The deadline for abstracts for the third Gothic Feminism conference has been extended to the 1st of March.
Please see the previous post about the CFP for more details.
All are very welcome to join us for the first of this term’s melodrama screening and discussion sessions, taking place on Monday the 2nd of October, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.
By screening Miss Christina (2013, Alexandru Maftei, 101 minutes) we are referring back to the wonderful Gothic Feminism conference held at Kent in May 2017. (See the Gothic Feminism blog here: https://gothicfeminism.com) Maria (who presented an excellent paper on Miss Christina at the conference) is very kindly giving us the opportunity to see this film, and has provided the great summary below. Thanks Maria!
Alexandru Maftei’s 2013 film Miss Christina represents the second adaptation of Mircea Eliade’s novella with the same title. The film largely follows the same narrative line as the novella. The young painter Egor (Tudor Aaron Istodor) and his love interest Sanda (Ioana Anastasia Anton) travel to her family’s countryside estate to get away from Bucharest’s busy city life. Upon reaching the Moscu family mansion, Egor observes the strange interactions between members of the household. The mother, Mrs. Moscu (Maia Morgenstern) seems weakened, drained and ill. Professor Nazarie, a guest in the mansion, is polite and pleasant by day but weary at night. Sanda’s younger sister, Simina (Ioana Sandu) appears as a happy but creepy child, who always talks about her mysterious aunt, Christina (Anastasia Dumitrescu). Egor is led to Christina’s portrait and becomes increasingly obsessed with it and falls further and further under her spell.
Miss Christina created quite a hype among movie-goers at the time of its release, largely because it was marketed as the first Romanian horror film. However, it received mixed reviews. Some critics noted that there was nothing scary about the film and that attempts at jump scares fell short and even became embarrassing. Other critics focused on the Gothic elements of the film, praising it for the setting and costumes. Given these reactions, Miss Christina generates an interesting discussion in terms of marketing, genre and audience expectations. As a DVD copy has not been released for purchase, this screening is a unique opportunity to see the film (with English subtitles!).
Do join us, if you can, for an interesting discussion on the intersection of the gothic and horror in film.
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 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 email@example.com 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.
Frances Kamm has very kindly provided the following Final Remarks relating to the fabulous recent Gothic Feminism Conference:
A huge thank you to everyone who presented and participated at the Gothic Feminism conference on the 26th-27th May 2016. We have had a great two days discussing and debating the diversity of topics raised by considering the Gothic heroine on film. We are particularly pleased with the way the papers related to each other within their respective panels, and are grateful to our speakers and audience members for engaging in lively conversations in every session.
There are several points arising out of the conference which should be noted as a record of the event and as a way of inspiring future projects. First, the conference emphasised again the importance of the heroine protagonist to the Gothic mode and how this form of storytelling intersects with wider historical and social discourses, particularly in relation to feminism. This theme was illuminated by the fascinating keynote delivered by Catherine Spooner, which reflected upon the representation and significance of the white dress; a central emblem present in several Gothic texts, including the recent Crimson Peak (2015). Catherine’s talk skilfully encapsulated the underlying tone and themes of the other papers: taken together, the papers acknowledged the long and diverse traditions of the Gothic and the Gothic heroine, and reflected upon the renewed possibilities of furthering such traditions on the cinema screen. The papers all, in one form or another, raised the central questions of: why does the Gothic heroine continue to be such an important and distinctive component to these stories? And how has cinema translated these Gothic traits for the filmic medium?
Opening the conference, Catherine’s paper reflected upon how the Gothic heroine’s white dress does not stay white over the course of the tale and instead becomes marked and stained, with this tainting becoming a trace for the heroine’s narrative exploits. Such physical markings can also be, Catherine argued, read metaphorically within a narrative’s historical contexts. Now the conference has closed we can see how these opening remarks can, in a way, be read as a metatextual commentary on the subsequent papers. The white dress becomes an allegory for the Gothic itself which also does not remain the same: just like the progressive soiling of the white garment, the Gothic has changed or been transformed by external factors, such as differing narrative arcs, political or historical contexts, alternative exhibition practices and the adaptation of unusual genres. The centrality of the Gothic heroine, however, remains the constant. Catherine remarked how the white dress becomes the metaphoric page upon which the heroine’s story is ‘written’. There is an analogy here with the definition of the Gothic widely supported by all the papers at the conference: the Gothic becomes the means through which the heroine’s story is told and the implications of this trend were highlighted in a variety of ways across the presentations.
If Crimson Peak was heralded in several papers as an important contemporary example of the cinematic Gothic, then Rebecca (1940) was widely cited as its starting point. As our first panel ‘Return to Manderley’ aptly demonstrated, discussions of the Gothic heroine in cinema return constantly to Hitchcock’s film and the new Mrs de Winter (or, as Johanna Wagner referred to her, Nameless). There were two major significances arising from the continued reference to the Daphne du Maurier adaptation. First, the film functions as a historical marker which indicates how the Gothic became an important mode of storytelling for cinema but – importantly – to relate such discussion back to this point is not to ignore the wider traditions influencing this form. Indeed, several papers cited how this particular strand of the Gothic originates from the Bluebeard tale and thus this tradition of the Gothic focuses upon the heroine’s relationship to her mysterious and dangerous husband, a reading which can be extended to reflect upon wider societal patriarchal structures. It is interesting that this conference, much like the previous scholarship on the Gothic in film has argued, also observed how such a narrative was adapted and repeated by Hollywood in the period leading up to the USA’s involvement in the Second World War. Maxim’s stately house therefore becomes the metaphoric home for Bluebeard’s translation onto the big screen and into film history.
Second, it is poignant that Rebecca denies its central heroine a name as this conference demonstrated the shifting parameters of identity afforded to the Gothic’s female protagonist. Many factors may impact the representation and reception of the heroine’s identity. For example, as the panel on ‘Mothers’ highlighted, transforming the Gothic heroine from the childlike naivety of Nameless in the 1940s into the role of mother central to the films later in the century (and into the 21st Century) radically reforms the power dynamics between the heroine and the structures of oppression highlighted by the Bluebeard tale. In this instance, the heroine may not fear her husband but, instead, her motherhood becomes a potential tool of oppression, with the child (or children) embodying the physical danger present in these films.
The heroine’s identity may also be effected by the story’s context and relationship to space. This was a consistent theme which ran through the remaining panels. The interpretation of the Gothic heroine is inextricably linked to the context of the narrative’s setting and time of production, and these factors may vary quite considerably. In fact, the conference demonstrated how the Gothic may be adopted by a broad range of genres, from the western to science-fiction to 21st Century urban dramas. The Gothic may continue to be relevant to US context but is also present in film texts emerging from Britain, Germany and Australia. The physical dimensions of the archetypal old dark house may alter in these instances but its function remains the same: the Gothic heroine explores these physical spaces and the course of her investigation will expose how such locations can be both repressive and liberating. Interestingly, the conference also highlighted how it is not just the space on-screen which is important: the implicit off-screen space – in the form of alternative sites of exhibition – are also relevant. The conference revealed how the more recent articulations of the Gothic heroine have been adapted for the television drama, comedy series and film festival circuits. The mutability of the Gothic form in film was underlined again by the videographic works which showed how the Gothic narrative may be subsumed into the short film format, or extrapolated for the purposes of a film essay.
The Passages of Gothic work is, in a sense, emblematic of the research which inspired the organisation of this event. As I mentioned in my opening address, Gothic Feminism is the culmination of years of work researching, teaching and studying the trends and tropes of the representation of the Gothic heroine in cinema by Tamar and myself, as well as other researchers in the Film department at the University of Kent. This conference is our first major event to communicate this research with an external audience, and begin a wider conservation about this topic. As Tamar noted at the end of the conference, these thoughts do not constitute concluding remarks so much as indicate the beginnings of new avenues of research and the inspiration for future events. Gothic Feminism is not a one-off event but rather an ongoing project we will continue to explore here on the blog and in the future conferences we are now planning. We hope the delegates who were present last week, and other Gothic scholars, will be able to join us again for events which explore the representation of the Gothic heroine in cinema.
Watch this (Gothic) space…
Text by: Frances Kamm
Image: based on Crimson Peak (2015); logo by Frances Kamm
Those attending this stimulating and fun conference would also like to send huge thanks to Frances and Tamar. Thank you!
You can find pictures Frances posted on the Gothic Feminism blog here: https://gothicfeminism.com/2016/06/09/conference-pictures/
Exciting news! Frances and Tamar have finalised the Conference Programme for the Gothic Feminism Conference.
26-27th May 2016
Keynes College, University of Kent
Thursday 26th May
09:00 – 09:30 Registration & morning tea/coffee (Keynes Atrium, Keynes College)
09:30 – 11:00 Keynote Speech – Catherine Spooner (University of Lancaster): ‘Women in White: (Un)dressing the Gothic Heroine’ (Keynes Lecture Theatre 2, Keynes College)
11:00 – 11:30 Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)
11:30 – 13:00 Papers 1: Return to Manderley (KLT2)
‘Against Fate and Paranoia: The Risk Assessor Heroine in The Second Woman (1950)’ – Guy Barefoot (University of Leicester)
‘Rebecca and The Haunting: Comparisons of a Gothic Protagonist’ – Johanna Wagner (Høgskolen i Østfold)
‘Impossible Spaces: Gothic Special Effects and Female Subjectivity’ – Christina Petersen (Eckerd College)
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch (Keynes Atrium)
14:00 – 15:30 Papers 2: Unexpected Locations (KLT2)
‘New Films in Gothic Mode: Pale Imitations or Crimson Peaks of Achievement?’ – Tamar Jeffers McDonald (University of Kent)
‘Bluebeard in the Cities: Investigative Gothic Heroines in Two Early 21st Century Films’ – Lawrence Jackson (University of Kent)
‘The Gothic Heroine Out West: A Town Called Bastard (1971)’ – Lee Broughton (University of Leeds)
15:30 – 16:00 Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)
16:00 – 17:30 Videographic Work (TBC) (KLT2)
17:30 – 18:30 Cake reception
Friday 27th May
09:00 – 09:30 Morning tea & coffee (Keynes Atrium)
09:30 – 11:00 Papers 3: Small Screens (KLT2)
‘There’s a secret behind the door? And that secret is me? The Gothic Reimagining of Agatha Christie’s And There Were None’ – Katerina Flint-Nicol (University of Kent)
‘Laughing at Periods: Gothic Parody in Julia Davis’ Hunderby – Sarah McClellan (Independent Researcher)
‘Bluebeard’s Women Fight Back’ – Gisèle M. Baxter (University of British Columbia)
11:00 – 11:30 Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)
11:30 – 13:00 Papers 4: Mothers (KLT2)
‘The Science-Fiction of Feminism: Ripley as a Gothic Heroine in the Alien Franchise’ – Frances A. Kamm (University of Kent)
‘The Babadook, Maternal Gothic and the ‘woman’s horror film’’ – Paula Quigley (Trinity College Dublin)
‘Good Evening, Good Night: Goodnight Mommy and the Gothic Woman’ – Lies Lanckman (University of Kent)
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch (Keynes Atrium)
14:00 – 15:30 Papers 5: Beyond Hollywood (KLT2)
‘‘Dammit’ Janet!!!! Celebrating Female Sexuality in The Rocky Horror Picture Show Live Experience’ – Sarah Cleary (Trinity College Dublin)
‘East German Gothic’ – Dana Weber (Florida State University/ Freie Universität Berlin)
‘Imperilled Chavs and Hoodie Heroines: (Under)Class, Gender and the Gothic’ – Hannah Priest (Manchester Metropolitan University/Swansea University)
15:30 – 16:00 Tea & coffee break (Keynes Atrium)
16:00 – 16:30 Final remarks (KLT2)
Also remember to visit the gothic feminism blog and twitter for the latest updates!