Friday, 31 October 2014

Victorian Gothic Treats for Halloween

It's Halloween, and what better way to celebrate than with a bit of Victorian Gothic?



Hic Dragones is having a one-day sale of complete collections of 3 excellent penny dreadfuls, perfect reading for a stormy winter's night.

The String of Pearls, a Romance is perhaps one of the best-known of the penny dreadfuls, though it's probably now more famous for the adaptations that have followed. It's the story of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. But it's also the story of Johanna Oakley, a feisty young woman determined to unravel the mystery of her lover's disappearance. As Johanna's investigation moves her into the path of the demon barber, we are also introduced to Mrs Lovett, proprietor of the local pie shop. Lovett's pies are the talk of the town - but just what is the secret to their delicious flavour?

The String of Pearls is probably best known to modern audiences from the Tim Burton musical Sweeney Todd (starring Johnny Depp as the demon barber himself). While Burton's film captures much of the macabre humour and gruesome fun of the original story, much of the story has been altered. The cinematic Sweeney Todd is something of a sympathetic character - extracting revenge for the loss of his family. The barber that stalks the pages of the penny dreadful is a different sort of creature altogether. Gloriously unrepentant and bad to the bone, the literary Todd is a wonderfully awful creation and highly recommended. And the scenes in Lovett's kitchen rank among the creepiest to be found in Victorian popular fiction.

The complete eBook collection of The String of Pearls, a Romance contains all 39 chapters of the original serial, plus bonus Gothic short stories ('The Evil Guest' by J Sheridan LeFanu and 'The Last House in C-- Street' by Mrs Craik). For today only, it's just £2.50 from the Hic Dragones' website.



By contrast, Vileroy; or the Horrors of Zindorf Castle is not particularly well-known to modern audiences (maybe Tim Burton should do a film version...) But it's absolutely classic Victorian Gothic. As you can probably tell from the title, Vileroy is set in a castle - and a horrific one at that. Our heroine is Caroline Mecklenburg, a young woman seeking refuge from sad circumstances at the home of her aunt. But her aunt is married to Baron Zindorf, and he isn't the sort of host Caroline was hoping for. The baron is grappling with his own demons, and things are set to get worse with the arrival of his dodgy friend Count Durlack. Add to this some spooky noises, terrifying storms, a lost heir, a hidden dungeon and some sinister banditti, and you've got everything you need for Halloween. Oh... and there's a cup made out of a human skull. Obviously.

I love Vileroy for its in-your-face Gothic style. It's like a distillation of every trope and motif that you expect to find in early Victorian Gothic. In many ways, it is reminiscent of earlier Gothic (like The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho), which is no bad thing. But Caroline Mecklenburg is to eighteenth-century heroines what Buffy is to final girls, and you have to admire her attempts to stand up for herself against two thoroughly unpleasant men.

The complete eBook collection of Vileroy; or the Horrors of Zindorf Castle contains all 62 chapters of the original serial, plus bonus Gothic short stories ('The Library Window' by Mrs Oliphant and 'The Doom of the Griffiths' by Elizabeth Gaskell). For today only, it's just £3.00 from the Hic Dragones' website.



My current favourite penny dreadful is definitely The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist. It's 100% bonkers and 100% Victorian - it's really hard not to get wrapped up in the weird little vignettes of Valentine's adventures in London. Valentine Vox is a young man blessed with an amazing gift of ventriloquism (and mimicry). Sent to London by his Uncle John, he experiences (and disrupts) all the entertainments the city has to offer. He is befriended by Uncle John's friend Grimwood Goodman and meets a lovely young woman called Louise Raven. Valentine's story is a cornucopia of Victorian oddities - from phrenology lectures to waxwork exhibitions, from Equal Rights marches to diving bells. And there isn't a single one that doesn't fall victim to Valentine's mischievous (and somewhat iconoclastic) sense of fun.

But the story has a dark heart, as Grimwood's family have their eyes on his money. Worried that Valentine might replace them in Grimwood's will, they decide to take measures into their own hands and get Grimwood out of the picture for good. To do this, they take advantage of the dubious practices of a private lunatic asylum and have the unsuspecting man incarcerated in a brutal and cruel institution. The 1840 edition of the serial included a polemical introduction by the author on the laws concerning private asylums. This seriousness undercuts Valentine's silliness, and forces the young man to consider the important things in life. In many ways, it's a bit of a coming-of-age story - but one with a talking skull and a steam packet! I love it.

The complete eBook collection of The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist contains all 69 chapters of the original serial, plus bonus Gothic short stories ('The Doll's Ghost' by F. Marion Crawford and 'The Lost Ghost' by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman). For today only, it's just £3.50 from the Hic Dragones' website.

If you'd like to know more about what to expect from reading Victorian penny dreadfuls, click here to read a recent blog post I wrote about them.



Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

OUT NOW: Journal of Popular Romance Studies (Issue 4.2)

Contents:

Special Issue: The Popular Culture of Romantic Love in Australia (Editor’s Introduction)
by Hsu-Ming Teo

The Private and Public Life of Nellie Stewart’s Bangle
by Annita Boyd

“We have to learn to love imperially”: Love in Late Colonial and Federation Australian Romance Novels
by Hsu-Ming Teo

A Masculine Romance: The Sentimental Bloke and Australian Culture in the War- and Early Interwar Years
by Melissa Bellanta

Marriage, Romance and Mourning Movement in Cherie Nowlan’s Thank God He Met Lizzie
by Mark Nicholls

After Happy Ever: Tender Extremities and Tangled Selves in Three Australasian Bluebeard Tales
by Lucy Butler

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks?: Romance, Ethics and Human-Dog Relationships in a Rural Australian Novel
by Lauren O’Mahony

Writing the Happy Ever After: An Interview with Anne Gracie
by Lisa Fletcher

Editor’s Note: Issue 4.2

Genre, Author, Text, Reader: Teaching Nora Roberts’s Spellbound
by Beth Driscoll

“I’m a Feminist, But…” Popular Romance in the Women’s Literature Classroom
by Julie M. Dugger

Reading the Romance: A Thirtieth Anniversary Roundtable, Editor’s Introduction
by Eric Selinger


To My Mentor, Jan Radway, With Love
by Deborah Chappel Traylor

The Politics of Popular Romance Studies
by Lynn S. Neal

Radway Roundtable Remarks
by Katherine Larsen

Studying the Romance Reader, Then and Now: Rereading Janice Radway’s Reading the Romance
by Jessica Matthews

Love’s Laborers Lost: Radway, Romance Writers, and Recuperating Our Past
by Heather Schell

From Reading the Romance to Grappling with Genre
by Stephanie Moody

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: Reflecting Thirty Years after Reading the Romance
by Mallory Jagodzinski

Review: Deconstructing Twilight: Psychological and Feminist Perspectives on the Series, by Donna M. Ashcraft
Reviewed by Catherine Coker

Review: Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema. Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple, by James MacDowell
Reviewed by Zorianna Zurba

Review: Romance: The History of a Genre, edited by Dana Percec
Reviewed by Hannah Priest

Review: The Princess Story: Modeling the Feminine in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film, by Sarah Rothschild
Erin E. Bell

Review: Getting Inside Your Head: What Cognitive Science Can Tell Us about Popular Culture, by Lisa Zunshine
Karen J. Renner

For more information, please visit the journal website.

CFP: Telling Tales: Manuscripts, Books and the Making of Narrative

The biennial conference of the Early Book Society 2015

The next biennial conference of the Early Book Society will take place at the University of Oxford, from lunchtime on Thursday 2 July 2015 to early afternoon on Sunday 5 July 2015. Abstracts of 300 words or fewer for 20-minute presentations should be sent to the organizers by 30 November 2014 to the conference e-mail address. Abstracts should include your name, affiliation (where relevant) and email address. Computers and data-projectors will be available for all sessions; speakers would need to bring presentations on a memory stick / USB plug-in device. People who have other AV needs should specify this on their abstract.

The theme, which may be interpreted narrowly or broadly, invites special attention to the material records of different genres of narrative, such as verse, romance, chronicle, biography or history. It might consider the ways that manuscripts, printed books and other media serve a narrative function: whether page layouts were modified for chronicles and annals, whether collections of documents were compiled to tell stories, whether images in books are important components of storytelling, whether poems on monuments recount lives.

The topic also invites participants to tell different kinds of stories about early books. In particular, we may reflect on our storytelling as scholars. What is the role of biography – of the author, of the ‘celebrity’ scribe, of the idiosyncratic reader – in the study of early books? How sure can we be of cause and effect, of chronology and dating, of different kinds of paleographical, codicological and bibliographical evidence, in studying these books? Are history and narrative the best models for ‘book history’ or might studies of manuscript and print serve literary criticism, linguistics or philology in other ways?

Finally, papers which concern books in or around Oxford are also encouraged. But, in general, proposals for papers on any aspect of the history of manuscripts and printed books from 1350 to 1550, including the copying and circulation of models and exemplars, style, illustration, and/or the influence of readers and patrons, artists, scribes, printers, are welcome.

Accommodation and most meals will be available at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Most lectures will take place there too, but part of the conference will take place in the newly renovated Weston Building of the Bodleian Library, which reopens officially in March 2015. There will be ‘masterclasses’ with manuscripts on show, a visit to the exhibition and some optional visits, on a first-come-first-served basis, ‘behind the scenes’ to departments of the library. We are grateful to the Centre for the Study of the Book in the Bodleian for co-hosting the conference and sponsoring these events.

The website with details of registration and accommodation will go live later this winter and will be announced on the EBS listserv, Facebook, and also on the EBS website.

For those making travel plans, there are some preliminary points to bear in mind.

Depending on availability, accommodation might be in St Anne’s or other Colleges for extra nights before or after the conference. Oxford is about an hour from central London by rail. The closest international airport is London Heathrow, and from there and from London Gatwick there is a convenient coach service, The Airline, which can be booked in advance. Birmingham International Airport is also close and has direct train connections to Oxford every half an hour.

People planning to combine the conference with a research trip might be reminded that the Special Collections department at the Bodleian Library and the Colleges’ libraries tend to be busy with visitors in the summer months, so planning is advised, given that dozens of early book enthusiasts will be in town!

Also, Leeds International Medieval Congress begins the day after our conference, on Monday 6 July 2015. Travel from Oxford to Leeds on Sunday evenings takes three and a half hours by rail, direct or with one change, and if booked far enough in advance (up to three months in advance) can cost (at this year’s rates) as little as £45.

Friday, 17 October 2014

CFP: Crossing Borders in the Insular Middle Ages, c. 900-1500

Keltologie, Philipps-Universität Marburg
8-10 April 2015

Keynote speakers: Prof. Helen Fulton (University of York), Prof. Dr. Erich Poppe (Philipps-Universität Marburg) and Dr Sif Rikhardsdottir (University of Iceland)

We are delighted to announce a symposium at Philipps-Universität Marburg on the role of cross-border literary borrowings in the construction of political, national, regional and cultural identities in the British Isles, Ireland and Iceland across the long period c. 900-1500. Proposals for papers are invited on processes of translation and adaptation across insular vernacular languages and/or Latin; discussions of broader cross-border thematic influences and correspondences; lines of transmission and textual distribution; the role of ecclesiastical and secular institutions in cross-border insular literary contact; perceptions of other insular peoples and constructions of otherness/ similitude; cross-border manuscript and book circulation; literary engagements and intersections with cross-border material and visual culture; linguistic borrowings across insular languages.

This is intended to foster discussion about contemporary methodologies in comparative literary studies by international scholars working in Celtic Studies, English and Norse. We hope that these conversations will make an important contribution to a growing field of research into the shape of pre-modern cultural and political mentalities.

Proposals are also welcomed from doctoral students and early career scholars, and we hope to have small subsidies available for accommodation costs.

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words by 2 January 2015 to Dr Victoria Flood.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Some Historical Female Werewolves

I don't think it'll come as much of a surprise if I say that I enjoy writing and reading about female werewolves. However, every so often something gives you a moment of pause. I sometimes get asked by people if I can tell them anything about 'real' or 'historical' female werewolves. I think they probably want me to tell them an exciting story about a renegade wildwoman, running with the wolves and sticking it to the man. In truth, I don't know any stories like that.

What I do know is that, for a brief period of history, an accusation of lycanthropy carried a death sentence for some women. Though not as widespread as witchcraft, lycanthropy was one of the crimes investigated by the Inquisition and records survive of men and women who were tried for this crime.

Here are some of the historical 'female werewolves' who faced trial in Europe:

Marie Barnagoz (burnt at the stake in 1551)
Perrenette Tornier (burnt at the stake in 1551, head displayed on a stake as a deterrent to others)
Jeanne Guyenot (burnt at the stake in 1551)
Appoline Garnier (interrogated as an accomplice to her husband's lycanthropy, released from custody in 1573)
Perrenette Gandillon (lynched in 1598)
Clauda Jeanprost (burnt at the stake in 1598)
Françoise Sécretain (died in prison in 1598)
Clauda Guillaume (burnt at the stake in 1598)
Thivienne Paget (burnt at the stake in 1598)
Clauda Gaillard (burnt at the stake in 1598)
Guillauma Frayre (executed in c.1605)
Guillemette Barnard (found innocent of lycanthropy but guilty of witchcraft, sentenced to banishment in 1605)
Perrenette Glaon (burnt at the stake in 1611)
Jeanne Horriel (refused to confess under torture, found innocent of lycanthropy but guilty of blasphemy, fined in 1611)
Oudette Champon (paid for a lawyer to mount a defence, acquitted in 1629)
Pierrette Vichard (refused to confess under torture, acquitted in 1657)
Renoberte Simon (acquitted in 1660)

Information about these women and the circumstances of their interrogation, trial and punishment can be found in Rolf Schulte's contribution to my book on the cultural history of female werewolves, which will be published by Manchester University Press in 2015.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

WIN 4 Books, including SIGNED books by Ramsey Campbell and Douglas Thompson (International Entry Allowed)

Another Hic Dragones giveaway... this time with 4 fantastic books as a prize. Entry via the Rafflecopter widget below.



Impossible Spaces, edited by Hannah Kate (published by Hic Dragones)

Sometimes the rules can change. Sometimes things aren’t how they appear. Sometimes you can just slip through the cracks and end up… somewhere else. What else is there? Is there somewhere else, right beside you, if you could only reach out and touch it? Or is it waiting to reach out and touch you?

Don’t trust what you see. Don’t trust what you hear. Don’t trust what you remember. It isn’t what you think.

A new collection of twenty-one dark, unsettling and weird short stories that explore the spaces at the edge of possibility. Stories by: Ramsey Campbell, Simon Bestwick, Hannah Kate, Jeanette Greaves, Richard Freeman, Almira Holmes, Arpa Mukhopadhyay, Chris Galvin Nguyen, Christos Callow Jr., Daisy Black, Douglas Thompson, Jessica George, Keris McDonald, Laura Brown, Maree Kimberley, Margrét Helgadóttir, Nancy Schumann, Rachel Yelding, Steven K. Beattie, Tej Turner, Tracy Fahey

Obsession, by Ramsey Campbell (SIGNED COPY) (published by Samhain Publishing)

The deal seemed too good to be true. Until it came time to pay.

The letters said, “Whatever you most need, I do. The price is something that you do not value and which you may regain.” To four teenagers, it seemed an offer too good to pass up. They filled out the enclosed forms. Indeed, they soon got what they needed most, but in shocking ways they never imagined. Twenty-five years later, they have never been able to forget the horror. But it’s not over yet. In fact, it’s about to get much worse. Now it’s time to pay the price.



The Seven Days of Cain, by Ramsey Campbell (SIGNED COPY) (published by Samhain Publishing)

Is anyone really innocent?

On two continents, weeks apart, two people are brutally murdered: a Barcelona street performer and a New York playwright are each gruesomely tortured to death. In Britain, photographer Andy Bentley begins receiving mysterious emails. The messages refer to the killings and contain hints that the murderer has a personal connection to Andy. But what is it? Are the emails coming from the killer himself? And what, if anything, does Andy’s past have to do with the deaths? As the answers begin to take shape Andy will be forced to confront not only the consequences of his actions, but also the uncertainty of reality itself. Before that happens, how much that he loves will be destroyed?

Entanglement, by Douglas Thompson (SIGNED COPY) (published by Elsewhen Press)

In 2180, travel to neighbouring star systems has been mastered thanks to quantum teleportation using the 'entanglement' of sub-atomic matter; astronauts on earth can be duplicated on a remote world once the dupliport chamber has arrived there. In this way a variety of worlds can be explored, but what humanity discovers is both surprising and disturbing, enlightening and shocking. Each alternative to mankind that the astronauts find, sheds light on human shortcomings and potential while offering fresh perspectives of life on Earth. Entanglement is simultaneously a novel and a series of short stories: multiple worlds, each explored in a separate chapter, a separate story; every one another step on mankind's journey outwards to the stars and inwards to our own psyche.

Enter now to win this fantastic prize...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CFP: Masculinities in the British Landscape

14-17 May 2015

A multi-disciplinary, multi-period conference to be held at Harlaxton College, the British Campus of the University of Evansville, outside of Grantham, Lincolnshire.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Howard Williams (Chester): ‘From Stonehenge to the National Memorial Arboretum: Megaliths and Martial Masculinity in the British Landscape’

This conference seeks to explore current and historical concepts of masculinities in the British landscapes. From depictions of masculine control to landscapes of masculine employment, the conference wishes to explore the ways masculinity has been marked on the landscape and expressed in landscape terms.

Proposals will be accepted from all eras from the prehistoric to the contemporary. The geographic area covered will be not only England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but also the historic scope of ‘Britishness,’ including former British Empire states in their colonial and post-colonial periods.

Proposals are encouraged from any discipline, including (but not limited to) archaeology, art history, criminology, folklore studies, history, literature, philosophy, sociology and theology. Topics might include:

- The naval seascape
- Sculpted and symbolic landscapes
- Agricultural landscapes
- Ritualized landscapes
- Gender, crime and urban topography
- Employment and land
- Geographic concepts of masculinity
- Masculinity, empire and the landscape
- Religious masculinity and the monastic landscape
- Landscapes of masculinity through war, rebellion and protest
- Textual depictions of masculinities and landscapes

Please send 200-word proposals for 20-minute papers or 600-word proposals for 3-paper panels to the conference convenors by 1 December 2015. Informal queries can be made to Dr Edward Bujak or Dr Katherine Weikert.

Please click here for the conference website.

The Conference is generously supported by the Economic History Society.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

OUT NOW: Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain (D.S. Brewer, 2014)

Edited by Amanda Hopkins, Robert Allen Rouse and Cory James Rushton



It is often said that the past is a foreign country where they do things differently, and perhaps no type of "doing" is more fascinating than sexual desires and behaviours. Our modern view of medieval sexuality is characterised by a polarising dichotomy between the swooning love-struck knights and ladies of romance on one hand, and the darkly imagined and misogyny of an unenlightened "medieval" sexuality on the other. British medieval sexual culture also exhibits such dualities through the influential paradigms of sinner or saint, virgin or whore, and protector or defiler of women. However, such sexual identities are rarely coherent or stable, and it is in the grey areas, the interstices between normative modes of sexuality, that we find the most compelling instances of erotic frisson and sexual expression.

This collection of essays brings together a wide-ranging discussion of the sexual possibilities and fantasies of medieval Britain as they manifest themselves in the literature of the period. Taking as their matter texts and authors as diverse as Chaucer, Gower, Dunbar, Malory, alchemical treatises, and romances, the contributions reveal a surprising variety of attitudes, strategies and sexual subject positions.

About the Editors:

Amanda Hopkins teaches in English and French at the University of Warwick; Robert Allen Rouse is Associate Professor of English at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Cory James Rushton is Associate Professor of English at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Contents:

Introduction: A Light Thrown upon Darkness: Writing about Medieval British Sexuality
Robert Allen Rouse and Cory James Rushton

1. ‘Open manslaughter and bold bawdry’: Male Sexuality as a Cause of Disruption in Malory’s Morte Darthur
Kristina Hildebrand

2. Erotic (Subject) Positions in Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale
Amy S. Kaufman

3. Enter the Bedroom: Managing Space for the Erotic in Middle English Romance
Megan G. Leitch

4. ‘Naked as a nedyll’: The Eroticism of Malory’s Elaine
Yvette Kisor

5. ‘How love and I togedre met’: Gower, Amans and the Lessons of Venus in the Confessio Amantis
Samantha J. Rayner

6. ‘Bogeysliche as a boye’: Performing Sexuality in William of Palerne
Hannah Priest

7. Fairy Lovers: Sexuality, Order and Narrative in Medieval Romance
Aisling Byrne

8. Text as Stone: Desire, Sex, and the Figurative Hermaphrodite in the Ordinal and Compound of Alchemy
Cynthea Masson

9. Animality, Sexuality and the Abject in Three of Dunbar’s Satirical Poems
Anna Caughey

10. The Awful Passion of Pandarus
Cory James Rushton

11. Invisible Woman: Rape as a Chivalric Necessity in Medieval Romance
Amy N. Vines

For more information, please visit the publisher's website.