Next in Sheffield Gothic’s series of profile blogs is post featuring Amy Jackson, PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield. Read on to find out how Amy became interested in the Gothic, what her favourite Gothic texts are, and who she would invite to dinner!
I’m Amy Jackson and I’m a PhD student in the School of English at the University of Sheffield. I completed my BA (Hons) in English Literature at York St John University and an MA in English Literature at the University of Sheffield.
What do you research?
I’m researching the ways in which English Renaissance literature, particularly Renaissance drama, anticipated and influenced aspects of Gothic literature.
During my MA at Sheffield I focused on various aspects of Renaissance revenge tragedies and that has continued in the first year of my PhD research. My main interests are early modern religion and the representation of death on stage but I’m also very interested in early modern witchcraft, demonology, and national identity. I usually work on Elizabethan and Jacobean plays such as Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Macbeth, Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi but I plan to work on Caroline drama in the future.
Another aspect of my research explores how eighteenth-century writers and scholars interacted with, and often purposely misread, Shakespeare’s work to create the figure of ‘the Bard’. This is an offshoot of my main research topic but I’m intrigued by the ways in which Shakespeare’s work was ‘corrected’ in the eighteenth century and how often Shakespeare’s ghost was brought onto the stage in prologues to approve or condemn the changes made to his work.
How did you become interested in the Gothic?
I read a lot of Gothic novels as a teenager including Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Wuthering Heights but I can’t pinpoint when I started reading them.
I became interested in Gothic studies when I took Sheffield’s MA module ‘The Rise of the Gothic’. The module led to my current research topic as I was encouraged to explore the links between Renaissance literature and the Gothic. Through this module, I was introduced to novels such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk and Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya and I loved everything that I read for that module. Well, I loved everything except Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey but the Sheffield Gothic reading group has changed my opinion about that novel recently.
I should also mention that my childhood home was next to the remains of a 12th-century Cluniac monastery so a lot of my childhood was spent exploring the ruins. It makes sense that I’m drawn to Gothic novels and early modern religion.
What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?
I’d recommend anything that I’ve already mentioned (including the Renaissance plays) but I’d also recommend several other novels and a TV show.
The Italian by Ann Radcliffe (1797)
This is my favourite Radcliffe novel. It’s dark and sombre and it examines religious persecution during the Holy Inquisition. It lends itself perfectly to my research interests around post-Reformation religion but I also just really enjoyed reading it.
Mary Shelley’s Gothic/science fiction novel is a masterpiece and a must-read. I just love everything about it but I especially love that Shelley engaged with the scientific discourse of the time and set some of her novel in the Arctic. Frankenstein still resonates with readers today and Mary Shelley changed how we think about science fiction.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
The atmosphere that Daphne du Maurier created in this novel is amazing. There are hints of violence and the supernatural but I think it’s the feeling of mystery and terror, along with the wonderful setting of Manderley, that makes this novel such a great Gothic read.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)
This is a novel that is full of silent tension and vindictive ghosts. It feels like you’re reading a classic Gothic novel even though it was written in the 1980s.
My final book recommendation is a novel that terrified me when I first read it. It’s so intense and I was not prepared for the matter-of-fact discussions of violence and murder that frequently occur in the novel. I suppose The Wasp Factory is a horror novel but it does contain a lot of the conventions of a classic Gothic novel from the isolated, creepy setting to the constant feeling of dread that you experience while you’re reading it. It was described by a reviewer in the Irish Times as ‘a work of unparalleled depravity’ when it was first published and that’s pretty Gothic.
The Living and the Dead (BBC, 2016)
As for TV, I have to recommend The Living and the Dead. It’s a supernatural horror mini-series and it’s a very unsettling show. It’s set on a nineteenth-century farm and each episode deals with the disconnect between spiritualism and science through hauntings and possessions. It’s a wonderful series.
If you could invite any Gothic writer, artist, musician or character to dinner, who would you choose and why?
I would have to choose Mary Shelley because she’s one of my favourite writers. She lived a fascinating life and she was an incredibly influential writer so it would be amazing to be in the same room as her.