A Collaborative Review of the 12th Biennial International Gothic Association Conference: Gothic Migrations

Posted by Kelly Gardner on August 26, 2015 in Ben Noad, Blog, Reviews tagged with , , ,

12th Biennial International Gothic Association Conference: Gothic Migrations

Gothic Migrations

The 12th Biennial International Gothic Association Conference was held in Vancouver, British Columbia from 28th July to 1st August 2015. A cohort from the University of Stirling was in attendance, eager to represent the University, to explore the City of Vancouver and, of course, to partake in this biennial gathering of Gothic scholars from across the globe.
The theme for this year’s conference was Gothic Migrations and the conference was expertly coordinated by Dr. John Whatley of Simon Fraser University and hosted by The International Gothic Association and its Co-Presidents Professor Angela Wright (University of Sheffield) and Dr. Catherine Spooner (Lancaster University). Sponsors of the conference included the Simon Fraser University Department of English, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (SFU), and The Centre for Online and Distance Education (SFU).

Following a The Twilight of the Gothicbrief introduction by theThe Gothic World IGA Co-Presidents, the Alan Lloyd Smith prizes were awarded by Professor David Punter. This year saw two prizes awarded: one for a monograph and another for an edited collection. Joseph Crawford was awarded the prize for the best monograph for The Twilight of the Gothic? Vampire Fiction and the Rise of the Paranormal Romance, 1991-2012 (University of Wales Press, 2014), and Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend were awarded the prize for the best edited collection of essays for The Gothic World
(Routledge, 2013).

The conference organisers ensured that a variety of optional events were available for attendance, in addition to the four days of parallel panels and three exemplary plenaries of which Stuart Lindsay will discuss later.

The Outer HarbourTwo local authors wereSoucouyant invited to give readings of their work; David Chariandy read from his novel Soucouyant and Wayde Compton read from his collection of short stories The Outer Harbour.

The conference coincided with Vancouver’s annual Festival of Lights, so Wednesday and Saturday evenings were spent on English Bay beach watching the sky being lit with hundreds of fireworks.

On Thursday evening we ventured Festival of lightsto The Cinematheque for a Gothic movie night, which Fanny Lacôte discusses later in this post. On Friday afternoon members of the International Gothic Association met for the Annual General Meeting; Ben Noad was in attendance, and he will conclude this post with a summary of the event. Following the AGM, the final official evening of the conference, we spent the evening on a harbour dinner cruise, which provided an opportunity to interact with fellow academics in IMG_4332a more relaxed
environment, while enjoying panoramic views of Vancouver from the water, Janet Chu will elaborate on this experience. Following the cruise a handful of Goths descended on the hotel bar for a night of karaoke.

The conference came to a close on Saturday afternoon with a general discussion on the success of the conference. The Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites proved an excellent venue, the staff went over and above their duties and as a result the conference took place with very little mishap. Our farewells were made and promises to reunite at the 2017 conference in Mexico were shared before we departed with heavy hearts but invigorated minds.

A Reflection on the Plenaries by Stuart Lindsay

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The IGA had three highly impressive plenary presentations. The first, on Wednesday 29 July, was delivered by Dale Townshend, a Senior Lecturer and director of the Gothic Imagination MLitt programme at Stirling University. The subject of his presentation, entitled ‘Architecture, Romance and the Migration of the Gothic Imagination’ was the destruction by accidental fire of the old Palace of Westminster – a ‘giant of the Gothic age’, as it was affectionately termed – on the night of Thursday 16 October, 1834. The presentation charted the testimonial accounts of the disaster and its depictions in visual art – the building’s destruction, the paper revealed, was rendered in an apocalyptic tone, and the aftermath of the fire, which left the Old Palace in a state of almost Romantic ruin, was represented in a Gothic mode. Dr. Townshend’s paper then turned to the resulting ‘War of the Styles’: an argument between architects and literary critics that raged over how a new Westminster ought to appear aesthetically. Two groups emerged during this debate: on the one side, individuals such as Sir John Soane proposed the new building be constructed in a Neoclassical style – to reflect the rational, ordered democracies of the ancient past upon which English government was based – and on the other, proponents of the more traditional Gothic style, such as Sir Charles Barry, who supposed English values were derived from the medieval period marked by the Germanic tribes, collectively known as the Goths. Dr. Townshend’s presentation laid out and explored the positive and negative political and national implications of the Gothic style: its lively origination of a tradition of English democracy more eminent and intimately experienced in England than the comparatively distant democracies of the Classical past, and its connections to barbarism, darkness, and irrationality – an unstable aesthetic foundation, its detractors claimed, upon which to rebuild the ideological seat of government.

The Purge
The second paper, on Thursday 30 July, was delivered by Julia Wright, Professor of English at Dalhousie University, Halifax. Her Plenary, entitled ‘Spooky Houses and the Unheimlich State’, charted the unhomely home in Gothic fiction, from the Irish Gothic manor – the site of an authority over Ireland of debatable legitimacy – to the manifestation of the Unheimlich in twentieth century television and film, specifically in The Purge film franchise. Professor Wright’s paper claimed that the state of homelessness is silent, falling outside the homely, and that when the homeless individual enters the home – such an event occurs in the first Purge film – the domestic space is rendered Unheimlich, and the naturalised socio-economic disparities between population groups it maintains are exposed critically.

The third paper, on Friday July 31, was delivered by Justin Edwards, Professor of English at Surrey University. His plenary, entitled ‘Migrations of Terror; or Zombification and Everyday Terror/ism’ explored the confluence between the U.S government’s narrative of the War on Terror, and the figure and cultural associations of the zombie. Professor Edwards’ paper studied a wide variety of artefacts in service of this conflation: World Trade Centre souvenirs designed to consolidate an emotive, yet ultimately performative, sense of victimhood and mourning, and shooting range target representations of zombified Al Qaeda and IS fighter terrorists aimed at manufacturing a comedic sense of catharsis through the destruction of an abject, mindless other. The plenary concluded with trailers of two terrorist-themed zombie films: Ozombie and Zombinladen: The Axis of Evil Dead – the latter is a ‘fake’ trailer: for a film that does not exist. This section of the paper showed how the comedic figure of the zombie invites us to laugh at, and thereby inadvertently obfuscate, the systemic violence acted upon the Middle East by the U.S military-industrial complex.


On the eve of the second day we headed to The Cinematheque for a Gothic movie night. In a very Gothic atmosphere, the empty, half-lighted room welcomed us while the Twin Peaks soundtrack was playing in the background.Ginger Snaps
Karen Budra, from Langara College, delightfully hosted the event and introduced the two speakers of the evening: Canadian actor, director and writer in theatre, film and television, William Dow, who acted in the X-Files series – of which some episodes were shot in Vancouver – and Prof. Julia Wright, from Dalhousie University, who just presented her plenary address on Spooky Houses and the Unheimlich State the same day. As an appetizer, both of them respectively presented clips taken from one episode of the X-Files (1993-2002) – “The Culsari” Episode 21 of Season two – and one episode of the Vancouver-located Supernatural (2005-) series – “Hell House” (Episode 17 of Season one) – before handing over to Karen Budra for a presentation of the movie of the night: Ginger Snaps (2000).
Ginger Snaps was both a relevant and interesting choice of movie for a celebration of Canadian Gothic film; for the film, which centres on two death-obsessed teenage sisters, and uses lycanthropy as a metaphor for female puberty, was filmed in Canada by Canadian director John Faucett and played by Canadian actors Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle, both born in Vancouver.
After one hour and forty-eight minutes of pure Gothic delight – a sweet reminder of one’s adolescence for those of us who were teenagers when the movie was released –, we each parted our ways for a good night sleep before another exciting conference day.

Textual Migrations I: Ann Radcliffe

The IGA 2015 conference was my first IGA conference, and I was delighted by the diversity and the quality of the panels and the papers presented during those four enriching days. For this collaborative blog post, I chose to review one of the first concurrent sessions in the morning of the very first day of the conference, “Textual Migration I: Ann Radcliffe”, in which I took part.Ann Radcliffe
Chaired by Prof. Angela Wright from Sheffield University, Co-president of the International Gothic Association, this panel was 18th and early 19th centuries focused, and, as its title indicates, centred on the figure of Ann Radcliffe.
The first paper was delivered by Dr. Agnieszka ?owczanin, from University of ?ód? in Poland. Her paper, entitled “’I dedicate this work to the care of the dismal spirit of Anna de Radklif’: Polish Gothicism at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries”, was focused on the figure of Anna Olimpia Mostowska (1762-1833), one of the first female professional writer in Poland. Agnieszka ?owczanin’s paper demonstrated the convergence between Anna Olimpia Mostowska’s novels and those of Ann Radcliffe, in the context of a politically repressed Poland, which, landlocked between two political and military forces – Germany and Russia –, was brought to question its own national boundaries and its own identity. In this favourable context for Gothic fiction, Anna Olimpia Mostowska read Ann Radcliffe in French translation, and then published a novel Matylda i Dani?o (1806), which echoes not only Radcliffe’s œuvre but also Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. The Polish writer Anna Olimpia Mostowska did not forget to include an educational dimension in her Gothic work, which she addressed to a new readership, mainly composed of young women in need of scary Gothic romances.

The second paper was delivered by myself, a PhD candidate in joint agreement between the University of Stirling and the Université de Lorraine in France. By presenting a paper entitled “English Gothic served “à la française”: French forgeries of Ann Radcliffe”, I focused on French forgeries and imitations of Ann Radcliffe, which publishing dates, between 1799 and 1824, coincided not only with the novelist’s literary silence, and constituted a commercial mean to fill the gap and fulfill the impatient readership’s expectations, but also with the rumours about her premature death which lasted until her actual death. This paper, by explaining that Ann Radcliffe’s name, in itself enough to guarantee good sales, became the means by which a number of aristocrats earned their living after the French Revolution, by turning to translations, to forgeries and to imitations, sought not only to demonstrate the novelist’s success across the Channel, in France, but also the continuation of cultural exchanges between France and England, though political relations between the two nations were troubled. In the process, it demonstrated the ‘migration’ of a national literary genre into the imagination of another national tradition, a movement that revealed some of the reasons for the Gothic’s success in early nineteenth-century France.

The third and final paper of the panel was Dr. Céline Rodenas, from the Université du Havre. Her paper, entitled “Ann Radcliffe’s novels and their translations into Italian at the beginning of the nineteenth century” was focused on the Italian translations of Ann Radcliffe’s oeuvre, which were the first Gothic novels to be translated in Italy. These Italian translations were not translated from the English of the original works, but from French translations, and it is worth noting that the Gothic vogue seemed to have penetrated the Italian literary market quite late, for these translations were published quite long after the French ones. Céline Rodenas’s paper then explored the diverse liberties taken by the translators in order to adapt their texts to an Italian readership: suppression of poetry, and of descriptive and sentimental passages – of which resulted less psychological depth –, and moderation – especially of Italian characters in the translation of The Italian – to meet the censor’s requirements.

These three papers showed that Ann Radcliffe’s success expanded way beyond the borders of her own nation, thus illustrating the international reception of the novelist in 18th century Europe. In doing so, these papers also highlighted the fact that France was, at the time, an important translation centre, as French translations of English Gothic novels served as model for Polish and Italian ones.

11863110_492190977614212_345643640_oA Reflection by Janet Chu

Towards the end of the third day of the IGA’s migration-themed conference, a dinner cruise run by the time-honoured Harbour Cruises was arranged for the conference’s banquet and excursion. Departing from Vancouver Harbour, the ship made a tour for us to see a number 11871925_492190974280879_194743382_oof picturesque scenes and landmarks, such as the skyline of Vancouver City, the Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park, and the North Shore Mountains. The changing views, the gentle waves, the azure waters, and the refreshing sea breezes offered a breath of fresh air and a new experience of being off the land. Mounting the stairs to the top deck of the ship, 11882897_492190254280951_1468662731_oone could even gain a panorama of the sea and a further outlook of the shores and the lush green vegetation. Thrills, delights, and probably a momentary sense of the sublime were felt by many of the conference attendees at that point.

As the sun was setting, a buffet in the dining room was prepared for us. It was a great pleasure to have the deliciously served food of salad, roast potatoes, beef, pasta, rice, coffee, and cakes, and at the same time, to enjoy the splendid seascapes and the fair reddish skies. While I was savouring the meal and the moment on the sea, the panel on the Gothic Ships and Gothic Oceans that I attended on the previous day occurred to me. In that panel, Justin Van Wormer and Professor Victor Sage had an impressive discussion about Germanism and Poe; German Romanticism was assumed to cast certain influences on Poe. As conducting my research, I had also observed some possible German sources for Poe in his early nineteenth-century background. In Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, a popular periodical read by Poe, for example, translated works from and reviews of German Romantic writers such as Tieck, Fouqué, and Hoffmann were introduced and published. Poe later, as a magazine editor, reviewed Fouqué’s Undine, lauding it for its expression of imagination and its implicit rendering of allegorical denotations. As a writer, Poe in his burlesque ‘A Decided Loss’ mentions Peter Schlemihl, the eponymous protagonist who loses his shadow in the widely circulated work by another German Romantic writer Chamisso.

The seas transported foreign prints and new thoughts to another country; on the other hand, the unknownness and the unpredictability of the seas has inspired writers’ imagination to create sea adventures, monstrous creatures, and phantom ships. But the seas never tell. They await us to plumb the depths of those spatio-temporal ‘migrations’ of conventions and notions to find the truth beneath the surface. In this year’s IGA conference, many new and great insights were presented. I was delighted and honoured to attend the conference, and learned from other presenters. Much motivated and encouraged, I expected myself to further my current PhD research, and someday ? like all those dedicated scholars ? to make my own contribution to the field of Gothic studies.

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IGA AGM: A Commentary by Benjamin E. Noad

My first experience of an IGA conference grew too quickly to a close; after three spectacular days of illuminating and extensive Gothic dialogues, Friday afternoon had, like many a worthy apparition, seemed to vanish without warning. However, it was not all “gloomth” at this point in time: more Gothic panels were promised by the dawning of Saturday, and, more pressingly, the conference banquet (courtesy of Sunset Harbour Cruises) promised a unique evening ahead of us. For me, it also assured inordinate quantities of wine and less than dignifying phantasmagoric photographs which would, in themselves, make a suitable Gothic convention. Thankfully, my blog piece here relieves me of the burden of recollecting Gothic decadence outside of the academy, and I am thrilled to relate the very exciting details which emerged from the 12th Biennial IGA’s AGM.
Before I proceed with the “[my extended commentary of the] minutes” of the AGM, I am inclined to mention two pieces of important information: firstly, to remain within the loop of forthcoming updates, IGA members are encouraged to “like” the official IGA Facebook page if they have not already done so. Secondly, – and I am especially keen to reiterate this information – the IGA has funding available for other Gothic related conferences and symposiums, and members are encouraged to try to run an IGA sponsored panel at such events. I hope this information will attract and encourage forthcoming Gothic events, as the IGA are very keen to support its members and their subsequent Gothick endeavours.
Speaking of Gothic conferences, some very exciting news was announced: the 13th Biennial IGA conference will take place at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP), Mexico. While the theme has still to be confirmed, great enthusiasm was shown towards the notion of “Gothic Traditions.” This might include consideration of Gothic as a emblematic of tradition, a departure from tradition; cultural manifestations of Gothic; oral and folklore traditions to more diverse themes such as how Goth sub-culture is inspired by tradition.
More good news quickly followed: in 2018, the IGA will be hosting “Gothic Hybrids: An Interdisciplinary Conference at Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies.” This very promising event will coincide with the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein. This will be a highly interdisciplinary event, and contributors are encouraged to think about ideas of Gothic polyvalence and hybrids more generally. While a venue for the IGA’s 14th Biennial conference in 2019 is still to be announced, the IGA is keen to hear from interested institutions in North America. To summarise this paragraph, Gothic scholars can sleep easy knowing that there will be some very major Gothic events in 2017, 2018 and 2019! Do keep an eye on the IGA pages for more information on these matters.
This year has seen nineteen new members enlist themselves within the vibrant Gothic community that is the IGA, although it goes without saying that we all want this number to be continuously on the rise! Current members are also reminded to renew their membership if they have not already done so.
At the moment, the IGA has some vacancies available, and these will undoubtedly be a valuable addition to emerging researcher’s CVs. Information on these vacancies, which include a website designer and a postgraduate representative, can be found on the IGA’s website. The IGA were keen to thank the individuals who had previously maintained these roles, and on behalf of the IGA, I want to reiterate their thanks as they have genuinely enhanced the running of the IGA: a debt of gratitude is owed to Dr Stuart Lindsay for his continued and invaluable commitment to the role of webmaster, while Laura Kremmel and Chloé Buckley have maintained a truly vibrant postgraduate community, managing the IGA Guest Bloggers and have done an absolutely amazing job of making newcomers (like myself) feel right at home (not least by means of the “postgraduate pub”!) amongst the ever-growing international Gothic community. I would like to wish all these people the best of luck for their future endeavours.

gothicd0Gothic Studies, the leading journal in our field, has also seen a number of positive changes thanks to MUP’s latest publishing technologies. The journal will be moving away from special issues to be more inclusive of general Gothic themes. It is worth remembering that by purchasing a full IGA membership you can receive the latest journal editions via an individual subscription. This is certainly worth doing.
Another item mentioned was the launch of a logo design competition available to members, with a £100 prize for the best entry. Interested parties should contact the presidents for more information.
Finally, it is with great pleasure that I say a massive thank you to all the contributors, presenters and delegates who attended the IGA and worked so hard to make it such a pleasurable occasion. Thank you especially to John Whatley who organised the conference in Canada, John did a truly amazing job. It really was a very special time for me, and I cannot wait for 2017! Thank you also to Catherine Spooner and Angela Wright as they continue in their role as presidents of the IGA, it really is, I think, the best international scholarly community, and I am enormously grateful for these and other future Gothic events.


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