Sheffield Gothic Profile Blog: Emily Marlow

The next instalment in our profile blog series focuses on Emily Marlow, PhD researcher at SIIBS at the University of Sheffield. Read as Emily explores what drew her to the Gothic, her favourite Gothic text, and who she would like to invite to dinner! 


Hi, my name is Emily and I’m a PhD candidate with the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) part of The University of Sheffield. I’m a First Class BA (Hons) and MA graduate of the University of Sheffield, born in Tauranga, New Zealand, who grew up in Coffs Harbour, Australia before settling in Sheffield, in the United Kingdom. You can follow my work on my website, or follow me on twitter @EmilyRMarlow.

What do you research?
Broadly I look at religion in video games, film and other media. Specifically, my PhD looks at the journey of Jesus in film, to Jesus-figures in film, to Jesus-figures in video games. This means I get to study Jesus films like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and the popular musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus-figure films such as the Captain America series, and finally video games from the North American game studio BioWare, who often feature Jesus-figures as playable characters. I use queer game studies to look at how we can play with religious narratives in media. 
How did you become interested in the Gothic?
I was never really aware that the media I loved was part of a larger genre that we know as ‘Gothic’, and only realised it when I first became acquainted with Sheffield Gothic. Now that I’m more familiar with Gothic definitions I can see that it has always been a large part of my favourite texts.
As a child I was fascinated by film, art and books. I was raised in a theatre family, which meant that early on I had seen, or been in, several plays that I now realise were inherently Gothic (Little Shop of Horrors anyone?). I loved dark thrillers and supernatural television, such as the X-Files and Twin Peaks. The earliest Halloween costume I remember wearing was Wednesday Addams (my brother was Pugsley), and I remember feeling an immense sense of kinship with her character. Who wouldn’t want to live in that house?
What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?As problematic as he is, I would firstly recommend Stephen King. King has a special place in my reading life – the first ‘adult’ book I ever tried to read was his baffling psychic political adventure The Dead Zone (1979). I still feel that It (1986) is one of the scariest books I have ever read, and finishing it felt like a real achievement. While The Shining (1977) is not my favourite book, I recommend readers check out its sequel Doctor Sleep (2013), which in my opinion features some of the most creatively written vampires in literature.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my absolute favourite Stephen King book (and probably a good contender for my favourite book of all time), The Stand (1978/1990). In this King tries his hand at creating an American version of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and it is a complete tour de force of characterisation, a dynamic fight of good and evil, and above all, delightfully Gothic.
I’m a bit of a Stanley Kubrick fanatic, but instead of recommending the (in my opinion, perfect) The Shining (1980), I’d suggest readers try out Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). This reimagining of the 1926 French novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzler, is sumptuously dark, agonisingly erotic and beautifully acted. Beware if you, like me, find masks a bit spooky!
As far as games, I recommend playing The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (2015). Witcher is a great example of solid storytelling in games and is completely shot through with Gothic references and motifs. I love that I get to study Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) as part of my PhD and as Lauren Nixon reminds me regularly, this too is incredibly Gothic.
For comics I’d recommend Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series or Alan Moore’s From Hell, both of which are excellent works that transcend their genres.
Lastly, I can’t not mention possibly my all-time favourite Gothic text – the rock opera/musical that is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. To me this demonstrates everything that is good in both Gothic media and theatre. It has spectacle, drama, technical skill and horror. Every time I see it I am completely enraptured – it’s just perfect to me.
If you could invite any Gothic writer, artist, musician or character to dinner, who would you choose and why?
I’d probably want to have a whole host of characters, rather than creators – characters are much more entertaining! 😉 I’d include John Constantine (and specifically the Keanu Reeves version of the character), Geralt of Rivia (his awkwardness at dinner parties notwithstanding), Eric Northman (who would hopefully not eat anyone), Dorian Gray (for conversation and devilishness), Lisbeth Salander (the ultimate in Gothic heroines), Gomez and Morticia Addams (the greatest married couple in fiction) and finally Hannibal Lecter (who would also hopefully not eat anyone). I can just see it now…