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«SESSION ABSTRACTS Gothic and Uncanny Explorations Wednesday 10 September 3:00-4:30 Parallel panel sessions Uncanny Technologies and Media (1D 340): ...»

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Gothic and Uncanny Explorations

Wednesday 10 September

3:00-4:30 Parallel panel sessions

Uncanny Technologies and Media (1D 340):

“Knowledge of the Uncanny Cosmos through Media in the Weird Tales of H. P. Lovecraft”

Jakob Olsson, Karlstad University, Sweden

With his concept of ”cosmic horror”, H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) introduced a type of horror

fiction defined by both inescapability and undescribability. When exposed to the truth of the vastness of the universe, the insignificance of mankind therein and the existence of monstrous beings beyond human comprehension, there is no turning back for his characters. Their outlook on life is forever changed; the world they thought they knew is exposed as a façade covering up an uncanny otherworld.

The cosmic is seldom experienced directly in Lovecraft’s weird tales, however.

More often knowledge of it is transmitted through various types of media – such as representations, architecture and communication technologies. Throughout the stories we partake in the suspicions, hypotheses and fears of the characters and the very process through which the uncanny cosmos, gradually, is revealed to them through these media utterances.

Thus, the focus of this presentation is not only the occurrence of media in Lovecraft’s stories, but media as an aesthetic strategy for conveying cosmic horror and creating an uncanny effect.

“A ‘soulless mimeograph of humanity’: Cinema, Technology and the Uncanny” Frances Kamm, University of Kent, UK This paper explores the relationship between cinema and the uncanny and how, specifically, feelings of the uncanny can be evoked from the representation of human bodies on the cinema screen. As the quotation in this paper’s title demonstrates – taken from a review of 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – cinema has the potential to render bodies uncanny for their viewers: in this case, the reviewer finds the CGI created characters of the film to be photorealist but also eerily lifeless and not quite ‘real’ enough. The digital characters of Final Fantasy are uncanny: they embody a slippage between the homely and unhomely, the living and the inanimate. This paper investigates instances, such as these, when the filmic human body is regarded as uncanny and argues that this is directly related to technological developments in film: in this case, the use of digital technology to create photographically   1   realistic looking human characters. This presentation explores cinema’s ability to bring such ‘soulless mimeographs’ to life, the reaction audiences have to such characters in films like Final Fantasy,and points to the suitability of contextualising the experience of watching such representations within the theory and concept of the uncanny.

“The Uncanny World of Motion Portraits” Torbjörn Svensson, University of Skövde, Sweden Why are people disturbed and upset by motion portraits technology? Animated portraits made with Motion Portrait software (http://www.motionportrait.com) give the impression of moving portraits, similar to those found at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter books. A lot of reactions on the Internet and when shown to friends is ”- oh, that is so creepy”.

In this presentation I will try to understand the creepiness from the perspective of the Uncanny, as presented by Sigmund Freud (1919) and connected to the phenomena called the uncanny valley, coined by Masahiro Mori (1970) in a scientific paper concerning design of humanoid robots.

Grotesque Subjects and Unstable Identities (1D 341):

“‘Impersonating the Self’: Grotesque Subjects in Joyce Carol Oates Academic Novel” Liz Kella, Södertörn University, Sweden The fiction of Joyce Carol Oates frequently features grotesque and abject subjects, uncanny doubles, taboos and secrets, often connected to an individual’s private past, but also to larger social concerns. This is, indeed, one defining feature of the American Gothic. As Teresa A.

Goddu argues, “Despite its supernatural effects and its persecuted psyches, Gothic’s terrors are neither imaginary nor individual” (65); instead, Gothic terrors register the anxieties of a nation, and in the American context these anxieties have historically centered on interracial encounters.

In this paper, I examine Oates’s use of the Gothic mode in Mudwoman (2013).

Like Oates’s earlier novel, Black Girl, White Girl (2006). Mudwoman might be considered an “academic novel” of the type Jeffrey J. Williams’s sociology of genres has demonstrated to be on the rise, and often exhibiting political conservatism. But both novels clearly engage--even extravagantly engage—with the Gothic, recasting university campuses as Gothic locales haunted by secret histories and hidden crimes, and charting the transformation of characters into the grotesques that Bakhtin associated with carnival. In Oates’s rendering, however, the   2   grotesque characters are far from comic; they instead uncannily register “the confusion, the incongruence, the whirling heterogeneity of modern life” (Hurly 141), particularly the modern life of American racial, gender, and class politics.

“Der kleine Vampir and the Collapse of Identity” Peter Kostenniemi, University of Gothenburg, Sweden Children’s gothic fiction is frequently considered ‘kinder’ than gothic fiction for adults.

Angela Sommer-Bodenburg’s (b. 1948) series of novels Der kleine Vampir (1979–2008) is, for example, often described as a story about a human boy who grows up and matures; a very positive tale, with some elements of horror ‘hovering in the background’.

Contrary to the above, I intend to demonstrate that Der kleine Vampir is the story of how the boy Anton’s human identity is challenged and eventually collapses. The text and illustrations recount Anton’s friendship with a vampire boy, Rüdiger. Together they engage in nightly adventures of a carnivalesque character, but there is a ‘shadow side’ to it for Anton. Gradually the border between his and Rüdigers identities is blurred and Anton increasingly becomes the vampire. This is accomplished with the aid of classic gothic devices such as mirrors and dreams.

Anton read a lot of vampire stories, and his perception of them alters as his friendship with Rüdiger deepens. Anton’s changing attitude towards his reading serves as a sign of his challenged identity and, simultaneously, as a metatextual representation of the evolution of the vampire genre from its inception in prose in the early 19th century.

“Sympathy for the Devil: Real and Imagined Monsters in Marie Corelli’s The Sorrows of Satan” Rachael Jane Taylor, Newcastle University, UK In Marie Corelli’s novel, The Sorrows of Satan, there are two main characters which could be described as ‘monstrous’: Prince Lucio Rimanez and his protégé Geoffrey Tempest’s bride, Lady Sybil Elton. This paper is a gendered reading of the text and argues that Corelli has chosen to portray the character of Prince Lucio more sympathetically than that of Lady Sybil Elton despite Lucio’s true identity as Satan, the epitome of evil. Using sources from the day such as women’s conduct manuals and psychoanalytical discourses, I wish to argue that Lady Sybil’s perceived ‘monstrosity’ is all the more shocking because of her gender and her physical beauty. I wish to suggest that Lady Sybil’s tragic demise has come as an inevitable consequence of her attempts to empower herself and transcend the treatment and expectations   3   of women in Victorian society. The most obvious example of these attempts comes in the form of Lady Sybil’s acknowledgement of her own sexuality. Consequently, the ‘monster’ that is Lady Sybil only appears to be more shocking because the real monster was a patriarchal society concerned only with the marriageability of women and their meeting of the needs of the sexuality of men.

4:30-5:30 Parallel panel sessions

Exploring the Uncanny (1D 340):

“A Reader’s Bogey? The Uncanny and the Reading Process” Karin Aspenberg, Karlstad University, Sweden This paper combines the Gothic novel of the 19th century with modern reception theory. The focus is on E.T.A. Hoffmann, a front figure of Gothic horror, the genre that mixes both horror and romanticism. Thus, it is symptomatic that Freud, in his early theoretical accounts of the uncanny, devoted a good deal of attention to Hoffmann. The purpose of this paper, however, is to explore the phenomenon of the uncanny in Hoffmann’s literature from a perspective of reception theory, more precisely of Wolfgang Iser's concept of the void. The void in literary texts is to be understood as a gap (in phenomenology; a gesture towards nothing) that must be “filled” in the reading process, and therefore triggers the reader’s imagination. But what, then, is the significance of the void when it comes to the reader's perception of the uncanny, this diffuse and uncertain experience, sometimes described as "horror vacui"? In other words, can the effects of uncanniness be discerned as a result of filling the void in the reading process, formulated above as a reader’s "bogey"? And what can this tell us about the power of human cognition, when confronted with a reality that cannot be instantly categorized and defined?

“Art’s Uncanniness” Kari Løvaas, Karlstad University, Sweden In his poetological speech “Der Meridian”, given at the reception of the Georg Büchner prize in 1960, Paul Celan identifies several figures of art in the work of Georg Büchner, among them a puppet in Danton’s Death, a monkey wearing clothes in Woyzeck, and an automaton in Leonce and Lena. These figures introduce the “uncanny side” of art, where art goes “beyond what is human, stepping into a realm that is turned toward the human, but uncanny”.

In this paper I will explore the notion of art’s uncanniness in Celan’s poetics with relation to the concept of authenticity in Heidegger, who, based on a reading of Sophocles’ Antigone designates the human essence as being the “uncanniest one”. I will argue   4   that Büchner’s Lucile – with her absurd “Long live the king!” – cannot be figured as heroically transgressive like Heidegger’s Antigone. With Celan, I will read her “counter-word” in terms of an irreducible relationality that also aligns with her being characterized as “artblind”. Lucile’s “counter-word” cuts the strings of the puppets, Celan writes, it coincides with the moment where an Other can perhaps be released from the otherness and an encounter takes place.

Postcolonial Hauntings (1D 341):

“Revenge of the Trolls: New Nordic (Post) Colonial Gothic” Johan Höglund,  Linnaeus University, Sweden Recent studies have emphasized the gothic’s ability to query the Manichean racial and social categories that have structured national and international relations since the late eighteenth century. A different yet complimentary strand has explored how the gothic has also relied on dominant discourses and cemented these same categories. In both cases, the gothic is understood to be intimately tied to imperial expansion and to the modernity that this movement helped bring about.

While the Nordic region has been perceived as detached from the project of European imperialism, recent historical and sociological research suggests that the Nordic countries were in fact highly complicit in this undertaking and also pursued their own colonial project in the Lapland region. This paper discusses how new Nordic horror films such as Troll Hunter (2010), Thale (2012), and Vittra (2012) appear caught between the traditional, antienlightenment gothic and the imperial gothic. These films all centre on the confrontation between Nordic society and a counter-invasive, forest-dwelling native belonging to Nordic folklore. This paper argues that while these films are rooted in Nordic mythology, they are also informed by the concerns of European gothic culture, by US horror film, and by the Nordic region’s own troubled colonial past.

“The Effects of Spectral Spaces in Post-Colonial Literature” Chia-Sui Lee, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, The Netherlands Inspired by the current “spectral turn” and “spatial turn” in literary and cultural studies, I attempt to investigate how “spectral space,” which I refer to places that are haunted or characterized by the nature of specters, functions as a diverse and useful metaphor in reconstructing prevailing ideas about time, race, nation, and identity in postcolonial literature.

Considering specters or ghosts as cultural specific and differentiated, I argue that spectral   5   space is varied in different contexts. In this essay I will examine three kinds of spectral spaces, including a space of heterogeneous time, a space of fluidity, and a space of uncanniness. I will demonstrate how they serve as productive narrative devices to challenge the established demarcations between the present and the past, dominant and subordinate, self and other, and to reconstruct the time-bound, place-bound and socially constructed identity of the haunted subjects in a few well-known postcolonial novels: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River, J. M. Coetzee’s Age of Iron, and Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing.

Thursday 11 September 9:00-10:30 Parallel panel sessions

Writing Unstable Selves (1D 340):

“Writing the Psyche of the Psychic: Depth Psychology and Parapsychology as Models for Gothic Fiction” Lauren Butterworth, Flinders University, Australia ‘By Any Other Name’, my creative thesis novel in progress, uses Gothic literary strategies with the Jungian personal unconscious and a Western Esoteric interpretation of reincarnation to develop fictional characters. Combining characters’ repressed memories with a series of images linked to their reincarnation allows their histories to extend beyond the limits of a single existence, adding to the complexity of their individuation. Set in sixteenth century Florence, seventeenth century France and nineteenth century London, I intend to link historical and thematic resonances with characters’ motivations through a rippling narrative of cause and effect.

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