My First Encounter with the Gothic: Krista Collier-Jarvis

My first encounter with the Gothic precedes my knowledge of the existence of Gothic itself. As such, it can be quite difficult to pinpoint exactly where that encounter manifested…

As a child, my memories of quality time with my mom were often in relation to horror films. On the weekends, we would curl up on the couch with snacks and watch the latest gorefest, such as the newest Halloween, a rerun of Pet Sematary, or a classic like Silver Bullet. It was not fear that I felt from these moments, but a kind of enjoyment within a safe space that shaped my understandings of “real-world” horrors versus how they are represented. 

My love of horror movies translated well in my English classes when we read short stories and novels that took up Gothic topics. I was drawn to the writings of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Eudora Welty, and Edgar Allan Poe. My favorite Shakespeare play was Titus Andronicus (I couldn’t stop myself from researching the amount of blood used in the various adaptations). While not a Gothic text per se, Titus Andronicus felt like an Early Modern embodiment of the horror movies that shaped my childhood. I found myself drawn to reading and writing exclusively about the Gothic. I just didn’t know that what I encountered was Gothic.

The first time a professor named the genre as “Gothic” illuminated and reframed my relationship with those narratives.

When exploring options for my honours research, I initially met with Dr. Karen Macfarlane (MSVU). I was unsure what to focus on for a project of this length. She asked me what I thought I could talk about for a year, and I quickly responded with “The Walking Dead,” which I personally consider to be my first encounter with the Gothic. 

Discovering The Walking Dead

In high school, a close friend of mine was moving away. As a goodbye gift, he gave me my first comic books—the entire series of Lady Death: A Medieval Tale (2003). Yes, I resisted comic books during my childhood; I couldn’t possibly understand what the big deal was. I was immediately enthralled with the dark and beautiful artwork in Lady Death, with the representation of death as a powerful force, and with the serialisation of a story that kept me coming back for more. These stories were nuanced, complex reworkings of the very things I already adored in film and literature.

After completing the series, I felt hungry for more, so I visited the local comic book shop for the first time. I walked in the door and up to the first shelf and sitting front and center was the latest issue of the The Walking Dead; it was issue #9 (2004)—the one where Carl is accidentally shot by Otis. The cover made me uncomfortable with its peeling eye and oversized fly. I read through it so fast, enveloped by the story to the point where I didn’t even realise it was in black and white. I hunted down the first 8 back issues and thus my obsession began.

My honours research addressed the representation of pregnant women and newborns in The Walking Dead comics, and because the television adaptation was released partway through that year, I included some early scenes from the show. My Master’s thesis built upon this work; I looked at the little girl zombies in The Walking Dead as well as a host of other zombie narratives. I am now completing my PhD dissertation, and while I’ve turned away from The Walked Dead for the most part, I will most likely never be able to turn away from the Gothic. I’m hooked for life!

From trashy romance novellas to studying the uncanny: my first encounter with the Gothic

I’ve told this story before, I’m sure I have, but that’s the very nature of Gothic, isn’t it. It keeps coming back. My family background is an interesting mix of very down to earth farmers and people who cannot pass a bookshop without a purchase. There were always books in the house and I was always encouraged to read. To read for myself that is. For the longest time, I was quite upset that adults wouldn’t read to me until I fully understood reading myself also meant I was in control of what I read.

Nancy Schumann. Picture credit:

Full disclosure, I may not judge a book by its cover but I definitely pick books by their covers. It’s what happened when I had my first encounter with the Gothic. For some reason, my mother and grandmother went through a phase of reading romance novellas. You know the ones: women with great hair and bare-chested men on the cover, the content of the she meets him – he seems great – there’s an obstacle – there’s a happily ever after formula. In retrospect, this might have had something to do with the availability of books in the Easter Bloc. Those romance booklets could be brought across the Iron Curtain border without fear. Nobody was worried about them.

I didn’t go anywhere these booklets. Until, that is, I spotted one on my grandmother’s bedside table with a very dark cover: a ballerina in white watched by a cloaked man, almost hidden by a curtain. The title read: The Vampire and the Dancer. 

Well, I was having that one, thank you very much. Yes, it was a romance but it wasn’t Twilight-style. There was no happy ending, no ever after. There was a vampire, who like the Phantom of the Opera stalks the theatre where the ballerina dances. He has a whole lot of lived history to offer and the ballerina falls for him. They crash and burn for a fleeting moment in both their lives, walking away into lifelong yearning and an eternity of loneliness respectively. It was beautiful. Turns out what I need in a romance story is a tragic ending and we’re good. 

Vampires and their intrinsic potential to experience an eternity of lived history have been with me ever since, moving on to classics like Dracula and the amazing new takes on the myth like Sabella by Tanith Lee. So it was natural to continue my academic journey in the same direction and I made it my mission to shine a light as it were on vampiric women. 

I am forever fascinated by the subject that it continues to bring me joy. I watch with great delight as the vampiric works by women as well as female vampiric characters keep appearing and growing in works of fiction and there is so much more to explore. 

CFP: Anthropocene Gothic

Around three hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution increased the print left by human activity on planet Earth. In 2000, Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer, the well-known atmospheric scientists, coined the term “Anthropocene” as a geological designation associated with the perceived and quantifiable impact of humankind on the ecological functioning of the planet’s atmosphere.

Although the scientific community has not yet approved of an official re-naming of existing geological periods, the Anthropocene nomination has attained significant assent in ecocriticism, as well as in the specific trend within it which we now call EcoGothic which, according to Elizabeth Parker, is “a flavoured mode through which we can examine our darker, more complicated cultural representations of the nonhuman world ‒‒which are all the more relevant in times of ecological crisis” (Forest and EcoGothic).

Humankind has taken part in an insurmountable transformation of the planet that results from the ways we have used technology to mould Nature to our needs without considering a non-human perspective. However, when pandemics, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters strike, we are forced to seclude our feeble bodies and witness our barricades and artificial strongholds collapse or barely keep us safe. During the last three centuries, Gothic narratives have reminded us that we are not in control when natural processes collide with our claim of superiority over the planet. 

For the present edited collection, with the provisional title Anthropocene Gothic, we invite contributors to submit articles that explore Anthropocenic perspectives and their multifarious presence in Gothic texts. Possible topics to explore might include, but are not limited to:

  • EcoGothic: Romantic vs Gothic approaches to the representations of the natural world
  • EcoHorror and the exploration of climate crisis anxieties
  • Plant horror: The monstrous vegetal in art
  • EcoGothic and Animal Studies
  • Donna Haraway’s concept of “companion species” and Anthropocene Gothic 
  • Horror of Contagion
  • Pandemics and its aftermath in Gothic literature and art. 
  • A dark ecology of the forest in Anthropocene Gothic.
  • Nautical Gothic and its relation to environmental concerns
  • Monsters and a blurring of the distinction between human and other-than-human in Gothic aesthetics 
  • Eco-disaster cinema
  • The Anthropocene perspective in Gothic: A dialogue with postcolonial and neocolonial studies 
  • The transformative potential of Anthropocene Gothic.

Please send a proposal of about 500 words, for chapters of 6000-7000 words, and a short biography to Aurora Piñeiro and Tony Alcala by 30 November 2023.

Contributors can expect to be selected and notified by 15 December 2023. The deadline for submission of full articles will be 29 February 2024.

Gothic Travel through Haunted Landscapes: Climates of Fear

When we set out to write this book, we had in mind more than the preoccupation with travel that has marked the Gothic from its earliest moments. What caught our eye or, perhaps, our ear was the eerie footfall generated by Gothic journeys, as well as the power they possess to lead us into unfamiliar territory and to follow us home, dogging our steps wherever we go.

For fictional travellers, and for armchair tourists wishing they were ‘there’, Gothic landscapes have always generated turbulent imaginative atmospheres. As Devendra Varma claimed, the temper of the Gothic ‘spirit’ is that of fierce winds and storm clouds. Yet, from the later eighteenth century to the present moment, Gothic fiction has also captured physical geographies —awe-inspiring wilderness or unhomely local terrain – in vivid detail, conveying the challenges presented by topographical extremity and the elemental forces of more-than-human nature. 

Having spent perhaps too long in haunted houses, we wanted to venture outdoors into the open air, sharing the sensory and imaginative experience of walking through predominantly rural Gothic landscapes. Our book ventures far and wide: to both poles, Himalayan peaks, railway tracks in the Hudson valley, German forests and the Danube, as well to the wetlands and uplands, coastal fringes and secluded byways of the British and Irish Isles. Along the way, we trace uncanny stopping points, resting places, distractions and diversions that detain or disorientate Gothic travellers. Sometimes situating us at the edge geographically, these landscapes always place us on edge. The journeys we trace take different forms (recreational excursions, epic voyages, secular pilgrimages) and serve different purposes (escape, curiosity, self-improvement or transformative discovery), but whatever the motivation for those who travel, pleasure inescapably turns to fear. 

What we are thinking about here is encapsulated by the alliterative trio footfall, friction and frisson. In the narratives we survey, the physical impact of the human foot upon the ground triggers an echo, or activates an uncanny presence, that in turn generates a sensory response, a chill down the spine. Typically, such footfall is also peregrinatory, prone to wandering astray, at once immersed and adrift in estranging surroundings. These walkers become haunters and haunted, with Gothic travel representing a journey into error and terror. 

Of course, the most urgent footfall that haunts us is that of the Anthropocene, and our own damaging footprint. From the outset, Gothic has laid bare the human appetite for plunder and dramatized our vulnerability to the power of more-than-human nature. This awareness has often been expressed as muted but insidious anxiety about how we recklessly transform landscapes and devastate ecologies, but this concern tended to be moved offshore to far-flung or ‘peripheral’ places. Now, that distant dread is gradually creeping closer, stalking familiar routes. None of us can be vicarious travellers across this landscape, or tread too lightly. We have to look at the marks we leave, track the way we have come, contemplate where we are headed, and change the path we follow.

Gothic Travel through Haunted Landscapes: Climates of Fear, by Lucie Armitt & Scott Brewster. Published by Anthem Studies in Gothic Literature


“Welcome home, dear”: my first encounter with the Gothic

Neither of my parents like horror but, luckily for me, my mum has poor memory. So it was that, when I was five and enamoured of Roald Dahl, she let me watch an episode of Tales of the Unexpected.

The episode we watched, for reasons unknown to me – it falls directly in the middle of the first series – was The Landlady. I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching it (and if you haven’t, you can do so here!), but suffice to say that it was not made for five-year-olds.

This prompted a thirst for all things spooky, and I spent my afternoons at my grandparents’ house after school watching Scooby-Doo and Mona the Vampire. When Doctor Who returned to the airwaves in 2005, it became an all-consuming obsession – especially with the more horrific episodes. At school, where I was usually shy, I exploited our permission to move around the room and talk in art lessons to ask my classmates if any of them knew any ghost stories.

It was also at this time that I first began exploring Gothic literature, reading and rereading my copy of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights until it fell apart. I had a friend who loved Tim Burton and convinced my dad to rent his adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd for me on the basis that it was a musical. My phone at the time could only store three songs, so henceforth I spent my journeys to and from school listening to “The Worst Pies in London”, “Epiphany” and “A Little Priest” on repeat.

When I went to college, my horizons were expanded further. In English literature, I was taught by the writer Michael Donkor, who introduced me to my first tastes of queer Gothic – Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and the work of Ali Smith, still one of my favourite writers. In media studies, meanwhile, we spent an early lesson dissecting the opening scene of Wes Craven’s Scream, which terrified and delighted me and began my love of slashers.

During my undergraduate degree, I became infatuated with Matthew Lewis’ The Monk – still possibly the most shocking book I have ever read, though Sayaka Murata’s wonderful Earthlings certainly gives it a run for its money – and wrote my dissertation on the queer Gothic, then applied to the Manchester Centre of Gothic Studies for my Masters.

It was during my MA that I returned to my first great love: television. Perhaps because of Roald Dahl’s early influence, much of my favourite fiction is anthology horror – Nigel Kneale’s Beasts, Hammer House of Horror, Black Mirror and, in particular, Inside No. 9. I also fell in love with Kneale’s other works, particularly The Stone Tape, and with Stephen Volk’s infamous Ghostwatch.

I now research what I term the Televisual Gothic – television horror about the horrors of television, from anxieties surrounding technological advance to deaths associated with reality broadcasting – and I have my mum’s early lapse in parental judgement to thank.

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