Remembering Justin Edwards (1970-2023)

This is the post I never thought or wished I could write.

In January 2023 the IGA lost one of the most influential and prolific scholars in Gothic Studies: Professor Justin Edwards. Justin was a respected colleague, an insightful researcher, and a loyal friend to many around the world. Always an involved member of the IGA, Justin single-handedly organised the 2013 IGA Conference at the University of Surrey and served as co-president alongside Jason Haslam and Karen MacFarlane (2017-2022). From his early days at the Université de Montréal, where Justin completed his graduate studies, his academic career blossomed in Europe, at the University of Copenhagen, before he moved to the UK, to work at Bangor University, University of Surrey and, latterly, the University of Stirling.

Justin leaves a rich legacy of trail-blazing scholarly work.  At the start of his career, Justin was already at the forefront of what continues to be one of the most politically relevant fields of Gothic investigation. Questions of race, colonialism and national identity underpinned Gothic Passages: Racial Ambiguity and the American Gothic (2003) and Gothic Canada: Reading the Spectre of a National Literature (2005), where his way of conceptualising the Gothic allowed him to think of nation not merely as an ‘imagined community’, but as a ‘ghost story’.

His continued interest in the Gothic’s ties to colonialism moved to the investigation of one of Gothic’s neglected spaces in Tropical Gothic in Literature and Culture: The Americas (2016, co-edited with Sandra G. T. Vasconcelos), a collection that pushed the cultural boundaries of ‘American’ Gothic forcedly open. ‘Tropical Gothic’, Justin cogently argued, ‘leads us away from problematic notions about “purity” or “authenticity” and toward the recognition that Gothic travels and then becomes cannibalized within specific locations’.

Justin’s work also paved the way for multiple interdisciplinary strands through Gothic in Contemporary Literature and Popular Culture: Pop Goth (2012, co-edited with Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet) and Technologies of the Gothic in Literature and Culture: Technogothics (2015). Wide-ranging as they were, these publications remained also cohesively connected together by the tissue of Justin’s unique sensitivity and his preoccupation with social justice and politics: ‘When techno-science threatens to cheat death’, he astutely noted in his introduction to the latter, ‘Gothic discourses are invoked by politicians, writers and critics who mourn the loss of ‘humanity’ and express nostalgia for a problematic paradigm of a universal humanism.’

Most recently, Justin’s work turned to the environmental preoccupations of Gothic, with a shift from the postcolonial to the global and the planetary in Dark Scenes from Damaged Earth: The Gothic Anthropocene (2022), his latest publication, co-edited with Rune Graulund and Johan Höglund. Sensitive, as always, to the ethical implications of Gothic, Justin’s focus on animals and veganism in his contribution to the collection, an ethical choice he had pursued for several years, sought to draw attention to, and simultaneously subvert, the anthropocentrism of both individual practices and global politics:

‘We have the power to trigger a mass extinction event and the agency to prolong “tipping points” through planetary management and geoengineering’, he poignantly warned us. ‘We are both the problem and the solution: a way of thinking that falls back on the self-referentiality of the human, its human-centeredness.’

Perhaps no other community is more intensely aware of the shifty boundaries between the darkest depths of life and the loftiest flights of the afterlife than the IGA; rather than viewing death as final, goths are invested in the endless embodiments of the undead. There is no doubt in my mind that the spectral traces of Justin’s intellectual spirit will continue to ‘haunt’ our own thoughts and projects forever.

Justin’s original thinking and deep engagement with the most pressing ethical questions of our times were equally matched by his unfailing support of colleagues and collaborators, as well as his mentorship of early-career researchers and students. To many of us, Justin was not only an endless source of intellectual inspiration, but especially a generous friend who placed immense value on all human relationships. After a glorious sunny afternoon spent playing frisbee on Brighton Beach, Justin’s words perfectly captured who he was, and how he viewed life:

‘Frisbee is amazing. We accept something from another person, bring it into ourselves & then release it & let it go. A perfect symbol of good mental health, love & sharing.’

As well as working hard, Justin knew how to play hard, bootlegging beer to a dry campus, on the dance floor of many a Gothic disco, and, on one memorable occasion, at a karaoke rendition of ‘Tainted Love’ in a Vancouver hotel bar.

To commemorate and celebrate his life, I have created a virtual memory board here. I invite you all to fill it with messages, photographs and videos to immortalise your personal memories of Justin.

Here’s to your life, Justin, to the never-ending fullness and intensity of it all.

Call for Papers: Progression, Regression, and Transgression in Gothic World Literature & Film: New Approaches to the Ethics of Difference

A Gothic-Without-Borders Conference – September 29th to October 2nd 2023, fully online

Hosted by the Department of World Languages and Literatures (WLL) at Simon Fraser University (SFU), Vancouver, Canada,

Coordinated by the SFU Center for Educational Excellence (CEE), and co-sponsored by the International Gothic Association (IGA)

Deadline for proposals: May 15, 2023
Send to the SFU Conference email: <>

When Horace Walpole explained his invention of the “Gothic Story” in his 1765 Preface to the second edition of The Castle of Otranto, he defined it as combining “ancient” and “modern romance,” thereby signaling that this mode should be regressive and progressive at the same time. He was also suggesting, as does the Otranto story itself, that “Gothic”, as he was recasting it, should be transgressive in an aesthetic sense (since it was a deliberately unstable crossing of generic boundaries) and transgressive in its subject-matter and characters (most of whom are already engaging or are being tempted to engage in transgressive behavior).

Keeping these roots in mind, this conference will underline the global comparative framework of World Literary discourses. We will entertain proposals from a wide range of media including Gothic literature, drama, film, television, cyberspace or other art-forms. In addition, the conference will explore how Gothic-themed productions in all of these modes can augment recent efforts to decolonize, ethnicize, indigenize, and degender academic fields of study. After all, the Gothic’s reinvention from conservative and revanchist to transgressive and revolutionary is still a subject for debate. Progression may also be seen in the widening of critical approaches to the Gothic, encompassing historical, feminist, psychological, queer, reader response, eco-critical, transnational, decolonial, and more. Papers utilizing any of these critical frameworks are welcome. This once “subliterary” genre now seems the appropriate choice for artists to reflect and respond to many issues, including recent concerns about tyranny, freedom, and democracy in our posthumanist world: papers may do the same for Gothic history, past and present. The medium for Gothic representation may be visual art, film, television, video games, music, poetry, drama, or fiction, and we also invite papers that explore the adaptation or remediation from one to another of these media.

The Conference Organizing Committee will entertain proposals about World Gothic in all media for a symposium to be conducted entirely online over 3-4 days. The proposals may range from abstracts for individual papers to suggested panels of multiple papers. The final papers should total 3600 words (or less).

We are following the procedure that proved successful at our first online conference in 2021. Once each proposal has been accepted (proposers will hear back by or before June 15), completed papers should be submitted electronically by September 1, 2023. These papers will be posted and made available to those who register so they can be read before the conference. At the conference, each presenter begins each session with a précis of his/her argument of no more than 10 minutes long; presenters and audience then participate in online discussions based on the full papers.

There will be no conference fee for anyone, but all participants are expected to register for the conference and to be paid-up members of the IGA, at least at the partial level

< and click on “join”>

We particularly welcome proposals from postgraduate students, other younger scholars, and specialists in Gothic from all parts of the world. The Conference Organizing Committee will attempt to schedule session times to match the time zones of the participants.

Proposals/abstracts for individual papers (proposals no longer than 300 words) should include titles, presenter names, institutional affiliations and e-mail addresses.

Proposals for entire panels that will take place in one-hour online sessions (with each proposal no longer than 800 words) should include a session title, the name and contact information of the chair and abstracts no longer than 200 words from each presenter, with his/her name and affiliation.

If all participants consent and depending on the available technology, sessions will be recorded and made accessible to conference registrants online.

Send all proposals as MS Word attachments, as well as any questions about this conference, to <> by May 15, 2023.

The International Gothic Association Early-Career Essay Prize 2022-23

The International Gothic Association is pleased to invite submissions to their biennial Postgraduate Student Essay Prize.

The essay competition is open to postgraduate students or postdoctoral scholars who are currently in good standing as IGA members. A postgraduate may be a current or recent Master’s student (within two years of graduation) or a PhD candidate; a postdoctoral scholar is defined as someone who holds a PhD but does not hold a permanent academic post.

Entries must offer an original contribution to the field of Gothic Studies and not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.

The winning essay will be published in Gothic Studies (with revisions guided by the editors, as appropriate), the official journal of the International Gothic Association published by Edinburgh University Press.  Its author will receive £50 from the International Gothic Association, and a year’s paid subscription to Gothic Studies. The publication issue for the winning article will be 26/1 (March 2024).

Essays should be between 5000 and 7000 words in length, inclusive of footnotes and bibliography, and should adhere to the Gothic Studies style guide. The guide is available for download here: Essays should be formatted as a .doc or a .docx.

To enter, email the following to Dr Jen Baker:

Email Subject should be “IGA Postgraduate Essay Prize”

Attach a copy of your essay (as a .doc or .docx). This should be anonymised for blind review and so should be a brief version of your essay title only.

In the body of the email you should lists the following details:

  • your name and the title of your essay;
  • a current email and postal address;
  • your present and past academic affiliations (University or similar);
  • If you are postgraduate, the name of the qualification for which you are studying and the expected date of completion
  • For postdoctoral entrants, the title of your submitted PhD and the date of your submission;
  • a statement confirming the essay is your own original work, completed in the course of your study for the listed qualification.

Essays not submitted with all of these details will not be considered.

The closing date for receipt of entries 31st May 2023.  Late entries will not be considered. Entries will be judged by a panel of the IGA, consisting of Prof Mariaconcetta Costantini, Prof Jerrold E. Hogle and Dr Jen Baker. The judges are not able to provide individual feedback on the essays.

Please direct any queries to

Entrants will be informed of the outcome in July 2023.

New Publications

Monstrous Women and Ecofeminism in the Victorian Gothic, Penny Dreadfuls: Investigations of Pernicious Tales of Terror and Penny Bloods: Gothic Tales of Dangerous Women

Monstrous Women and Ecofeminism in the Victorian Gothic, 1837-1871

Published by Rowman & Littlefield
Release date, 15 November 2022
Author: Nicole C. Dittmer

Nicole C. Dittmer offers a reimagining of the popular Gothic female “monster” figure in early-to-mid-Victorian literature. Regardless of the extensive scholarship concerning monstrosities, these pre-fin-de-siècle figurations have often been neglected by critical studies or interpreted as fragments of mind and body which create a division between culture and nature. In Monstrous Women and Ecofeminism, Dittmer deploys monism to delineate from and contest such dualism, unifies the material-immaterial aspects of fictional women, and blurs the distinction between nature-culture. Blending intertextual disciplines of medical sciences, ecofeminism, and fiction, she exposes female monstrosities as material and semiotic figurations. This book, then, identifies how women in the Victorian Gothic are informed by the entanglement of both immaterial discourses and material conditions. When repressed by social customs, the monistic mind-body of the
material-semiotic figure reacts to and disrupts processes of ontology, transforming women into “wild” and “monstrous” (re)presentations.

Penny Dreadfuls: Investigations of Pernicious Tales of Terror

Published by University of Wales Press
Release date, 23 January 2023
Editors: Nicole C. Dittmer and Sophie Raine

Penny Dreadfuls and the Gothic breaks new ground in uncovering penny titles which have been hitherto largely neglected from literary discourse revealing the cultural, social and literary significance of these working-class texts. The present volume is a reappraisal of penny dreadfuls, demonstrating their cruciality in both our understanding of working-class Victorian Literature and the Gothic mode. This edited collection of essays provides new insights into the fields of Victorian literature, popular culture and Gothic fiction more broadly; it is divided into three sections, whose titles replicate the dual titles offered by penny publications during the nineteenth century. Sections one and two consist of three chapters, while section three consists of four essays, all of which intertwine to create an in-depth and intertextual exposition of Victorian society, literature, and gothic representations.

Penny Bloods: Gothic Tales of Dangerous Women

Published by The British Library Press
Release date, 25 May 2023
Editor: Nicole C. Dittmer

Her cheeks were pale, and her eyes had the wild and stolid glare which Rodolph had observed when she awakened from the slumber of the grave; she quitted the castle, and after gazing around her, as if uncertain which way to go, she proceeded towards the village. In the mid 1800s, the inexpensive publications known as penny bloods were all the rage in Britain. Spinning tales of high Gothic drama, violence and monstrosity, this literary phenomenon was significant for its depictions of dangerous and transgressive women which inspired such milestone Gothic works as
Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Collecting ten tales from classic – and truly obscure – penny publications and featuring newly edited text and insights from Dr Dittmer’s research, this new volume revives a company of witches, femme fatales, vampire mistresses and deadly criminals to enthrall a new generation of readers.

Fireside Tales of Terror: The Gothic and Winter

“Horrors belong as naturally to the fireside, as fireside belongs to Christmas” declares the narrator of the piece “Fireside Horrors for Christmas” in the December 1847 issue of Dublin University Magazine.

This image of “popular fireside stories or winter’s tales” exchanged in communal settings had, as the late Catherine Belsey explained, a “long vernacular tradition” (2010). Furthermore, it was, she argues, a practice that often-challenged orthodox institutional discourse about, for example, the “true meaning” of Christmas or the origins of ghosts and tapped into secular and “pagan” rituals and practices. The later transference of this hearth-side image into textual and visual print, not only as content, but as collective reading activities has helped immortalise Winter and/or Christmas and the Gothic as ideal bedfellows, not only in Western cultures but in the wider global imagination. Periodicals of the nineteenth-century such as Household Words, Belgravia, and The Strand capitalised on the wider Christmas market and the desire for ghost stories in their specific Christmas Numbers including accompanying illustrations, while an increasing number of collections and anthologies began to emerge and have remained extremely popular gifts, from collections of Dickens’s Christmas ghost stories, to Edward Wagenknecht’s 1947 anthology The Fireside Book of Ghost Stories, to the recent British Library Tales of the Weird anthologies Chill Tidings: Dark Tales of the Christmas Season and Spirits of the Season: Christmas Hauntings. Televisual/cinematic and radio adaptations of traditional tales have transformed the communal experience of terror at Christmas and utilise the oral and the visual in different ways: such as the BBC’s televisual series “Ghost Stories for Christmas”, TV Christmas specials such as Inside No. 9: The Devil of Christmas and podcasts such as “Ghost Tales by the Fireside – True Ghost Stories Podcast”. The Gothic-Horror film has twisted and co-opted the form of the fireside tale of terror and its seasonal trappings to bring us horrifying delights such as Black Christmas (1974); Krampus (2015) and its sequels; apocalyptic Christmas comedy Silent Night (2021), and many more. Even the seemingly twee Christmas film can send chills and invite horror – Home Alone, anyone?

So too, the collective-experience, not in the home but amongst strangers in public forums are offered with watching the aforementioned in the cinema, or attending theatre shows such a Robert Lloyd Parry’s “The M.R. James Project” which use the allure of a one-man show set by a fireside as a story-teller in a wing-backed armchair recites some old favourites, or The Theatre of Dark Encounters who incorporate ghost walks as well as shows in-theatre to seasonal delights. The horror of the life-sized Mouse King in the traditional Nutcracker ballet based on E.T.A Hoffman’s story or the Cute Gothic of Matthew Bourne’s ballet adaptation of Edward Scissorhands also offer interesting perspectives on what Gothic is and how it is expressed. The mash-up of Winter/Christmas and Gothic can be further enjoyed in media and ephemera such as board games – a staple component of the Christmas season – like Christmas Murder Mystery and Clue: Nightmare Before Christmas Edition, while vintage postcards of children being terrorised by the Krampus blend nostalgia and dark humour, and gothic-Christmas decorations (such as the lights Will Byers communicates with from the Upside Down), all revel, like Jack Skellington, in the fusion of Halloween and Christmas. Julia Briggs writes that ‘The telling of tales around the fireside makes explicit a particular aspect of the ghost story which depends upon a tension between the cosy familiar world of life (associated with Heim and heimisch – home and the domestic) and the mysterious and unknowable world of death (unheimlich, or uncanny)’ (180-1), inviting us to think about the spaces and places of Winter Gothic; often juxtaposed against the chilling and deadly atmosphere and dark nights of the “outside” which the narrator of the “Fireside Horrors” piece insists make the conjunction of tale of terror and the winter period so ideal. In fact, many other Gothic works use that setting of snow, ice, and long shadowy nights outside of the Christmas period as they explore the horrors hidden in isolated arctic landscapes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Dan Simmons’ 2007 novel The Terror which was adapted to television and released in 2018 and based on a real failed expedition, Michelle Paver’s speculative ghost fiction Dark Matter (2010), and the various stories collected in the forthcoming British Library Tales of the Weird anthology, Polar Horrors. So too, do works such as vampire horror film 30 Days of Night (2007) which play on meteorological phenomena such as Polar Night. Yet, what happens to, and what does Winter/Christmas Gothic mean, in a global context and in regions where that season is hot and dry?

This two-day conference at the University of Warwick, UK, 15-16th December 2022, will explore the connection between the Gothic and Winter in its various guises and topics.

The call for papers deadline has now passed, but for registration details and further information please see:

Follow us on Twitter: @TerrorTalesof

Xavier Aldana Reyes

Affiliation: Manchester Metropolitan University

Research Areas:
Period: 20th Century Gothic, 21st Century Gothic
Gender: Female Gothic, Queer Gothic, Trans Gothic
Interdisciplinary Approaches: Technology, Medicine and Science
Genres and Media: Film and TV
Regions and Cultures: American Gothic, European Gothic, Latin American Gothic
Creatures: Ghosts, Monsters, Vampires, Zombies

Xavier is Reader in English Literature and Film and Manchester Metropolitan and co-lead of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies.


My First Encounters with Gothic, or How I Became a Horror Researcher

This may come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, given I have ended up writing about some truly gruesome texts in my adult life, but I was quite squeamish as a child.

Horror was not a genre favoured by my parents, and I even had a recurring nightmare that signals how vigilant of anything remotely scary I once was. I’d be sitting in front of a TV set playing a film with a witch in it – perhaps Anne de Chantraine, from the Atmosfear games – so I’d close my eyes to avoid the spectacle, but my eyelids would offer no protection… They were see-through! I even had to have a serious chat with my dad about purchasing Say Cheese and Die! (in its 1996 Spanish translation) because he was worried it would keep me awake at night. Everyone at school was reading R. L. Stine, so I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. The Goosebumps books were safe, though, as they were really horror-inflected suspense stories and hardly anyone ever died in them. But at some point, for some reason, I outgrew them and wanted to try something ‘stronger’. It was around this time I graduated to Stephen King. His The Green Mile was originally serialised, so that each of its six parts could be purchased separately from local kiosks. The novel horrified me, but it also comforted me and made me cry. I fell in love with King, who introduced to a number of staples of US horror fiction and their adaptations. Many of his books stayed with me (Carrie, Misery, The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, Two and Four Past Midnight and so many more), but the one that affected me the most was, without a doubt, It. I couldn’t shake off the thought of Pennywise the clown, this juggernaut of all childhood fears, and when I eventually watched the 1990 mini-series adapted from it, Tim Curry’s amazing performance terrified me. In fact, little else has ever scared me as much as the iconic Georgie gutter scene. The amount of times I must have looked under the bed, terrified that a globed hand would be quietly waiting for me to expose a vulnerable limb!

Around the same time, and through a close childhood friend who was one of my gateways to horror fiction, I discovered other authors with whom I became utterly obsessed. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood was the most visceral thing I had read up until that point and remains one of my favourite collections of short stories. John Farris’ unique meandering style and eclectic topics captivated me. His novels Fiends, All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By and Son of the Endless Night had been published in beautiful Spanish editions that I feverishly tracked down in the Mercat de Sant Antoni, which once a month turned into a second-hand book market. And Poppy Z. Brite’s unique queer lens opened my eyes to the power of representation. Reading Lost Souls and Exquisite Corpse, I realised that queer sensibilities could find a fertile place in what could sometimes feel like a straight boys club. A schoolteacher also introduced me to H. P. Lovecraft, and thus sparked my fascination with cosmic horror. When, much later, I eventually edited an anthology of Lovecraft’s tales for the British Library, I took special delight in dedicating the book to him. Before the days when you could find everything on Wikipedia, I also relied a lot for recommendations on specialised bookshops – a favourite was Librería Gigamesh, still standing in the heart of Barcelona – but my literature teachers always proved invaluable sources of inspiration. A particular influence was Dr Sara Martín Alegre, who taught me during my BA studies, and whose knowledge of genre fiction was and continues to be encyclopaedic. It was during my time at UAB that I also discovered writers like Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Daphne du Maurier and Iain Banks, among many others. These authors solidified my interest in Anglophone literature and made me decide I wanted to study it in the original.

It was also through another teacher that I came to learn about the Gothic as a concept (the Gothic romance) and as a critical tool (through which to read all manner of dark cultural manifestations). Prof Adriana Craciun’s ‘Gothic Bodies, Foreign Bodies’ unit, which I took at Birkbeck College in London, was a real eye-opener. I was introduced to Matthew Lewis’s The Monk and Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, among others texts, and the unit helped me completely rethink classics like Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Suddenly, everything made sense. All my interests, which had gradually but steadily shifted from a reluctance to an embrace of the scary and the grisly, solidified under this label that harkened back to at least 1764 and acted as connective tissue for all the texts I had been reading and watching since my early teens. The English and American literary and filmic traditions are quite unique in that many of their classics belong to the horror and fantastic genres, so it is perhaps inevitable that I gravitated towards literature written in English. In my academic life, I have tried to apply my learning to the Spanish tradition, which has not been internationally recognised as a significant Gothic force despite producing many brilliant fantastic and horrific texts.

During my MA studies, which included a thesis on the contemporary Gothic, I read Catherine Spooner’s work. Her Contemporary Gothic, in particular, convinced me that I wanted to pursue further study on how the Gothic mode has persisted in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. My PhD developed in a slightly different direction, however, as around that time Hostel and Saw had changed the landscape of horror again. Moved by their visceral scenarios, which in some cases gave me nightmares for the first time in years, I decided to embrace my anxieties and write about them. Why did this new graphic turn affect me so much? What was the connection between the film and viewer’s bodies? And how did the ethical intermingle with the representational? I ended up writing a thesis primarily on film and theatre – the grand guignol French tradition – but the project was driven by the same questions I had been asking myself since I started reading horror: why do we find things scary? What are my personal limits and what social or biological primers affect them? These very same questions also animated my subsequent books Body Gothic and Horror Film and Affect. In fact, you could say that my academic career is still partly shaped by those initial points of contact with the descendants of the Gothic literary tradition. In many ways, recent research on the aesthetics of Gothic Cinema is still responding to similar questions about affect and aesthetics.

Having said all this, it’s sobering to realise I have never tried writing about Stephen King’s It. I keep telling myself it’s because the occasion just hasn’t arisen yet, but perhaps it’s really a deep-seated self-preservation mechanism. In any case, I’m very grateful there isn’t enough room for pesky clowns under my bed!

‘I am Heathcliff’: My ‘first’ encounter with gothic

It’s almost impossible to pin down the earliest memory of gothic in my life. As I was growing up, Italian TV was not as strictly regulated as it is in the UK and I was exposed to all sorts of age-inappropriate materials, particularly coming from Japanese manga.

I remember, too, catching the tail end of a black and white film adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, probably the 1931 version directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March.

I recall being frightened by the ape-like monster the ‘good’ doctor turned into when he drank the fatal potion. It stayed with me for a long time, and I remember it again when, the same year, a man dressed up in a gorilla costume scared me during the carnival week. When my mum – reassuringly – told me ‘don’t worry, it’s a man, not a real gorilla!’, I was not reassured at all, because I knew men who turn into monsters can be quite dangerous.

It was only in the summer after my final school exams that I finally chose to study Modern Languages and Literatures. I must confess I was a little suspicious of literature, but I was very keen to learn English, particularly because I was interested in music and wanted to travel. I felt English was going to open many doors for me. And it did!

My main reading list was Victorian, and it included Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and George Elliott’s Middlemarch, all to be read in English.

We were allowed to read a few more ‘secondary’ texts, Jane Austen’s Emma and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in Italian. Even with this allowance, when I got my books from the Anglo American bookshop in Rome, my heart sank: I had never read a novel in English before, and the number of pages was stupefying. More worryingly, the programme I had chosen did not start at beginner’s level and after the initial pre-screening, I was advised to drop English!

If there’s one trait of my personality that can both work for and against me is my tenacity. I rarely give up on things and I still approach challenges with the stubbornness of my two-year-old self – I was, apparently, very persistent in my demands, as well as a ‘keen’ reader from a young age!

After working out how many pages I needed to read every day to meet my deadlines, I looked at the list again, and then pulled a volume out of my shelf. That heavily annotated paperback is still one of my most treasured possessions.

From that day, Wuthering Heights and I would not be seen without one another for the following four months! Over breakfast, on the bus, sitting at the back of the class in the useless German tutorials where our teacher refused to speak German, in my lunch break, before and after the gym, and, of course on my bedside table.

Emily and I became inseparable.

I remember being spellbound by the landscape, and the ways in which it became both a character in its own right, and an extension, or perhaps even the embodiment of Cathy’s identity and desire (I was very pleased to see this is captured in Frances O’ Connor’s bold biopic Emily recently premiered at the BFI’s London Film Festival).

The supernatural was not straightforward fantasy, because the voice of the literal ghost also alluded to the figurative haunting of desire and loss. More than anything, perhaps, what captured my 19-year old self was the sense of a boundless self, and the realisation – tantalising and terrifying all at once – that those boundaries between who we are/are not and what we want/don’t want, which had appeared so stable before, gradually became blurred, slippery and even, at times, invisible.

Maisha Wester

Affiliation: University of Sheffield/ Indiana University

Research Areas:
Period: 19th Century Gothic, 20th Century Gothic, 21st Century Gothic
Genres and Media: Film and TV
Regions and Cultures: Postcolonial Gothic, American Gothic, Black Gothic, Caribbean Gothic

I’m a British Academy Global Professor and Associate Professor, researching Black Gothic, racial representation in Gothic literature and Horror Film, and sociopolitcal appropriations of Gothic and Horror tropes.


Allan Lloyd Smith Prize Shortlist

The International Gothic Association is delighted to announce the shortlist for this year’s Allan Lloyd Smith Memorial Prize for the best monograph in Gothic Studies (2019–2022).

Bridget M. Marshall, Industrial Gothic: Workers, Exploitation and Urbanization in Transatlantic Nineteenth-Century Literature (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2021)

James Uden, Spectres of Antiquity: Classical Literature and the Gothic, 1740–1830 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020)

Sara Wasson, Transplantation Gothic: Tissue Transfer in Literature, Film, and Medicine (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020)