Gothic scholars host ghoulish gathering in Sunderland

Academics and students at the University of Sunderland prepare for the city's first Gothic conference.
Academics and students at the University of Sunderland prepare for the city's first Gothic conference.
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DARKNESS descended on Wearside in the shape of a gory get-together.

Academics and students at the University of Sunderland were wading through blood, gore and things that go bump in the night at a conference aimed at lifting the veil on gothic fiction.

The English team at the university organised the one-day event on the genre of gothic literature.

The conference has proved so popular that it is set to be an annual event.

Spectral Visions: The Gothic, took place at the riverside campus and featured experts from around the UK, who talked about gothic influences from the work of Shakespeare, to Wuthering Heights and northern ghost stories.

Alison Younger, programme leader for MA English at the university, said: “From a literary point of view Gothic is a movement in the late 18th to late 19th centuries, beginning with Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto in 1765 and ending with Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897.

“But the idea of Gothic permeates music, popular culture, fashion and architecture. It never ceases to be popular in one form or another.”

Dr Younger said that, although it may not be considered Gothic by literary purists, the genre’s influence continues in popular fiction to this day.

She said: “I think Gothic monsters speak to, and about, the society in which they are created. Popular TV shows such as Trueblood play around with the vampire myth and Twilight is a reworking of the Cinderella myth, wherein the eccentric girl gets the hero – a sympathetic hero who will only break taboos out of necessity.

“It’s all very safe, and a radical move from the original monstrous revenants of the nineteenth century.

“Gothic is all about feelings of unknowing, feelings of uncertainty and doom and threats to happiness. We need look no further than popular North East Wire in the Blood writer, Val McDermid, for modern gothic.”

Twitter: @SunEchoSchools