Showing posts with label popular culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label popular culture. Show all posts

Monday, 26 February 2018

OUT NOW: Twenty-First-Century Popular Fiction, edited by Bernice M. Murphy and Stephen Matterson (Edinburgh University Press, 2017)

Contains a chapter by me on Stephenie Meyer's fiction (including The Host and the anniversary edition of Twilight)...

This groundbreaking collection captures the state of popular fiction in present day. It features twenty new essays on key authors associated with a wide range of genres and sub-genres, providing chapter-length discussions of major post-2000 works of contemporary popular fiction. The lively, accessible and academically rigorous essays presented here cover a wider range of established popular fiction genres such as fantasy, horror and the romance, as well as more niche areas such as Domestic Noir, Steampunk, the New Weird, Nordic Noir and Zombie Lit. The collection will primarily appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students but general readers may also find the focus on many of today’s most prominent and influential authors to be of interest.

- Introduction: ‘Changing the story’: Popular Fiction Today
Bernice M. Murphy and Stephen Matterson

- Larry McMurtry’s Vanishing Breeds
Stephen Matterson

- ‘Time to Open the Door’: Stephen King’s Legacy
Rebecca Janicker

- Terry Pratchett: Mostly Human
Jim Shanahan

- From Westeros to HBO: George R.R. Martin and the Mainstreaming of Fantasy
Gerard Hynes

- Nora Roberts: The Power of Love
Jarlath Killeen

- The King of Stories: Neil Gaiman’s Twenty-first Century Fiction
Tara Prescott

- Jo Nesbø: Murder in the Folkhemmet
Clare Clarke

- ‘It’s a trap! Don’t turn the page.’ Metafiction and the Multiverse in the Comics of Grant Morrison
Kate Roddy

- Panoptic and Synoptic Surveillance in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Series
Keith O’Sullivan

- E.L. James and the Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomenon
Dara Downey

- Fact, Fiction, Fabrication: The Popular Appeal of Dan Brown’s Global Bestsellers
Ian Kinane

- ‘I Need to Disillusion You’: J.K. Rowling and Twenty-First-Century Young Adult Fantasy

Kate Harvey
- Jodi Picoult: Good Grief
Clare Hayes-Brady

- ‘We Will Have a Happy Marriage If It Kills Him’: Gillian Flynn and the Rise of Domestic Noir
Bernice M. Murphy

- ‘The Bastard Zone’: China Miéville, Perdido Street Station and the New Weird
Kirsten Tranter

- Sparkly Vampires and Shimmering Aliens: The Paranormal Romance of Stephanie Meyer
Hannah Priest

- ‘We needed to get a lot of white collars dirty’: The Apocalypse as Opportunity in Max Brooks’ World War Z
Bernice M. Murphy

- Genre and Uncertainty in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad Mysteries
Brian Cliff
- ‘You Get What You Ask For’: Hugh Howey, SF, and Authorial Agency
Stephen Kenneally

- Cherie Priest: At the Intersection of History and Technology
Catherine Siemann

For more information, or to buy a copy, please see the publisher's website.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

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


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.

Friday, 1 August 2014

CFP: Literary Margins and Digital Media

Seminar of the Academia Europaea and the University of Wrocław
15–17 April 2015

The Academia Europaea Knowledge Hub Wrocław and the University of Wrocław invite young scholars (PhD candidates and postdocs), to take part in the Seminar Literary margins and digital media, to be held in Wrocław (Poland) on 15–17 April 2015.

Context and rationale

Traditional elite culture is becoming increasingly marginalized, while forms of cultural expression which were seen as marginal during the first half of the twentieth century, or which, in the terminology of Bourdieu and Even-Zohar, were located at the periphery of the cultural field, have been gaining a more prominent place. The three vital factors that have played a crucial role in this phenomenon are the commercialisation of cultural life, democratic access to culture, and the development of the Internet and new media. The aim of this conference is to discuss the implications of these shifts for European literatures, and particularly for those of Central and Eastern Europe.

First, special consideration will be given to the evolution of literary genres which were until recently deemed marginal from the perspective of the traditional cultural centre, such as children’s and young adult literature, popular literature and, in recent times, electronic literature. Second, a related issue to be discussed will be ways in which literature repositions itself with regard to contemporary technological and social developments. Of interest here is not so much the question whether traditional literary culture will be displaced by new media, but rather in what manner literature reacts to these developments and retains its significance either through a symbiosis with other modes of cultural expression or by generating new genres.


Terminology and concepts
- Do the existing terminology and traditional methods of literary analysis apply to analyzing electronic literature? Is there a need for developing new approaches?
- How does the transition from the book as an art object (‘liberature’) to electronic literature occur?
- What new genres have emerged in cyberspace?
Crossing boundaries
- Is the division into high and low culture relevant in cyberspace? What are processes involved in textualisation of visual signs and visualisation of the text?
- How does literature exists in the nonlinguistic realm? How are the limits of language challenged?
- How do elements of subcultures move to the mainstream in the context of new media?
- Stealing or recycling? How to define the use of traditional literature for digital purposes?
- What is the status of the author in cyberspace?
- What is the role of digital culture and new media in the preservation and dissemination of national cultural heritage?
Age and media
- How does age affect media preferences and use?
- Is the distinction between children’s literature and adult literature still valid in the context of new media?
- What forms of cultural convergence are emerging within children’s culture?
Readers and consumers of popular culture
- How does the evolution from the reader (of traditional print literature) to the active performer or player proceed?
- What alternative forms of sharing cultural experiences have emerged thanks to social media and participatory culture?
- What are possible methods of empirical research into readers and popular culture audiences?
- Are computer games a literary genre?
- What processes are involved in turning literature into games and games into literature?
- What is the aesthetics of alternative and artistic games?
Future: dangers & possibilities
- What is the future of translation in view of instant translation available on the Internet?
- How to promote new media literacies among children and adults?
- What may be potential applications of popular culture and media convergence in education?
- What are possible uses of games in developing media literacies?
- Remediation – a new life for historical texts?
- How is children’s publishing in Central and Eastern Europe being affected by multimedia?
- What is the influence of new media on the development and status of popular literature?

APPLICATION: For registration, click here. Submit a 300-word proposal, a curriculum vitae with a list of publications by October 5, 2014. All applicants will be notified about the selection of participants before October 31, 2014.

REQUIREMENTS: Presenters are required to submit a 3,000-5,000 word description or excerpt (i.e., chapter, article, etc.) to be circulated among participants by March 1, 2015. All workshop participants are asked to read these submissions prior to the workshop. The paper should be an unpublished one. Presenters who do not meet the submission deadline will not be able to present their work.

SEMINAR LANGUAGE will be English.

FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS: The organizers will cover the conference fee and the costs of accommodation*, travel**, insurance and publication.

Irena Barbara Kalla (University of Wrocław)
Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak (University of Wrocław)
Dorota Michułka (University of Wrocław)
Bogumiła Staniów (University of Wrocław)
Bożena Czarnecka (University of Wrocław)
Pieter Emmer (Academia Europaea)
Siegfried Huigen (University of Wrocław)
Stefan Kiedroo (University of Wrocław)
Aleksandra Nowak (Academia Europaea)

All correspondence, including submission of proposals and final papers, must be addressed to Aleksandra Nowak or via the website.

*up to 4 nights
** up to certain maximum: Western Europe – up to 100 EUR, Central and Eastern Europe – up to 150 EUR

Monday, 9 June 2014

Coming Soon: New Digital Editions of Victorian Penny Dreadfuls

Serialized Victorian Gothic pulp fiction for the discerning modern reader!

Hic Dragones is pleased to announce a new series of eBook editions of Victorian penny bloods and penny dreadfuls. Digitally remastered and reserialized, these editions are intended to introduce modern readers to the thrills, shocks and cliffhangers of classic blood-curdling tales.

Penny dreadfuls have a significant place in the modern imagination and affections, but they are rarely read in the twenty-first century. And this is hardly surprising—with only a few exceptions, these texts can only be found in original publications or mechanically scanned copies. Until now!

The Digital Periodicals serials from Hic Dragones have been fully formatted (by a human being) to create searchable eBook texts with interactive tables of contents. For the first time since their original publication in the mid-nineteenth century, these texts will be sold as serials, with new instalments (comprising between 5-10 chapters) being released fortnightly. Readers can once again savour the anticipation of a new instalment, and enjoy these episodic stories as they were once intended.

Digital Periodicals launches on Friday 13th June 2014 with two of James Malcolm Rymer’s classic titles: VARNEY THE VAMPYRE; OR, THE FEAST OF BLOOD and VILEROY; OR, THE HORRORS OF ZINDORF CASTLE. Additional serials will be published in due course, with THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF VALENTINE VOX, THE VENTRILOQUIST coming out later in the month. As well as better-known titles, such as WAGNER THE WEHR-WOLF and THE STRING OF PEARLS (Sweeney Todd), Digital Periodicals will introduce readers to works that have unfairly fallen into obscurity: including, George Reynolds’ FAUST, Albert Coates’ SPRING-HEEL’D JACK and Pierce Egan’s WAT TYLER.

Penny dreadfuls were always meant to be pure, sensationalist entertainment, and the Digital Periodicals series is designed to inject the fun back into these under-read masterpieces of lurid, melodramatic, garish pleasure. Readers can subscribe to receive reminders about their favourite serials, and join in discussion about the stories on Twitter and Facebook

Let the feast of blood begin again…

For more information, or to sign up for the mailing list, please see the website or contact Hic Dragones via email. For academic and press enquiries, please contact Hannah Kate (series editor).

Monday, 7 April 2014

OUT NOW: Hannah Priest (ed.), The Female of the Species: Cultural Constructions of Evil, Women and the Feminine (Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2013)


From Alien Queens to prostitutes, 'phallic' mothers to child murderers, evil women proliferate across cultural productions that span millennia. This collections explores the perennial question of 'evil' and its relationship to women and femininity. Taking as their starting points material as diverse as Greek mythology, nineteenth-century medical texts, Elizabethan drama and contemporary cartoons, and informed by various theoretical perspectives, the authors scrutinise the construction of the feminine as evil, and vice versa. Throughout these essays, recurring anxieties of female agency, reproduction and the appropriation of patriarchal power are identified and explored. As the writers reveal, these anxieties are not always situated within the anatomically or genetically 'female' (or even human) body, but rather in culturally-constructed and pervasive concepts of femininity - which is at once recognisable and abject, necessary and disavowed. These essays reveal the strategies of construction and maintenance upon which the reification of feminine evil are based.


- Introduction, by Hannah Priest

Part I: Writing the Evil Woman

- Medea's Medicine: Women and Pharmaka in Greek Mythology, by Alison Innes
- The Representation of the Evil Woman in Elizabethan Literature, by Abdulaziz Al-Mutawa
- (De)centring Women in Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, by Zubaidah Mohamed Shaburdin

Part II: Reproductive Evils

- Alien Queens and Monstrous Machines: The Conflation of the Out-of-Control Female and Robotic Body, by Simon Bacon
- The Ultimate Cold War Monster: Exploring 'Mother' in the Film The Manchurian Candidate, by Kathleen Starck
- The Tainted Birth in Lovecraft's Fiction, by Cécile Cristofari

Part III: The Evil That Women Do

- Sugar and Spice, But Not Very Nice: Depictions of Evil Little Girls in Cartoons and Comics, by Jacquelyn Bent, Helen Gavin and Theresa Porter
- A Wellspring of Contamination: The Transgressive Body of the Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century Medical Discourse, by J. Shoshanna Ehrlich
- Myra: Portrait of a Portrait, by Shelley Campbell

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

Monday, 16 September 2013

CFP: "Horror" - 35th Annual Conference of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA)

Hyatt Regency Hotel & Conference Center
Albuquerque, New Mexico

February 19-22, 2014

The area chair for Horror of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association invites all interested scholars to submit papers on any aspect of horror in literature, film, television, digital and online as well as general culture. Given the strong showing of work on horror cinema in recent years, we hope to continue this tradition, but also to diversify into new and unconventional areas, especially with the addition of roundtable sessions on a variety of popular topics.

Particularly encouraged are presentations that fit this year’s conference theme, "Popular and American Culture Studies: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow."

If you are interested in being a presenter, please send a detailed abstract (300-400 words) for a paper of 15 to 20 minutes reading time. Please provide contact information, such as name, mailing address, phone number, and especially e-mail address.

If you want to propose a panel of four speakers, or three speakers and one respondent, please include the following information: panel title; name and contact information of the panel chair; an abstract for each paper; contact information for each presenter.

The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2013.

For information about the registration process, registration fees, membership, graduate student awards and course credits, and information about travel and location, please consult the SWPACA's official web site.

Please submit abstracts and panel proposals at the conference website.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Twihards and Directioners

So… it’s been a good week for derisively labelling young women as mentally ill.

In the worlds of (predominantly) female fandoms, there have been two big stories this week. The first, an interview with Stephenie Meyer in Variety in which the author was quoted as saying she is ‘over’ Twilight.* This was greeted by a wave of responses by self-described ‘Twihards’, which, in turn, was met with mockery and criticism. The second story followed Channel 4’s broadcasting of a ‘documentary’ entitled Crazy About One Direction.

Before I start (what is probably going to turn into a rant), I want to make it clear that I don’t think Twihards and Directioners are the same thing, or that these respective fandoms have much in common. The object of attention for these fandoms – a multi-media franchise for one, a pop band on the other – are completely different. The methods and media through which Twihards and Directioners express their devotion are also substantively different, though there is occasional overlap on social media. However, I am linking these stories because of the connection Twihards and Directioners share in terms of demographics: on the whole, they are young women, or at least imagined to be so by their detractors.

The Twilight Story

Stephenie Meyer’s throwaway comment in the Variety interview might make complete sense to other writers, many of whom have expressed their sympathy for the backlash she has faced. Meyer wrote a series of books which became a phenomenon, attracting both a legion of devoted (and vocal) fans and an army of cynical, snide critics. Let us remember, Twilight was Meyer’s debut novel; it must be kind of weird to have your first published works publicly ripped to pieces by Stephen King. Or to see reports that fans of your work have mobbed a waxwork model of an actor who portrayed one of your characters on screen. Perhaps we can excuse Meyer for wanting to take a (permanent) break from this.

I don’t really want to discuss the rights and wrongs of Meyer’s comment, or the question of whether she was accurately quoted. What I’m interested in is the reaction of the fans – specifically the Twihards. After the article was published, it received a number of comments from self-described Twihards decrying Meyer’s ‘rejection’ and ‘humiliation’ of her fans. I say ‘a number of comments’, in fact that same comment was posted a number of times by different people. Here is the comment in its entirety:
Stephenie, do you think that maybe you thought of us, the fans and admirers, who for all these years not only followed your Saga but also followed you, your life and your other work and showed true love for your writing that not only made us fall in love but also changed the lives of each and everyone of us? By saying that “it’s not a happy place to be” you despised and you humiliated us all. This is OUR place, and you are responsible for it. In IT we are happy, and it is just unforgivable for you to try to take it away from us. It might not be for you, but for us it is FOREVER Sincerely, Twihards #TwilightIsAHappyPlace
Reading these comments, which are interspersed with more personalized commentary from Twilight fans and a number of critics questioning both Meyer’s talent and the Twihards’ response, is a somewhat bizarre experience. The comment is repeated, occasionally with an additional ‘hey’ or ‘hi’ at the beginning, sometimes with the first part of ‘Stephenie’ missing. It appears in Portuguese at least once, and some posts have slightly odd formatting. My first reaction, I must admit, was to describe these comments as Annie Wilkes’s sentiments written in Jack Torrance’s style.

I was not the only person to engage in a bit of snark about these commenters. Other posters spoke of the Twihards’ need to develop some ‘manners’ or to act like ‘normal fans’. They criticized the Twihards for copying and pasting a group response, rather than expressing something personal. And, some used this as an excuse to trot out the usual ‘Twihards are frightening/mentally ill’ rhetoric. As one commenter succinctly says at the end of their post: ‘Yikes!’

However, if you pay a little more attention to what the Twihards are saying here – and, particularly, to their explanation for the copy-and-pasted comments, another story emerges. Apparently, the comment originated on a fan forum and was written out in English to help Brazilian fans who weren’t confident to post in English. Immediately, then, we should distance these fans from the figure of Annie Wilkes. They are also not a ‘mob’: they are part of a community, who communicate and offer assistance to each other where necessary. They also organize group expressions of fan loyalty. Am I the only one who thinks that Annie Wilkes would have been a lot happier if she’d joined a board like that, maybe written a bit of fan fiction, got a Twitter account? I’m sure most people agree, there is something empowering and healthy about being part of a community – online or IRL – and the Twihards’ response to Stephenie Meyer highlights the communal aspect of fandom perfectly.

As an academic, I also have to say that I believe the Twihards were absolutely right in their sentiments. Particularly when they say ‘this is OUR place’. I’ve written elsewhere about (failed) attempts by authors to limit fan appropriation of work, and the ways in which these strategies reveal the last, dying grasp of the Author (with a capital A). In her defence, I should say that Meyer herself did not attempt to wrest any control of her work from the Twihards – that was the work of commentators who claimed that it was Stephenie Meyer’s right to decide when Twilight was ‘over’, and she (alone) could say when fans should ‘move on’.

Theorists from Roland Barthes to Henry Jenkins would beg to differ with that. Twilight is as much the property (and, speaking theoretically here, creation) of the readers and fans as it is of Meyer. Put this way, the anger of the Twihards is justifiable, given that they interpreted Meyer’s words as a rejection of their continued investment in the series.

Whether or not you agree with the ‘death of the author’ premise I’m hinting at here, there is a more pressing question. Why does any of this make the Twihards ‘insane’? Why is a Twilight fan who refuses to accept the end of canonical production ‘mad’, but a Star Wars fan who disavows The Phantom Menace (or a Watchmen fan who won’t watch Zack Snyder’s film adaptation) is a purist?

The answer should be sadly obvious. It relates to the gender and (perceived) age of the Twihards. Star Wars ‘purists’ tend to be males or females aged around forty and above (I’m using Barney Stinson’s Ewok Line for want of a more academic resource here). I’m not going to rant about this again, as I’ve already talked about the relationship between criticisms of the Twilight series and the perceived gender and age identities of its fans on a blog post for the Gothic Imagination.

The important takeaway from this story, though, is actually just one word. The Twihards spoke out, as a group, in defence of their fandom, and the response was: ‘Yikes!’


The One Direction Story

The next female fandom to come under attack – in a more authoritative way this time – were the Directioners. On Thursday 15th August, Channel 4 broadcast the ‘documentary’ (and, as this is a rant, I’m going to keep the scare quotes around that term) ‘Crazy About One Direction’. That’s right. Crazy. They used the word ‘crazy’.

Here’s the trailer (apologies for quality):

This documentary is a tired attempt to draw teenage female fans as mentally ill. The programme makers have barely even attempted to hide their intentions. The trailer opens with a young woman stating that her fandom ‘could kill you’, and the soundtrack (despite the other songs by the band that could have been chosen) is One Direction’s cover of Blondie’s ‘One Way or Another’, with its repeated refrain of ‘I’m gonna get ya’. Note as well the voiceover’s subtle distinguishing of the ‘general public’ who voted One Direction to stardom on X-Factor and the ‘army of fans’ who are responsible for the band’s continued success. Because… erm… the band’s fans aren’t part of the ‘general public’ any more than the Twihards are ‘normal fans’.

Sadly, the ridicule to which the Directioners were (and are) held up is also new. Nor is the suggestion that this fandom might be dangerous or harmful in some way. Nor is the suggestion that belonging to this fandom might be symptomatic of mental illness. A quick glance at a history of female fandoms in the twentieth century will show a long list of groups who have been held up to similar criticism, mockery and censure. In fact, this entire history can be summed up in one word: Beatlemania. Mania. As in madness.

The idea that women (especially young women) are trivial and frivolous by nature is pretty engrained in European culture. Thus, cultural productions aimed specifically at women have always granted less cultural worth. And those primarily consumed by younger women (teenagers, once the concept of the teenager was invented) even more so.

Among the arguments regularly made for the lower cultural capital of young women’s cultural productions is that this specific audience is less discerning, more susceptible to manipulation and more like to give in to a group mentality. The latter has even been pathologized – as hysteria – the highly contagious, terrifying female ailment that is usually diagnosed in cases of Beatlemania and related conditions.

The other two arguments are more problematic to explore. In order to decide that teen girls are less discerning in their cultural tastes, you need to have already made a decision about the cultural validity of the products they are consuming. In other words, if you think Directioners (or the Twihards or the women who inspired Jane Austen’s Catherine Morland) are less discerning, you must have already decided that One Direction (or Twilight or eighteenth-century Gothic novels) are trash. So you have to have listened to all of One Direction’s music, read all four Twilight novels (and watched the film adaptations), and pored over The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk and all the other less well-known fictions that Austen parodied. In my experience, most critics of teen girls’ fandoms have done none of these things.

So, how about the argument that young women are more susceptible to manipulation? This is something that comes up a lot in criticisms of Twihards and Directioners. These fandoms are being manipulated in their devotion by cynical media companies and advertising campaigns – they are being told what to like, what cultural productions to buy.

Yes. Of course they are. All fans are.

A teenage girl queuing up for a midnight showing of Breaking Dawn: Part 2 is no different to a grown man queuing up for a midnight showing of (yet another) remastered version of The Empire Strikes Back. I know a case of an older gentleman (let’s call him ‘my dad’ for argument’s sake) who has devoted his entire adult life to collecting EVERYTHING Bob Dylan has ever recorded. Pre-internet, he used to trawl record fairs and magazines tracking down rare bootleg recordings. It took him ages. But when the record company released an ‘official’ box-set of those exact same recordings – he went out and bought that as well. Does that mean that I get to claim that middle-aged men are ‘more susceptible to manipulation’? No. It means that fans will always be persuaded to part with their money to express their devotion and loyalty.

And I’m not even going to address the issue of One Direction being a manufactured band put together by a record company to make money. So were The Sex Pistols, who have been used to flog everything from fashion to butter (and at least Niall Horan can play the guitar).

Reading the fan responses to the Channel 4 documentary last night was both heartbreaking and eye-opening. So many Directioners tweeted and, later, commented on online articles, about their distress and embarrassment following the broadcast. It should be noted that there were also (as yet unsubstantiated) rumours of suicide attempts.

But, in addition to this, many Directioners were eloquent about what they saw as the injustice of the programme. They spoke of a perceived ‘dehumanization’ (which, in my opinion, is a very apt summary of the programme’s intentions). They also wrote of poor journalistic techniques and a strategy of sensationalizing. Some spoke of the programme as an attack on an already vulnerable group of young people – many Directioners mentioned loneliness, depression and self-harming tendencies which they had come to terms with through their identification within a fandom community. A number of fans wrote about regret over their previous treatment of ‘Larry Shippers’ (a subgroup within the fandom who came under particularly cynical scrutiny in the show.

While Channel 4 seemed to be at pains to point out the power that the Directioners apparently wield, the responses to the show highlighted this group’s powerlessness and its vulnerability. These are not people who have a platform from which to argue their own case – the ‘responses’ I speak of were Twitter conversations that I (hate to admit it) eavesdropped on. This is a group that are ridiculed online and IRL frequently, who are already decried as being ‘mad’, ‘unnatural’ and ‘frightening’ and yet are in many cases, by Western legal standards at least, children.

When I mentioned the Twihards above, I spoke of the community aspect of fandom. This was something highlighted in the Channel 4 documentary as one of the more unsettling aspects of the Directioners’ fandom – i.e. community = potentially dangerous mob. I think it’s worth thinking for a moment about just how dangerous the Directioners really are, and how that might compare with other fandoms.

Here’s a scenario: if I post something on Twitter criticizing One Direction, there’s a small chance I might get trolled. If I post something seriously insulting about them, I might get some systematic trolling. I might have to block some people.

Here’s another scenario: I, as a woman, state that I believe ewoks are fully responsible for saving the Rebel Alliance and defeating the Empire (and that the wookie simply brought the equipment). Not only does a view like that provoke trolling, it encourages misogynistic slurs, questions about my intelligence, and (this really did happen, IRL not online) a threat that I might ‘learn that opinions like that can be dangerous’.

That is one flippant example. There are literally hundreds of other examples of how male fandoms are genuinely unsafe spaces for women. Never mind objectification and dehumanization in canon, there’s sexual harassment at conventions, threats of sexual assault and rape, silencing of female writers and artists, the list goes on. Traditionally male fandoms can actually be physically, emotionally and psychologically harmful to women. I think this deserves a ‘Yikes!’ more than a copy-and-pasted declaration of love.

And yet, it is the Twihards and Directioners (and others like them) that are labelled as ‘mad’ or ‘dangerous’. Consistently. Just as the Take That fans who mourned their split in 1996 were labelled as ‘hysterical’ and ‘pathetic’. Just as the girls in my class at school who broke down in tears when they heard about the death of River Phoenix (showing my age) were laughed at by our teachers and told to ‘stop disrupting the class’ – a class, I might add, that was completely disrupted (at the instigation of the teacher) after Graham Taylor took Gary Lineker off in the match against Sweden in Euro 92. Regardless of whether football fans commit more acts of vandalism and violence than grieving River Phoenix fans, or whether sci fi conventions face more accusations of sexual harassment than Justin Bieber concerts, it is female fandoms that are labelled as ‘dangerous’, ‘disruptive’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘insane’.

The Channel 4 documentary is the most recent attempt to label young female fans as mentally ill, but it belongs to a long, rant-inspiring tradition. It also highlights the continued strategies used to denigrate the cultural preferences of a social group with limited cultural capital and platform. In the words of One Direction’s Liam Payne, these strategies are ‘full of bullshit’, and should have been left behind a long time ago.

* Meyer has since expanded and clarified this point in a statement on her own website.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

CFP: Being Beyond Boundaries: Dissolving (Species) Hierarchy in Contemporary Culture

John Galsworthy Building, Penrhyn road, Kingston University, Kingston, Surrey KT1 2EE

Saturday 5th October
Kingston University, London

In her recent work on human-animal encounter, Donna Haraway asks us to consider ‘who “we” will become when species meet’. At the centre of Haraway’s question is a concern for the mutuality of species, and a desire to reconfigure those Enlightenment inheritances which dialectically position ‘animal’ as the other of ‘human’. Such interests demand a reappraisal not merely of humanist discourse, but also of related questions regarding ethics and responsibility.

This one day symposium hosted in conjunction with Cultural Histories at Kingston aims to consider how contemporary cultural texts in their broadest definition (literature, performance, creative writing, film and television) not only engage with the human-animal encounter, but also how this relationship might speak to a transformative social discourse in terms of ‘beingist’ agendas that interrogate not only humanist allegiances, but also more traditional identity politics.

Confirmed guest speaker: Professor John Mullarkey, Professor of Film and Television, Kingston University.

The organisers welcome 20 minute papers that speak to any aspect of this theme, which might include, but are not limited to:

Animal-human encounters
Animal as metaphor/anti-metaphor
Animal-human transformations
Performing the ‘animal’
The animal other in popular culture
'Beingist’ interrogations of identity politics
Revisions of humanism/ posthumanism/ transhumanism in the context of animal encounters
Speculative realism and the animal
Animal ethics/responsibility
Animals and anti-correlationist perspectives

The organisers intend to put together an edited collection based on the symposium theme. Selected presenters may be invited to submit essays based on their papers.

Please send 200 word abstracts to Sara Upstone and Heidi James-Dunbar by 15 July 2013.

Enquiries to Sara Upstone

Saturday, 2 March 2013

CFP: The Common Denominator 2014

A Postgraduate Conference in British Cultural Studies

20-22 March 2014
Universität Leipzig
Institut für Anglistik

Call for Papers

In ancient Greece, the Pythagoreans worshipped perfect numbers and turned them into musical scales. Two thousand years later, Nicolaus Copernicus still heard their sound in the perfection of the universal spheres. Numerologists, alchemists and the Gnostics all attempt to explain the mysteries of the universe with the precision and beauty of mathematics. And what would the voluptuous garments displayed in Renaissance painting be without the clear lines and structured order of geometry? Already these few examples show that mathematics has always been more than is commonly represented in popular culture in the wider British context. Organised by members and PhD students of the Institute for British Studies of Leipzig University, the aim of this three-day interdisciplinary conference is to bring together researchers from diverse academic and professional disciplines. By establishing mathematics as the common denominator between the individual panels, the links between mathematics and cultural studies are brought into focus. The conference will explore the reception and representation of mathematical concepts across such diverse fields as popular culture, literature, linguistics and didactics.

We invite proposals of 250-300 words for papers of 20 minutes length from postgraduate students and established scholars. Suggested topics may include, but are not limited to the following fields:

• Philosophy: mathematics in history, philosophy and religion, e.g. John Dee

• Politics: mathematics and gender, the British Empire, and Bletchley Park

• Popular Culture: mathematics and their influence on everyday life, recreational mathematics

• The Arts: representations of mathematics in film, the Fine Arts, music, architecture, the aesthetics of mathematical symbols

• Literature: representations of mathematics and mathematicians in literature, mathematical imagery

Proposals should include up to four keywords and indicate a critical approach or theoretical framework. Owing to the international character, the conference language is English. Please e-mail your submissions either as a word document or PDF by 30 June 2013 to the conference email address. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the organizers, Felicitas Hanke, Franziska Kohlt, Andrea Radziewsky, Rita Singer, and Kati Voigt.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

OUT NOW: The Modern Vampire and Human Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Edited by Deborah Mutch

Blurb: Why are we surrounded by vampires in the twenty-first century? From the global phenomena of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse, through films such as Underworld and Blade, television series such as the The Vampire Diaries and Being Human, to video games like Bloodrayne and Legacy of Kain, the reader, viewer and player has never had so many vampires to choose from. This collection considers the importance of the current flurry of vampires for our sense of human identity. Vampires have long been read as bodies through which our sense of ourselves has been reflected back to us. These essays offer readings of the modern vampire as a complex consideration of our modern human selves. Now that we no longer see the vampire as essentially evil, what does that say about us.

Editor: Deborah Mutch is a senior lecturer at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. She has recently become interested in the modern Gothic and has published an article on the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse series in Critical Survey. She has also published widely on fin-de-siecle British socialist fiction.


1. Blood, Bodies, Books: Kim Newman and the Vampire as Cultural Text by Keith Scott
2. Buffy vs. Bella: Gender, Relationships and the Modern Vampire by Bethan Jones
3. 'Hell! Was I Becoming a Vampyre Slut?': Sex, Sexuality and Morality in Young Adult Vampire Fiction by Hannah Priest
4. Consuming Clothes and Dressing Desire in the Twilight Series by Sarah Heaton
5. Whiteness, Vampires and Humanity in Contemporary Film and Television by Ewan Kirkland
6. The Vampiric Diaspora: The Complications of Victimhood and Post-memory as Configured in the Jewish Migrant Vampire by Simon Bacon
7. Vampires and Gentiles: Jews, Mormons and Embracing the Other by Clare Reed
8. Transcending the Massacre: Vampire Mormons in the Twilight Series by Yael Maurer
9. The Gothic Louisiana of Charlaine Harris and Anne Rice by Victoria Amador
10. Matt Haig's The Radleys: Vampires for the Neoliberal Age by Deborah Mutch

Sunday, 9 December 2012

CFP: Virgin Envy: Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Virginity

Eds. Jonathan A. Allan, Cristina Santos, and Adriana Spahr

Contemporary culture has seen a renewed interest in virgins, from Bella Swan and Edward Cullen to Anastasia Steele to Steve Carrell’s infamous 40-old-virgin to the rise of Purity Clubs. How do we understand these discussions and representations of virginity? Do these texts “re-invent” virginity? Or, do these texts merely repeat “standard” treatments of virginity?

This edited volume aims to work through the poetics and politics of virginity in narrative, poetry, cinema, and popular culture. This volume treats virginity as an area of theoretical, intellectual, and cultural concern in modern texts. The goal is to position virginity as an interdisciplinary matter that must be studied from the widest possible range of perspectives. The editors believe that any study of virginity demands and interdisciplinary and/or intercultural perspective precisely because it is inculcated by so many discourses: religious, cultural, psychological, sociological, anthropology, ethnographic, philosophical, etc. The volume will ideally include essays from the humanities and social sciences, but the editors would welcome papers from outside of the humanities and social sciences.

We welcome papers that recognize the complexity and diversity of virginity. We are especially interested in papers that move beyond normative definitions and understandings of virginity:

• Purity Clubs, Abstinence, and the Silver Ring Thing
• Celebrity Culture and Virginity
• Queer Virginities (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, etc.)
• Male virginities
• Defining virginity lost (and found)
• Hymenoplasty, re-virginization, vaginal rejuvenization, medical interventions
• Cross-­cultural analyses of virginity
• Psychoanalytic, Psychological, Sociological, Philosophical Approaches and the study of Virginity
• Virginity in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture
• Virginity and Identity, Identifying as Virgin, Epistemology of the Virgin’s Closet
• The commodification of virginity, virginity auctions, virginity pornography
• Virginity and confession, religious contexts, psychotherapeutic contexts
• Virginity and Romance

Please send abstracts (500 words, including proposed bibliography) and a brief CV (1-2 pages) by March 1, 2013 to Cristina Santos, Jonathan A. Allan, and Adriana Spahr.

Completed article-length papers (5,000 words, MLA Style) will be due by August 1, 2013. All papers will undergo a peer-­review process before final acceptance and publication.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

CFP: 3rd Global Conference: Urban Popcultures

Sunday 12th May – Tuesday 14th May 2013

Prague, Czech Republic

Call for Presentations:

This inter- and multi-disciplinary conference aims to examine, explore and critically engage with issues related to urban life. The project will promote the ongoing analysis of the varied creative trends and alternative cultural movements that comprise urban popcultures and subcultures. In particular the conference will encourage equally theoretical and practical debates which surround the cultural and political contexts within which alternative urban subcultures are flourishing.

Presentations, papers, performances, reports, work-in-progress, workshops and pre-formed panels are invited on issues related to any of the following themes:

1. Urban Space and the Landscape of the City

Urban Aesthetics and Architecture, Creative Re-imagining and Revitalization of the City. Brown Fields Reborn. The Metropolis and Inner City Life: Urban Boredom vs. Creativity.

2. The City as Creative Subject/Object

Urban Life and Urban Subculture Considered in Music, Literature, Art and Film, Urban Fashion and Style. Mobile Gaming. Alternate Realities. Urban Visual Styles, Street Art, Graffiti and Tagging. City Festivals.

3. Urban Codes

Alternative Popular Culture and Ideology, Politics of Alternative Popcultures, D.I.Y, Alternative Ethics of the City. Urban Religion and Religious Expressions. The Language and Urban Slang. The Avantgarde and Urban Codes.

4. Alternative Music Cultures

Histories, Representations, Discourses and Independent Scenes. Popular Music Theory. The Visual Turn. Urban and Alternative Classes, Intertextualities and Intermedialities. Postmodernity and Beyond. Clubbing and Scenes. Hip Hop and Rap. Dark Wave Scenes – EMO, Post-Gothic, and Underground Electronica.

5. The Urban Underground

The Rise and Fall of the Experimental Subcultures, Scenes, Fashions and Styles. Alternative and Underground Dance, Electronica, Hip Hop, and Punk and Post-Rock Scenes.

6. Queer Theory and Urban Alternative Cultures

Gendered Music and Fashion. The Role of the City in Gendered Freedom and Libertine Lifestyles. Pride Parades.

7. The City, Fashion, and Identity

Identity Creation. Style and Branding. Politics of Cool. Pretties, Freaks and Uglies.

8. Visions of Alternative Sound Cultures in Massmedia

The Visual Aspects of Alternative Entertainment. The Evolution of Music and Thematic Television. Media Structure of Music Video. Explicit TV and Censorship. Urban Styles and Extreme Sports.

9. Urban Subcultures in Online World

Urban Identity and Global/Glocal Membership. Globalization/Localisation of Underground Music Experience. Copyright/Copyleft. The Role of Internet in the Transformation of Music Industry. The Impact of User-generated Content.

What to send:

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 30th November 2012. All submissions are minimally double blind peer reviewed where appropriate. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 15th February 2013. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract f) up to 10 key words

E-mails should be entitled: Urban Popcultures 3 Abstract Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs

Jordan Copeland 

Daniel Riha 

Rob Fisher 

The conference is part of the ‘Critical Issues’ programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted for and presented at the conference will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s).

For further details of the conference, please click here

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

CFP: Must Love Dogs - or Dragons: Animals in Popular Romance (Journal)

Journal of Popular Romance Studies

Deadline: October 1 2012

From the animal brides and bridegrooms in folktales to the dragons and werewolves and other shape-shifters in paranormal love stories, popular romance has long relied on animal heroes, heroines, and helpers (i.e., the leopard in Bringing Up Baby) to explore human romance.

How, though, do invocations of the “animal” in popular romance differ from text to text, culture to culture, era to era? What do they suggest about the nature of love, whether the love of humans for one another or the love we feel for pets, companions, and co-workers of other species? How might a focus on the “Beast” in a popular romance novel, film, TV series, or other text help us to understand the beauties — the artistry, the interest — of that text?

The Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS) seeks essay submissions for a special forum examining the role of animals in popular romance media—folk tale, fiction, film, TV, music video, etc.—now and in the past, from around the world. Essays may address either literal or figurative animals, including furry fandom, pony-play, and other fetishes, as long as the overarching context is the representation of romantic love.

Submissions are due by October 1 2012. The issue is slated for publication in April 2013.

Published by the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR), the peer-reviewed Journal of Popular Romance Studies is the first academic journal to focus exclusively on representations of romantic love across national and disciplinary boundaries. Our editorial board includes representatives from Comparative Literature, English, Ethnomusicology, History, Religious Studies, Sociology, African Diaspora Studies, and other fields. JPRS is available without subscription.

Please submit scholarly papers of no more than 10,000 words by October 1 2012, to An Goris, Managing Editor. Longer manuscripts of particular interest will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Submissions should be Microsoft Word documents, with citations in MLA format. Please remove all identifying material (i.e., running heads with the author’s name) so that submissions can easily be sent out for anonymous peer review. Suggestions for appropriate peer reviewers are welcome.

Monday, 21 May 2012

CFP: Returning to Oz: The Afterlife of Dorothy

Thursday 7th February 2013
Manchester, UK


Papers are sought for a one-day conference in Manchester on representations and interpretations of Dorothy and Oz in popular culture. This conference seeks to address the perennial popularity of L. Frank Baum’s creations, and to explore their most recent incarnations.

Possible themes may include (but are not limited to):
• Film, TV and animated adaptations
• Sequels and prequels (other than Baum’s series); translations, editions and revisions
• Music and musicals
• Kitsch
• ‘Friends of Dorothy’ and gay culture
• MGM and Judy Garland
• Graphic novels and visual art
• Merchandise, memorabilia and ephemera

This conference is the sister project to our Further Adventures in Wonderland: The Afterlife of Alice project. As such, papers are also welcomed that offer some comparison of the respective afterlives of Alice and Dorothy, or that deal with texts featuring both characters. For more information on our Afterlife of Alice conference, please click here.

Abstracts of 250-300 words (for a 20 min paper) should be sent via email to the conference convenors by 30th September 2012.

Selected papers may be invited for inclusion in an academic collection of essays following the conference.

For information, please click here.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

CFP: 1st Global Conference: Skins: Exploring Critical Issues

Tuesday 25th September 2012 – Thursday 27th September 2012

Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Now in its sixth series on E4 in the UK and first series on MTV in the US, the brainchild of father-son writing team Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain has gained popularity and critical acclaim for the honesty, authenticity and humour of its no-holds-barred depiction of the teenage experience. In a reflexive turn, Skins has become a cultural phenomenon whose influence is registered through its status as essential teen viewing, the Skins party craze and the tendency among fans to perceive their own identities and experiences in relation to characters and situations from the show. The richness of Skins as a televisual text supports wide-ranging explorations of the show’s aesthetic, thematic, ideological, social and technological implications.
We therefore invite papers and preconstituted panels that address any aspect of Skins, such as:

■Representations of teenage life and teen culture
■Identities: gender, class, race, sexualities (hetero-, homo-, bi-, fluid, queer, etc.)
■Death and the concept of mortality
■Mental illness/psychology/psychoanalysis
■Transnational reception
■Analysis of fanvids, fanfics, fanart
■Assessments of the meaning/cultural significance of specific storylines (c.f. the Naomily phenomenon)
■Plotline controversies and moral panics
■Adapting Skins for the American market
■Narrative and storytelling
■Creator/showrunner as author
■Genre analysis
■Modes of comedy
■Defining the ‘Skins aesthetic’
■Uses of inter-textuality/pop culture allusions
■Space and place: Bristol on screen
■Skins novels
■Acting and performance
■Cameos and guest stars
■Fame and celebrity
■Production process studies
■Technologies of production, distribution and reception in the post-broadcast era
■Skins and Channel 4/E4/MTV
■Comparative analyses of Skins and other television shows

For 2012, the Skins and Contemporary Culture project will meet alongside our project on Gender and Love It is our intention to create cross-over sessions between the two groups – and we welcome proposals which deal with the relationship between gender and love and Skins and contemporary culture. Papers will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 16th March 2012. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper of no more than 3000 words should be submitted by Friday 22nd June 2012. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 keywords

E-mails should be entitled: SKINS Abstract Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). Please note that a Book of Abstracts is planned for the end of the year. All accepted abstracts will be included in this publication. We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs

Ann-Marie Cook
Visiting Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation,
Queensland University of Technology,

Dr Rob Fisher
Priory House, Wroslyn Road,
Freeland, Oxfordshire OX29 8HR

The conference is part of the Critical Issues series of research projects. The aim of the conference is to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted for and presented at this conference are eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be invited to go forward for development into a themed ISBN hard copy volume.

For more information, please click here.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

CFP: Monsters: Subject, Object, Abject

April 12th-13th 2012

The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road
Manchester, United Kingdom

This two-day interdisciplinary, cross-period conference will explore humanity’s perennial fascination with the monstrous. From children’s toys to religious architecture, from medical and legal definitions to Gothic romance – cultural products resonate with fear, obsession and desire for the monster.


Proposals are sought for 20-minute papers. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

- Monsters in literature, art, music and film
- Architectural monsters
- Subjectivity and the monster
- Objectification and the monster
- Historical definition of the monstrous
- Medical and legal monsters
- Theorizations of the monstrous
- Mythology, folklore and legends
- Hybrids and hybridity
- Cyborgs and the posthuman

Please send 300-word abstracts to the conference convenors by Sunday 1st January 2012. For more information, please see our website.

Following the conference, there will be a two-day public Monsters Convention in Manchester. We would be interested in hearing from anyone interested in offering a talk or seminar at this convention. Please email Dr. Hannah Priest.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

She-Wolf of the Mere vs. She-Wolf in the Closet

When I first decided to start researching female werewolves, I christened my project 'She-Wolf', as I enjoy the many resonances of this term. At the time I came up with the idea, Shakira was making waves with her lycanthropy-inspired 'She-Wolf':

As a bit of Shakira fan, I'll admit that I enjoyed the way my conference and book caused a lot of my friends and colleagues to have that song running through their heads on a regular basis.

But when I pitched the idea to my department, one of my colleagues in medieval studies, Professor Gale Owen-Crocker, was more insistent that I gave some consideration to Grendel's mother in Beowulf. After all, Professor Owen-Crocker said, she is the 'She-Wolf of the mere'.

This was not that long after Robert Zemeckis' performance capture version of Beowulf hit the big screens, which featured a truly memorable performance by Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother:

Watching those two videos, the parallels between Shakira's 'She-Wolf in your closet' and Jolie's 'She-Wolf of the mere' are striking. Lithe, nude, contorting female flesh both demands and threatens the male gaze. Hints of violence are offered and diffused by sexual, vibrant femininity. I think it's no coincidence that these visual depictions of the 'She-Wolf' appeared within a year or so of one another, and signalled the start of an onslaught of 'She-Wolf' imagery in popular culture.

However, today's blog post is less concerned with Jolie's depiction of Grendel's mother - interesting though it is - than with the parallels between Shakira's 'She-Wolf' and the depiction of Grendel's mother in the poem Beowulf. These texts are created near enough 1000 years apart (depending on the date we give for the composition of Beowulf), and yet there are some striking similarities in the way the 'She-Wolf' is portrayed.

While Grendel's mother is never actually described as a female werewolf, her association with the wolf is underlined at several points in the poem. She is the 'brimwylf [water-wolf]' (l. 1506) who lives in a 'wulfhleothu [wolf-haunted]' land (l. 1358), with her monstrous son. The multiplicity of the threat this wolf-like creature poses to the heroic male is made clear in her initial introduction: 'Grendles modor,/ ides, aglaecwif [Grendel's mother, woman, she-monster]' (ll. 1258-59). The repetition of 'ides' and 'wif', both Old English words for '[human] woman', along side terminology of the monster, is telling; the constant focus on her maternity is also significant. Wolf - woman - mother - outcast - enemy. This imagery is resonant with the presentation of female werewolves from the Victorian era to the present day. Indeed, Shakira's video makes references to this connection between the female werewolf and monstrous maternity by having the singer dance around in a red-lined cave-like set, which is highly suggestive of a womb (see. 1:39-1:49, for example).

In her influential 1980 article, 'The Structual Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel's Mother', Jane Chance hints at a way of reading the monstrousness of Grendel's mother as a specifically sexual threat to the hero. Certainly if one takes a Freudian view of the poem, it is hard to ignore the fact that when Beowulf attacks the 'brimwylf', 'sweord aer gemealt,/ forbarn brodenmael [the sword melted, its blade burned away]' (ll. 1615-6). So, here is a woman that can liquidize the ultimate token of masculinity. This is an image that is played out to the extreme in Zemeckis' 2007 film.

But is this enough to connect Shakira's 'She-Wolf' to Grendel's mother? I'd suggest not. In fact, the parallels between the two millenium-separated she-wolves lies in a different, though not wholly unrelated, aspect of their presentation.

Consider the opening lines to Shakira's song: 'A domesticated girl, that's all you ask of me./ Darling it's no joke, this is lycanthropy.' Thus, 'domestication' stands in sharp contrast to 'lycanthropy'. The video plays on this; the 'domesticated' (may I say, 'wifely'?) woman, lying in a pristine white double bed with her unaware male partner, rises and enters the closet. This unleashes a side of the woman which stands in stark distinction to the 'homely'. The song continues: 'I've been devoting myself to you Monday to Monday, Friday to Friday./ Not getting enough retribution or incentives to keep me at it.' The frame of reference here is the workplace, underlined by the female voice likening herself to a 'coffee machine' that has been 'abused'. So, 'lycanthropy' is an alternative to the patriarchal control of both 'domesticity' (literally, 'the home') and the contemporary workplace.

Grendel's mother also represents a threat to patriarchal structures. Her attack on 'Heorot' (literally, 'the deer hall'), the symbolic centre of the Danish comitatus, hits heroic masculinity right where it hurts, so to speak. Her decapitation of Aeschere is a feminine assault on the warrior world. Elsewhere in the poem, women are the tools by which the masculine realm functions; Wealtheow and Hildeburgh are devices to lubricate the wheels of the male domain (much like abused coffee machines, if you will). Grendel's mother bursts into this, and literally slices it to pieces.

The 'brimwylf' also challenges hegemony by dint of her position as 'mother'. She is a 'wyf', but of no man; she is a 'modor', but there is no father. Grendel's heritage is presented as purely matrilineal, which stands at a threatening remove to the patrilineal world of the rest of the poem. Even the reference to his biblical forebear, Cain, is dangerously feminine. 'Cain's kin' is likely a reference to Genesis 6:4, and the mating of the 'Sons of God' with the 'Daughters of Man'. Cain's kin, in the medieval world, carried with it the understanding that it was Cain's daughters than begot the race of giants. In the world of Beowulf, remnants of this female line were powerful enough to even, apparently, survive the flood sent by God to destroy them.

So, to return to my comparison with Shakira's 'She-Wolf', both texts present a dangerous and predatory female. In Shakira's song, this potential for violence is played out in a 'closet' fantasy; for Grendel's mother, it manifests in physical acts of revenge. Nevertheless, both attack the 'home' (be it domesticity or the mead hall) and the 'work-place' (whether the office or the comitatus). The smooth-running of the masculine world is disrupted by the intrusion of the She-Wolf: claws, teeth, sexuality, monstrosity, maternity, corporeality.

In the end, though, Shakira's She-Wolf leaves the closet. She writhes and fantasizes, but eventually comes home. At the close of the video, she returns to the clean white sheets of the marital bed and forgets her lycanthropy. Grendel's mother, on the other hand, is ultimately slain by Beowulf. Again, we see parallels. Both she-wolves are, eventually, 'put to bed'; they cease to threaten and are brought back into the hegemonic scheme of masculine control.

And yet, the transgressive potential of the lycanthropic woman remains. Beowulf's sword melts; Shakira's she-wolf gives a knowing full-moon-framed glance to the camera. Whatever opportunities are offered for feminine destruction of male-centred hegemonic structures are curtailed by the reinstating of the warrior's sword and the husband's bed - but these opportunities can not be truly forgotten.

One thousand year apart, and yet the She-Wolf of the Mere and the She-Wolf in the Closet bear striking similarities. Neither one fully delivers on her promise, but the threat to domesticity, the family and patriarchy is there. As Shakira says, the She-Wolf is 'coming out, coming out, coming out'. What does she does when she gets there still remains to be seen.

Quotes from Beowulf are taken from Michael Swanton's edition (Manchester University Press, 1997). Due to the limitations of, I've modernized orthography.