The Centre for the History of the Gothic’s Online Retreat: A Summary

Missed the recent Centre for the History of the Gothic’s Online Retreat? Not to worry! Sheffield Gothic have you covered with this summary…

Sheffield Gothic were invited to partake in the Centre for the History of the Gothic’s online retreat on Friday 23rd April. The day was kindly organised by the Centre’s co-directors, Andrew Smith, Angela Wright, and Maisha Wester. Alongside important training and information sessions in the afternoon, the day provided an opportunity for members of the Gothic postgraduate team to share their current work, and get to know each other after a year of distanced research.

Gothic Crime: Penny Dreadful and Nordic Noir

The retreat began with a panel on Gothic crime with Celine Frohn giving a fascinating presentation on Penny Bloods, the gorier precursors to Penny Dreadfuls, examining theories of the carnivalesque. Evangeline Payne then examined the transfer between the Gothic of the nineteenth century in texts such as Frankenstein, Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde and late twentieth to early twenty-first century Nordic noir, particularly examining liminal spaces and the development of the Gothic castle. She explained the ways in which problems of translation impact research into Nordic writings.

Gothic Others: Ghosts and Killer Plants

In the next panel on Gothic Others, Katy Neal discussed object hauntings in Gothic fiction, particularly in the context of the early Twentieth Century’s call to modernity, exploring how manuscripts, antiques and furniture is re-imagined and re-worked at the turn of the century. Katy expects that her research will go on to exploring new technology and the ghost story, looking at telephones and type-writers. Rosa Nowak then talked about agentic plants and the link between autonomous plants in the Gothic tradition and late-Victorian fears of degeneration. From satirical ghost stories to the Lovecraftian notion of ‘seduction by plant’, this panel was definitely an insight into the power of the Other in Gothic fiction.

Gothic Creative Writing

This was then followed by an incredibly interesting Creative Writing panel, exemplifying the diverse research that the Centre supports. Catherine Greenwood, for example, spoke of ‘Arctic Gothic’ and the ways in which anxieties in this space operate as the ‘uncanny signs of a crisis already here’. Mark Hackett, meanwhile, looked to American Gothic and ‘small town conspiracy’ as a mode which examines the forgotten histories of America, the dark side of the American dream. Their respective works demonstrated the significance of different spaces in Gothic literature, exploring the ‘unheimlich’ and creatures as harbingers of destruction.

Medical Gothic

Following a short break, the retreat kicked back off with a Medical Gothic panel, beginning with Hannah Pinnock discussing asylum archives, particularly in the context of narratives around epilepsy. Rosie Crocker also introduced research into the figure of the neo-Victorian doctor and his role in subversive anatomical practices. Common themes between these two talks emerged in issues of patient autonomy, stigma, and body-mind separation.

Gothic forms: the Renaissance, Poetry and Frame narratives

The final panel of the morning saw Amy Jackson speak of the intervention of ‘memento mori’ in Renaissance drama. Amy argues that the Gothic exemplified an appropriation of this religious notion by incorporating its imagery into an aesthetic of death and decay. Carly Stevenson followed Amy by introducing research on Keats not only as a reader of the Gothic, but as a practitioner of the Gothic mode. This was explored through a sensorial structure in line with Keats’s interest in the corporeal body. Finally, Melanie Bonsey presented the final talk on research, exploring the figure of the historian in the Gothic and looking at the recurrence of historiographic metafiction in Gothic literature and the idea of the ‘implied author’.

After an exciting series of panels exploring a vast range of research, the afternoon focused on training and development opportunities. Sheffield Gothic co-organisers, Dr Lauren Nixon and Mary Going, gave an important talk on ‘Conferences, Social Media and Public Engagement’. Lauren and Mary emphasised ‘inclusivity, diversity and supportiveness’ in conference organising, discussing possible ways of ensuring that these values are represented at future events. They also gave crucial training on social media engagement, including practical advice on keeping up with multiple accounts, as well as how to use social media as branding and marketing tools. Their final section on public engagement covered different formats of events such as Wikipedia edit-a-thons, festivals and YouTube series. Lauren and Mary ended their talk by looking at the practical side of running in-person events, something we all hope will be possible soon!

Next, Dr Kathleen Hudson and Dr Hannah Moss ran a session on ‘Publishing, Applying for Small Grants, and Joining Academic Societies’. Kathleen discussed the range of ways to get into academic publishing, exploring the differences in publication processes between monographs and edited collections. Hannah looked primarily at academic societies, explaining the benefits and costs of joining societies, particularly in terms of the funding opportunities they can offer. Both speakers offered a really fascinating insight into several important aspects of an academic career, giving lots of advice from their own experiences.

Finally, Andy, Angela and Maisha gave a talk on ‘Publishing Opportunities’, discussing different kinds of academic publishing, providing attendees with book series and journals that may welcome Gothic contributors.

The day was an amazing insight into the broad range of Gothic researchers and thesis topics that operate within the Centre and a great opportunity to share work and get to know each other more informally. Thank you to Andy, Angela and Maisha for their work in organising the retreat and thank you to everyone who came along and shared their work. Sheffield Gothic hopes to explore the work of these researchers in more detail over the coming months, so keep an eye out for more from our postgrad community!