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.


Nick Miliokas said...

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.

Jane W. said...

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

Anonymous said...

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