Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog: Kathleen Hudson

The next instalment in Sheffield Gothic’s series of profile blog focuses on Kathleen Hudson (Anne Arundel Community College), one of the founding members of Sheffield Gothic and eternally our Goth Queen. Read on to find out Kathleen’s interest in the Gothic, her favourite Gothic text, and who she would like to invite to dinner! 

Introduction:

Greetings, goths! My name is Dr. Kathleen Hudson, and I’m a researcher studying Early Gothic Literature. I earned my undergraduate degree at the University of Scranton and my Masters and PhD degrees at the University of Sheffield. In addition to working as a web developer for the International Gothic Association and the Centre for the History of the Gothic, I have also been a member of the Sheffield Gothic Reading Group for several years and was one of the founding members of the Re-imagining the Gothic Project. I currently work as an adjunct faculty member at Anne Arundel Community College and my first book, entitled Servants and the Gothic: 1764-1831, A half-told tale, is scheduled to be published by University of Wales Press in January 2019. 

What do you research?

My main focus is on servant narratives in early Gothic novels, plays, and chapbook adaptations. Servant characters are frequently included in these works, and my research specifically looks at instances where Gothic servants tell stories or gossip to other characters. Such tales are often compact in-set Gothic narratives and offer fascinating insights into the way the Gothic mode is structured and into the gender and class identities that shape them. While my work mostly focuses on the early Gothic mode, it also has implications for books, TV shows, and movies up to the present day.

How did you become interested in the Gothic?

I actually became interested in the Gothic as a research area in a very roundabout way. I was never overly interested in scary or creepy things as a child, and it wasn’t until I went to university that I started looking seriously at Gothic and horror works. One of the first things I invested in as a new college student was a Netflix subscription. This was back in the days when the streaming service was still very limited, but many of the movies that you could watch whenever you wanted seemed to be cheesy, gory horror films from the 1970s and 80s. I watched Evil Dead, Reanimator, Dead Alive, The Thing, Alien, and all these great classic movies and was utterly fascinated by them. Curiosity about how the filmmakers managed to scare and shock turned into an interest in the reoccurring engagements with psychological issues and human fears and the way those elements were then represented visually in film. 
My interest in Gothic horror remained in the background of my academic life until I took the “Rise of the Gothic” course at the University of Sheffield while getting my Masters Degree in Nineteenth Century Studies. In that class I started to see where many of the elements of horror and humor I so appreciated in my favorite films came from. I learned about the literary origins of haunted houses and villainous parents and thoughtful heroines and developed a new appreciation for the mode as an evolving examination of the very basic building blocks of the human psyche. 
Servant characters and their narratives then emerged as an extension of this interest – they embody many of the elements that intrigued me and were key to understanding how fear and grief and family were reflected through narrative self-expression. I started to focus on why these characters kept popping up and how specific servants were similar or different from others, and that lead me to my fascination with Gothic servant narratives as a whole.

What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe 

This is a classic text and it will probably surprise no one when I include it, but in all honesty, it is one of those books that I finish reading and then immediately want to reread again. Radcliffe’s work is an amazing collection of individual vignettes, complex set-pieces, and individual studies of people. She creates an amazing fictional world that is at once fantastic and very recognizable and personal, and this is absolutely my favorite novel of hers. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

This is another one that feels a bit cliched to include, but in terms of classic Gothic must-reads this is one of the essentials. Shelley’s work is just a profound study of humanity and it never ceases to blow me away. You think you know the story but it’s a tricky text with complex psychological implications – and watch out for the subtle political jabs and the undercurrent of feminist angst. 

Vampire City by Paul Féval 

This one is cheesy and camp and wonderful, and despite some truly goofy moments it is also surprising creepy. It takes all of the more extreme elements of the Gothic and embeds them in an off-the-wall work of what is essentially nineteenth century fan fiction, and the results are a profoundly unsettling re-imaging of the mode. This book also includes my favorite depictions of vampires (which is saying a lot) – they depart from almost every recognizable trope and in some ways are very silly and outlandish, but they also violate and reshape their victims in terrifying ways that really speak to the spirit of the vampire myth. 

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski 

Profoundly beautifully and profoundly unsettling re-imagining of the Gothic haunted house and the boundaries of space, time, and narrative. It’s one of the few books I’ve read that genuinely scared me, but it also makes you think. I reread it every year or so and I always find something new in it to chew on. 

Slade House by David Mitchell 

Part anthology, part vampire story, and part revision of the classic haunted house trop, this book gave me massive existential dread. 

The Evil Dead Trilogy directed by Sam Raimi 

As some of the first films that really inspired my love of horror and the Gothic, these three movies – Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and Army of Darkness – will always hold a very special place in my heart. They cross horror and gore and “The Three Stooges”-style comedy, but they also don’t shy away from exploring the fragile boundaries between humor and horror and the impact the absurd has on the unstable ‘self’. 
Who would you invite to dinner?
I’d probably invite Annette and Ludovico from The Mysteries of Udolpho and Theodore from The Monk to dinner – they’re all chatty servants and I imagine dinner would devolve into one big Gothic storytelling competition before too long.