Gothic Networking Day at MMU: a review

Posted by rebeccaduncan on July 16, 2014 in News tagged with , , , ,

At about quarter past nine on Saturday 12 July, Shannon Rollins (currently writing an excellent blog series on Steampunk for the International Gothic Association – check it out here: http://www.iga.stir.ac.uk/showblog.php?id=169) and I were walking through Manchester Metropolitan University on our way to the Gothic networking day organised by Linnie Blake and Xavier Aldana Reyes. A group of people had gathered outside the doors to the business school. ‘Is this it?’ I asked. ‘Don’t think so, ’ Shannon replied. ‘Not wearing enough black.’ This is one of the things I like about the Gothic academy. Conferences and meetings like the one held on Saturday are frequently attended by people whose investment in the Gothic tends to extend beyond the scholarly and into the domain we might (and that this distinction is a bit of a straw man should become clear in a minute) think of as ‘real life.’ The results of this are particularly productive. Gothic events are, in my experience, especially engaging, especially dynamic, and at least in part I think this has to do with the extent to which research is often hooked into a network of personal tastes and identifications that are also mediated in some way by a sense of the Gothic.

Organisers Xavier Aldana Reyes and Linnie Blake

Organisers Xavier Aldana Reyes and Linnie Blake

In fact, in this era of ‘Impact’ (note the capital) with its imperative for the academy to assert its relevance beyond the Ivory Tower, this might be one reason why Gothic Studies seems to be flourishing. Saturday’s networking meeting is itself proof that this is the case, organised as it was under the auspices of the recently opened Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. The day — the purpose of which was to facilitate contact and exchange between students and academics, and to discuss the ways in which (early career) researchers might optimise their working profiles — kicked off (following the necessary caffeine session) with Linnie and Xavi

pointing up precisely Gothic’s peculiar capacity to transcend disciplinary divisions and pique interests outside an academic community. Gothic geographers were mentioned, as were zombie microbiologies; and we heard, too, about the wide variety of different elements – ranging from research to séance to a Goth party in a church – that came together in last year’s week-long Gothic festival. This was also organised by the centre at MMU, and, you’ll be pleased to hear, is going to be run again later in 2014.

After the introduction by the MMU cohort, discussion turned to para-research activity, and to the Blog as a means through which postgraduate students might gain exposure for their ideas and work through these in a format freer and more concise than the academic essay. Matt Foley, curator of this site, gave a talk on Stirling’s Gothic Imagination, but the blog medium was a theme that recurred throughout the day. Opportunities to produce pieces of this this kind are many, we learnt, in the field of Gothic studies. Catherine Spooner, in her introduction to the International Gothic Association, also drew attention to the organisation’s student blog (of which I’ve already made mention here) as a productive way to promote postgraduate work. And if the blog is one way to begin cultivating a visible research profile then, as HLSS project manager Helen Malarkey made infinitely clear, social media is another, vital resource. I think I am not alone in having wildly underestimated the centrality of things like Facebook and Twitter, the actual capacities of which I now know I have not even begun to explore. After Helen’s talk, however, I am decidedly better informed. There is decidedly more to the internet than cats and hashtags — although the latter, it turns out, should be considered with the utmost seriousness. In fact, it seems a large contingent of Saturday’s attendees have similarly taken the social media lessons to heart – if the Gothic hyperactivity on my newsfeed is anything to by, at any rate, and I suspect that it is.

 

from left: Gothic Imagination curator Matt Foley, with delegates Neil McRobert and Shannon Rollins

from left: Gothic Imagination curator Matt Foley, with delegates Neil McRobert and Shannon Rollins

In addition to talks on the blog, on the IGA and on the potentials of the social network, we also heard from Sarah Lewis, the commissioning editor for University of Wales Press, from Sorcha Ní Fhlainn on the journal Gothic Studies, and from Dara Downey and Jenny McDonnell on the open access Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies. There was a panel, too, of speakers who also work in the Gothic outside the academy: David’s McWilliam’s Twisted Tales organises literary events dedicated to Gothic and horror fiction, Simeon Halligan directs the Grimmfest horror film festival and Kerry Gorrill does work on the Gothic within schools and colleges. In this way, the networking day’s programme reflected the Gothic as a field, not just of scholarly research, but of interests that are far wider and more varied. It highlighted a sense of our area of study as thriving and expanding, a site of diverse, intersecting, interdisciplinary engagements. The meeting also brought into focus the many opportunities for research students that have grown out of this productive mix of ideas, disciplines and interests, from teaching to blogging to publication, editing, reviewing and producing creative material. Indeed, if the post-meeting pub visit is any index of an event’s success – and I think it probably is –then Linnie and Xavi should take the animated discussions that went on round the table, not to mention the plans that have emerged for future meetings and research collaborations, as something of a resounding affirmation.

 

 

 

 

 

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