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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Contemporary Gothic

A Horror of Great Darkness: Gothic from the Brontës to Twilight was the main title for yesterday's one day conference for AS and A2 students*, exploring the relationship between the Brontës and Gothic, and how the genre continues to influence contemporary culture. It was particularly relevant to the AQA Literature B syllabus, but was also invaluable to all students wishing to gain a broader critical perspective on both nineteenth century literature, and the understanding of genre.

Students from a number of schools attended workshops, listened to lectures, toured the Parsonage (what else?) and muddied their feet in the graveyard. Efficiently organised mainly by Sue Newby, contributors included Dr Sue Chaplin from the University of Leeds and Dr Catherine Spooner from the University of Lancaster.

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Dr Spooner, dressed appropriately in black, was very much on the same wavelength as her appreciative, overwhelmingly female audience, some of whom (from Altrincham in Cheshire) have promised to send their comments to this blog. Let's hope they do. With the help of a Powerpoint and references to a variety of novels and collections of the past few years (Angela Carter's name cropping up frequently), her main point was that the gothic in all its manifestations has always had a connection with adolescence, with the crossover towards adulthood. 'Threatened virginity'  was a key phrase.

Films on her list included The Woman in Black and Let The Right One In, both of which I would class as significantly disturbing, with a strong 'lingering' quality, especially the second one, in which young Oscar's virginity is threatened by the athletic Eli, who lost hers to the original Transylvanian vampires centuries ago. "Gothic is rampant throughout the contemporary music scene," said Dr Spooner, talking about the persona constructed by 'Mama Monster' Lady Gaga, whose actual music is pretty mainstream pop, and bringing up publicity photos of Marilyn Manson.  "And it's a golden age for gothic television too, there is so much. Think of Vampire Diaries and all the Buffy episodes for a start."

Twilight books are mentioned constantly by her students. She must get tired of her subject sometimes, but is full of professional patience. ( "Perceptions of the gothic are constantly changing... You can't expect the gothic of the nineteenth century to stay as the norm... Today's vampires are different... It depends on how old you are.. It doesn't matter all that much how incredible the situations are or how awful the plotting is...") The Hartley Collins designers were quick to appreciate changing perceptions when they created covers for Wuthering Heights ('Love never dies') and  Jane Eyre ('You can't choose who you fall in love with') which might lure new young readers towards the originals.

*For the benefit of readers outside England and Wales, this means that they are aged between sixteen and eighteen. In the US, they would be studying for APs or SAT II exams.

Pictured - Dr Spooner, and a group of students from Adams' Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire, with Catherine Prince (in red), who showed them round the graveyard.


  1. The mention of goth rock conjures pleasant memories of the 1960s and The Velvet Underground. Andy Warhol saw it coming before the rest of us did. I outgrew the Underground. Warhol lives on.

  2. I attended as a non-student and had a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day. Thank you to all who were involved in its organisation!

  3. The Gothic

    I am the poet of the dark
    cropping in cold gardens
    dead flowers
    with pale hands

    Am I being dark
    who watches the night
    with the look of a vampire
    trying to find beauty
    that lurks in every shadow

    My eyes painted black
    see what they can not
    be seen
    by mortal eyes

    I am the night mist
    ear of
    the cathedrals

    I wander in the dark skies
    where the eyes of
    the magical twilight

    in the dark
    see the light
    few still
    and on earth where beings
    gently with plan
    my wings
    dark angel

    My loneliness
    devours the hours
    waiting for the day is done
    to fall on me
    cover of night
    where daydream
    without arousing

    My verses written
    with blood
    runs like a warm rain
    in abandoned buildings
    where I leave the lament of a world

    Disease left by beings
    that destroy the world
    with their impious rage
    Who are the strangers?
    Or are you crazy?

    Leave me alone with my sorrow
    because the left is crying
    After all, someone needs to cry
    it's me
    being of darkness

    Let me light my fire
    in the land of the dead souls
    I lie down on the tombstones cold and pies
    left by beings
    of old

    Let me sing
    dark bowels
    Close to me
    the world is sick
    maybe there is more healing
    someone needs to cry
    then it's me
    being the dark night

    Sandro Kretus