Eleventh Biennial Conference of the International Gothic Association: Gothic Technologies/Gothic Techniques

Posted by Kelly Gardner on September 13, 2013 in Blog, News tagged with , ,

Eleventh Biennial Conference of the International Gothic Association: Gothic Technologies/Gothic Techniques

For four days in August the bustling town of Guildford was flooded by academics with a penchant for the Gothic. The University of Surrey was the location for the 11th biennial International Gothic Association Conference, and as a first-timer, the experience exceeded all expectations.

The conference was opened on Monday with a keynote address by Fred Botting (Kingston University), entitled ‘automaton’, this captivating presentation served as an ideal introduction to the theme of Gothic Technologies.

On Tuesday, Joan Hawkins (University of Indiana, Bloomington) gave a stimulating presentation entitled “Gothic Horror, Art-Cinema and The Horrific Avant-Garde’ wherein she focused on the work of English film director Ken Russell and his controversial film “Gothic” (1986).

On Wednesday, Sandra Guardini T. Vasconcelos (University of São Paulo) addressed “Tropical Gothic” and spoke inspirationally on the works José de Alencar and the foundation of the Brazilian novel.

Finally, the closing keynote address saw Roger Luckhurst (Birbeck College, University of London) give a particularly fascinating presentation entitled “Undead: The Great Technological Extension.” In which he included in his discussion the relocation of the definition for death, from the heart to the brain, in his exploration of como dépassé. It was a thoroughly enjoyable presentation and a wonderful way to conclude a conference focusing on Gothic technologies.

Papers presented at the conference drew from a range of fields, and attendees were spoilt with a multitude of parallel sessions, ensuring that the days were filled with panels to pique everyone’s interest.

As part of the conference, the winner of the Allan Lloyd Smith Memorial Prize was announced, and the award went to Gothic Music: The Sounds of the Uncanny by Isabella van Elferen, published by the University of Wales Press.

Throughout the conference, we were kept well fed and watered, with pastries in the morning and cakes in the afternoon. Lunch was spent on the lawns outside the Austin Pearce Building, where we were able to embrace the rare rays of a British summer, while enjoying our picnic style eats.

On Tuesday evening we all gathered at the Hillside Restaurant for the conference dinner, which was followed by the much-anticipated ‘Goth Disco’ featuring Paul Hodkinson as DJ. The evening was fabulous, with dancing going on until past midnight. If you are interested in discovering what kind of tunes are played at a Goth Disco, then head on over to http://www.paulhodkinson.co.uk/dj.php for a look at the song set list.

On Wednesday evening we headed into town for the prearranged “Ghost Tour of Guildford: A Walking Tour with Philip Hutchinson”. Our charismatic guide enthralled us with tales of Guildford’s haunted hotspots, and while we never encountered any spirits, it was a lovely opportunity to walk the historic streets of Guildford.

After the ghost tour, in an attempt to take advantage of the spooky atmosphere set by the ghost walk, and inspired by Mads Haahr’s (Trinity College Dublin) presentation “The Vampire in the Machine: The Challenges of Rewriting Dracula as a Location-Based Augmented-Reality Game”, my colleague and I decided to test out “Bram Stoker’s Vampires” by Haunted Planet – the smartphone application that features “unique ghost radar to scan your surroundings… to see into the spirit world.” We had an eerie traipse through the grounds of Surrey University and managed to find all the spectres. Haahr set the app to specific coordinates for the conference, and this was a great addition for the theme of Gothic Technologies/Gothic Techniques.

Cordial thanks were expressed towards Glennis Byron (in absentia) for her insurmountable dedication to the field of Gothic Studies and attention was drawn to her role as editor of the recently released Global Gothic, the first book in the International Gothic Series by Manchester University Press.

The flawlessly executed conference was all thanks to Justin D. Edwards and his team of assistants. On behalf of the Stirling University attendees, I would like to thank them for making the conference such an enjoyable experience.

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