We now have the dates for our meetings in the Spring Term of 2018.
All are welcome to join us as we gather on most alternate (odd) Tuesdays, from 5-7pm, in Jarman 6 as follows:
The Melodrama Research Group and its sister organisation Network of Research: Movies, Magazines, Audiences (NoRMMA) were delighted to welcome a guest on Wednesday the 26th of July.
Tamsin Flower, writer/director and founder of the company Stream-Lyric, has been supported by Arts Council England to develop new theatre work since 2014. Using intertextuality and ‘playful poetics’ to approach social themes, Stream-Lyric toured ‘MENTAL Play’ to five South East Venues in 2015, including Camden People’s Theatre and developed ‘TRANSFORMER’ for work-in-progress sharings at Cambridge Junction, Metal Culture and The Key Theatre/Vivacity Arts in 2016. Most recently she was commissioned by the Creative People and Places consortium/Peterborough Presents to create a verbatim play about gardeners and green-space volunteers in the Environment Capital, Peterborough. She draws on drama, contemporary poetry and multimedia presentation to provoke and entertain hybrid audiences.
Tamsin visited us to collaborate in a script development workshop for ‘TRANSFORMER’. Tamsin has described the play as “presenting a mother daughter relationship that transcends our ordinary conception of time in a play narrative. Each scene focuses on either the mother, Norma, or her daughter, Eddie, who experience moments from iconic films as integral parts of their lives. Norma is trapped in memory and reminiscence – her scenes are from 1930s/40s/50s film. Eddie’s scenes are from 80s film to the present day. They finally share a scene in the 1960s/Rosemary’s Baby sequence, as they anticipate a new arrival.” Other films referenced include Now Voyager (1942), The Red Shoes (1948), The Damned Don’t Cry (1950), Clueless (1995), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), and Black Swan (2010).
Prior to our session, Tamsin sent us excerpts of three scenes. There was much fruitful and enjoyable discussion about these, as well as the structure of the piece more generally. We were especially pleased to talk about female stars in popular films from 1935-2015, the relationship of audiences to films, the afterlife of films, moments of transformation in melodrama, and feminism in the 20th and 21st centuries. We look forward to welcoming back Tamsin in September, when we’ll be treated to the latest version of ‘TRANSFORMER’, and engage in another feedback session which will further foster connections between academics and practitioners.
Many thanks to Tamsin and all attendees for such an interesting discussion.
Tamsin’s posted a few of us giving a quick audio summary of some of our thoughts on the session on sound cloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-293309613/transkent1mp3
Why not join the discussion on favourite female stars on Stream-Lyric’s Facebook page? Nominees so far include Doris Day, Julie Andrews, Joan Greenwood, Juliette Binoche and Guilietta Masina: https://www.facebook.com/StreamLyric/?fref=mentions
You can also find Stream-Lyric on other platforms:
Melodrama Research Group members Katerina Flint-Nicol and Ann-Marie Fleming have released a Call for Papers for a their upcoming conference on TV horror which will take place at Kent on the 27th and 28th of October 2017.
The CFP info from Kat and Ann-Marie:
The Melodrama Research Group presents:
At home with horror? Terror on the small screen
27th-28th October 2017
University of Kent
Keynote speaker: Dr Helen Wheatley (University of Warwick)
CALL FOR PAPERS
The recent horror output on TV and the small screen challenges what Matt Hills found to be the overriding assumption ‘that film is the [horror] genre’s ‘natural’ home’ (Hills 2005, 111). Programmes such as American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful and The Walking Dead are aligned to ‘‘quality TV’, yet use horror imagery and ideas to present a form and style of television that is ‘not ordinary’’ (Johnston 2016, 11). Developments in industrial practices and production technology have resulted in a more spectacular horror in the medium, which Hills argues is the ‘making cinematic’ of television drama (Hills 2010, 23). The generic hybridity of television programmes such as Whitechapel, and Ripper Street allow conventions of the horror genre to be employed within the narrative and its aesthetics create new possibilities for the animation of horror on the small screen. Series such as Bates Motel and Scream adapt cinematic horror to a serial format, positioning the small screen (including terrestrial, satellite and online formats) as the new home for horror.
The history of television and horror has often displayed a problematic relationship. As a medium that operates within a domestic setting, television has previously been viewed as incompatible with ‘authentic’ horror. Television has been approached as incapable of mobilizing the intense audience reactions associated with the genre and seen as a medium ‘restricted’ in its ability to scare and horrify audiences partly due to censorship constraints (Waller 1987) and scheduling arrangements. Such industrial practices have been seen as tempering the genre’s aesthetic agency resulting in inferior cinematic imitations or, ‘degraded made-for-TV sequels’ (Waller 1987, 146). For Waller, the technology of television compounded the medium’s ability to animate horror and directed its initial move towards a more ‘restrained’ form of the genre such as adapting literary ghost stories and screening RKO productions of the 1940s (Ibid 1987). Inferior quality of colour and resolution provided the opportunity to suggest rather than show. Horror, then, has presented a challenge for television: how can the genre be positioned in such a family orientated and domesticated medium? As Hills explains, ‘In such a context, horror is conceptualised as a genre that calls for non- prime-time scheduling… and [thus] automatically excluded from attracting a mass audience despite the popularity of the genre in other media’ (Hills 2005, 118).
Helen Wheatley’s monograph, Gothic Television (2006), challenges the approach of television as a limiting medium for horror, and instead focuses on how the domestic setting of the television set is key to its effectiveness. Focusing on the female Gothic as a domestic genre, Wheatley draws a lineage from early literary works, to the 1940s cycle of Gothic women films and Gothic television of the 1950s onwards. Wheatley argues for the significance of the domestic setting in experiencing stories of domestic anxiety for, ‘the aims of the Gothic drama made for television [are] to suggest a congruence between the domestic spaces on the screen and the domestic reception context’ (Wheatley 2006, 191).
Developments in small screen horror are not restricted to contemporary output. In his work on the cultural history of horror, Mark Jancovich argues that it was on television in the 1990s where key developments in the genre were taking place (Jancovich 2002). Taking Jancovich’s work as a cue, Hills develops his own approach to the significance of horror television of the 1990s. Hills cites Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X Files as examples of programmes striving to mobilise the genre’s more graphic elements while existing as a ‘high-end’ cultural product: ‘authored’ TV that targeted a niche fan audience (Hills 2005, 126).
Taking these recent developments into account, the aim of this conference is to engage with such advances. Can we say that it is on the small screen where critical and creative innovations in horror are now being made? How has the expansion of satellite television and online sites impacted on the genre? How has the small screen format developed the possibilities of horror? Is the recent alignment with ‘quality TV’ evidence of horror’s new mainstream status? This conference will also reflect on seminal works on television horror and revisit the history of the genre. In addressing these questions the conference will underline the importance of the small screen for horror, within the study of the genre and of the medium, and ask: is the small screen now the home of horror?
Topics can include but are not limited to:
Please submit proposals of 400 words, along with a short biographical note (250 words) to email@example.com by Friday 30th June. We welcome 20 minute conference papers as well as submissions for creative work or practice-as-research including, but not limited to, short films and video essays.
Conference organisers: Katerina Flint-Nicol and Ann-Marie Fleming
The multi-screen Passages of Gothic, a 20 minute video essay the Melodrama Research Group worked on for the Festival of Projections last year, is being screened in Jarman Gallery on Monday the 3rd of April. You are welcome to come and join us!
The Melodrama Research Group and Gothic Feminism invite you to
Passages of Gothic
Experience an atmospheric multi-screen installation celebrating the Gothic heroine in film. This curated collection of film clips counters her frequent dismissal as a passive observer, instead privileging the Gothic heroine in moments of active investigation and bravery. These often stand directly in opposition to her suffering and persecution. Explore the slippage between women’s private and public behaviours in a setting which underlines the complexity of these under-rated female protagonists and their social significance.
The Gallery , Jarman Building
Monday 3 April 2017
Screenings at 11.30, 12.30, 1.30, 2.30.
The Melodrama Research Group and Gothic Feminism are research groups sponsored by the Centre for Film and Media Research within the School of Arts, University of Kent.
Frances Kamm and Tamar Jeffers McDonald are pleased to announce that:
Registration for the Gothic Feminism conference ‘Women-in-Peril or Final Girls? Representing Women in Gothic and Horror Cinema’ (24th-26th of May at the University of Kent) is now open and will close on Friday 12th May 2017.
Find out more, including the conference programme, on the Gothic Feminism blog: https://gothicfeminism.com/
Melodrama Research Group member Frances Kamm is introducing a screening of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bette (1946). The French Classic stars Jean Marais as the lonely Beast, and Josette Day as Beauty, the object of his desires.
The Curzon in Canterbury will be showing the film of Sunday the 12th of March at 3.30 pm. You can find more information on the Curzon’s website here: http://www.curzoncinemas.com/canterbury/film-info/la-belle-et-la-bete-1946
Melodrama Research Group member Frances has revealed that the Call for Papers deadline for the next Gothic Feminism Conference has been extended to the 14th of February. If you’d like to submit a paper pertaining to ‘Women in Peril or Final Girls? Representing Women in Gothic and Horror Cinema’ you have a couple of weeks to do so.
The following, by Frances, is available on the Gothic Feminism website: https://gothicfeminism.com/
At the request of colleagues, please note the extended deadline for abstracts is 14th February 2017 (for a truly bloody Valentine’s…)
Gothic Feminism presents:
Women-in-Peril or Final Girls? Representing Women in Gothic and Horror Cinema
25th – 26th May 2017
University of Kent
Keynote speaker: Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes (Manchester Metropolitan University)
CALL FOR PAPERS
The representation of female protagonists has been a central tenant in both Gothic and Horror cinema. In the Hollywood Gothic films of the 1940s, the heroine is the primary focus as she navigates key tropes of the genre, including the exploration of the old dark house and the investigating of sinister marital secrets. These melodramas and noir films, as they have also been called, re-work the Bluebeard story and establish a ‘woman-in-peril’ character archetype which features in films such as Rebecca (1940), Gaslight (1944) and Secret Beyond the Door (1947) (Waldman, 1983; Doane, 1987; Tartar, 2004). These Gothic conventions have been revived and reworked recently in contemporary cinema with the release of Crimson Peak (2015).
Horror cinema has also been characterised by the portrayal of its female protagonists. The 1930s Universal horror films typically feature the endangered woman who is terrorised by the monster or villain. Indeed, as Rhona J. Berenstein notes, the image of a woman whose ‘mouth is open as if in midscream’ with ‘fear chiselled into her features’ is so familiar that one can argue it ‘succinctly signifies the American horror film’ (Berenstein, 1996, 1). Later permutations of the genre sustain this focus on gender representations, as with the transgressive qualities of ‘postmodern horror’ (Pinedo, 1997) or, more specifically, the ‘slasher’ film which focuses on the brutal murder of several victims at the hands of a serial killer, with particular attention paid to the killing and/or survival of female character(s). Black Christmas (1974), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Halloween (1978) exemplify these conventions and theorists have observed the centrality of the horror heroine within this genre: Carol Clover’s seminal work on the topic highlights the importance of the ‘female victim-hero’ and the complex gender representations inherent in this figure when she becomes the film’s sole survivor or ‘Final Girl’ (Clover, 1992).
When comparing these historic representations of female protagonists in Gothic and horror cinema, one can identify many similarities between the two genres or modes in respect to their portrayal of women. In the examples above, Gothic and horror both privilege the depiction of the woman’s experience within a narrative arc which exposes her to a danger emanating from an initially unknown or misunderstood threat. This risk – which is normally made against her life – comes from the villain or antagonist conventionally gendered as male. This correlation between Gothic and horror could be argued to stem from their shared heritage: it has been noted how the horror genre ‘has its roots in the English gothic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries’ (Penner and Schneider, 2012). This lineage is further evident by the way the terms ‘Gothic’ and ‘horror’ have been applied interchangeably as delineating categories. Horror has been labelled as Gothic: both David Pirie and Jonathan Rigby write of the ‘English Gothic Cinema’ which includes Hammer’s films, whilst Bernice M. Murphy studies US horror from the perspective of ‘Rural Gothic’ (Pirie, 2008; Murphy, 2013; Rigby, 2015). And Gothic has been called horror: Mark Jancovich points out how the 1940s Hollywood Gothics were also understood as horror films at their time of release (Jancovich, 2013). Both Gothic and horror have also attracted considerable attention concerning their depiction of women and whether such texts are ‘feminist’ (see, for example, Pinedo, 1997; Freeland, 2000).
Yet there are also significant differences between Gothic and horror. The two modes or genres can be distinguished by variations in how the central female protagonist is depicted. The Gothics of the 1940s focus on the representation of the heroine within the intimidating space of the ancestral mansion, but the 1970’s slasher horrors emphasise the ‘Terrible Place’ (Clover, 1992) where extreme violence is executed. Where the Gothic emphasises suspicion, suspense and mystery, the horror film showcases blood, torture and gore. Berenstein notes how the contrast between Gothic and horror is also present in ‘classic horror’ – pre-dating the slasher – where ‘[unlike] the Gothic novel, however, heroines are not confronted by the men closest to them … Instead, women are attacked or seduced by foreign male (and, sometimes, female) fiends’ (Berenstein, 1996, 12). Gothic and horror also differ in their presumed target audience. The Gothic – an integral part of melodrama and the ‘woman’s picture’ – has traditionally been analysed in terms of the Female Gothic and its appeal to female audiences (Waldman, 1983; Doane, 1987; Modleski, 2008). Conversely, the spectatorship for horror has been characterised as adolescent and male (Williams, 1984; Clover, 1992; Creed, 1993).
This conference seeks to re-engage with these discussions of gender within Gothic and horror cinema by directly comparing the two. What relationship does Gothic have to horror – or horror to the Gothic – in respect to female representation? What makes a Gothic heroine different from (or, indeed, similar to) female victims/protagonists in horror films? What can we say about the centrality given to female performance in both these genres/modes? Where does one draw the line between Gothic and horror in film? 2017 will mark 30 years since Mary Ann Doane published The Desire to Desire and 25 years since Carol Clover published Men, Women and Chainsaws. This conference will also reflect upon the impact of seminal works on Gothic, horror and gender such as these within film theory. What do these works tell us about the relationship between Gothic and horror in respect to female representation? How do theories of the ‘woman’s film’ and the ‘Final Girl’ relate to contemporary film theory and feminist criticism? Are these ideas still applicable to recent Gothic and horror films, and their heroines?
In addressing these questions this conference will underline the importance of female protagonists in Gothic and horror, within film history and contemporary cinema, and ask: are these characters women-in-peril or Final Girls, or both?
Topics can include but are not limited to:
– Comparisons between the genre conventions and tropes within Gothic and horror films and their representation of female protagonists
– Close textual analysis of a single film or series of films which blur the lines between Gothic and horror, or an analysis of film/s which reinforce the differences between the Gothic and horror traditions through the depiction of women characters
– The connection between the Gothic or horror heroine and other characters within the narrative, such as the love interest, male villain, other victims, etc.
– How the Gothic and horror heroine relate to archetypal roles, such as the victim, the mother or the monstrous-feminine
– Representations of space and how this impacts upon the portrayal of the Gothic or horror female characters
– Film theory and the distinction between Gothic and horror in cinema
– How Gothic and horror women characters engage with feminist discourse and theories of gender representation
– Female spectators of Gothic and horror and fandom
Please submit proposals of 500 words, along with a short biographical note (250 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 14th February 2017 (please note the extended deadline).
We welcome 20-minute conference papers as well as submissions for creative work or practice-as-research including, but not limited to, short films and video essays.
Conference organisers: Frances A. Kamm and Tamar Jeffers McDonald
This conference is the second annual event from the Gothic Feminism project, within the Melodrama Research Group in the Centre of Film and Media Research at the University of Kent. Gothic Feminism explores the representation of the Gothic heroine on-screen in her various incarnations.
Berenstein, Rhona J. (1996). Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender, Sexuality and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press.
Clover, Carol J. (1992). Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Creed, Barbara. (1993). The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. Oxon: Routledge.
Doane, Mary Ann. (1987). The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Freeland, Cynthia A. (2000). The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror. Colorado: Westview Press.
Grant, Barry Keith. (2015). The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film. Second edition. Texas: University of Texas Press.
Jancovich, Mark. (2013). ‘Bluebeard’s Wives: Horror, Quality and the Paranoid Woman’s Film in the 1940s’, The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies 12: 20-43.
Modleski, Tania. (2008). Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women. Second edition. Oxon: Routledge.
Murphy, Bernice M. (2013). The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Penner, Jonathan and Steven Jay Schneider. (2012). Horror Cinema. Los Angeles and Cologne: Taschen.
Pinedo, Isabel Cristina. (1997). Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing. New York: State University of New York Press.
Pirie, David. (2008). A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema. London and New York: I. B. Tauris.
Rigby, Jonathan. (2015). English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897 – 2015. Cambridge: Signum Books.
Tartar, Maria. (2004). Secrets Beyond the Door: The Story of Bluebeard and His Wives. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Waldman, Diane. (1983). ‘”At last I can tell it to someone!” Feminine point of view and Subjectivity in the Gothic Romance Film of the 1940s’, Cinema Journal 23: 29-40.
Williams, Linda. (1984). ‘When the Woman Looks.’ In: Doane, Mary Ann, Patricia Mellencamp and Linda Williams (eds.). Re-vision: Essays in Feminist Film Criticism. Los Angeles: American Film Institute.
We now have dates for our Melodrama Screening and Discussion Sessions next Term. Meetings will take place on even Mondays, from 5-7pm, in Jarman 7.
All are welcome to join us on: the 3rd, 17th and 31st of October, the 14th and 28th of November and the 12th of December 2016.
Following the success of the Gothic Feminism conference we will be screening films and reading novels relating to the Gothic. We start with Bluebeard (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1944, 72 mins) in the first session, also taking this opportunity to discuss the remainder of the term as well as other plans.