Since childhood the macabre has had a strong pull over me. This was most firmly expressed when I was just seven years old and had my first encounter the Gothic.

Back in 2002, I can remember a time when one of the U.K.’s national newspapers had been giving away free books. Every week, readers were able to collect a classic literary tale to enjoy along with their daily newspaper. Already an avid reader, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to get my hands on such classics as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Having already collected and devoured several new novels, one week the novel on offer was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Curious and eager to get my hands on a copy, I asked my mother to collect the book for me to read and was surprised as she replied with a resounding “No.” Having always been encouraged to read I was confused. When I pushed for an explanation all my mother had to say was “It’s too scary for you, you will have nightmares.” It was fair to say that that cryptic dismissal stayed with me well into adulthood.

Fast forward thirteen years and I crossed paths with the text again at university. Dracula was stalking the reading list of my third-year Gothic literature module, and I finally had the chance to visit Transylvania and meet the Count. It is an understatement to say that I was enthralled. I eagerly read chapter after chapter, desperate to find out if the heroes would prevail and drive out the vampire menace once and for all. The novel had a lasting impact, and it is one that I now try to revisit at least once per year.

Similarly, two years later I watched William Fredkin’s The Exorcist for the first time having long been warned against watching what many in my social circle had labelled ‘the scariest film of all time.’ Again, I was not disappointed, watching Reagan’s physical and mental transformation from innocent pre-teen to demonic monster was thrilling to behold. After the credits had rolled, I noticed a pattern between the most popular Gothic fiction and the notion that these stories were so scary that they became inaccessible, suited only to the bravest among us who are completely without fear.

For me then, as I am sure it is for many others, the Gothic has long been associated with the idea of the forbidden. A genre that holds within itself a fear so terrible that it is locked away until we are ready and even then, it may be too much for us to bear. Vampires, demons, werewolves, and a host of other monsters are waiting for us, ready to expose our deepest and darkest fears. As I grew older and came to enjoy more of the genre that started with Horace Walpole’s The Castle Otranto in 1764, I came to realise that it was not those surface level figures that had made the genre so popular. It is the subtext that dominates so many of the Gothic narratives that we enjoy that remain the source of their popularity. 

If we return to Dracula as an example, it is not just the idea of the blood-sucking vampire that terrified readers in 1897 nor has continued to do so ever since. Instead, the character is a vehicle for delivering a wide range of other far more tangible and salient fears that remain with us to this day. Dracula, crossing from his native Romania to metropolitan London, is both a disease and an immigrant, an uncontrolled and unchecked spread of biological matter and alien cultural beliefs. Two anxieties that are just a prevalent in the twenty-first century as they were when Stoker first published his work. Dracula is a layered and intricate work that demands to be reread. 

Indeed, this is another reason why I fell in love with the novel. Not all my previous revelations came to me after my first reading Dracula. It was only after two or three visits to the novel that much of this subtext and the text’s various connotations and implications made themselves present. Having read the novel more than once, I am continually amazed by its multiplicity. The Exorcist follows in the same vein; Reagan’s transformation is far more than a play on secular fears and the demonic. With its true terror being invoked by an intimate and chilling depiction of a fearsome and rebellious American youth that seeks to upset the natural order of the world.

Gothic fiction has had a long history of enthralling audiences, the combination of surface-level fears and wealth of subtext keep the genre alive. There is little doubt, given the world we live in, that there will be no shortage of cultural phenomena to keep the genre salient.

Looking to the future, novel and films such as The Exorcist and Dracula continue to have an endless appeal that shows no sign of waning. With the figure of the vampire in particular remaining a continued source of fascination to readers and audiences across the globe (the count himself received a BBC adaptation in early 2020), and the vampire being exposed to entirely new demographics thanks to the rise of the likes of Twilight and True Blood it appears that the vampire will continue to terrorise the public for years to come.

The Exorcist is also receiving a sequel in October 2023 and in doing so looks set to terrorise a whole new generation of audiences. The Gothic, then, appears to continue to go on. All one can do is hope that in another century a new generation of readers are just as drawn to the genre as I was those many years ago. 

—–

Connor Long-Johnson, currently writing his thesis on the fiction of Stephen King at the University of Greenwich in London, England, enjoys writing short stories in the gothic, fantasy and science-fiction genres. He has had various works published, three short pieces of fiction with HorrorTree’s Trembling With Fear, another in Breaking Rules Publishing’s horror anthology The Hollow and three with Science-Fiction website 365tomorrows. He can be found either at library or at cljohnson.co.uk.