Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Welcome (once more) to the Ancient and Medieval Carnival!

Slightly unexpected, but here I am hosting this month’s ancient/medieval edition of Carnivalesque: a blogroll of the latest posts related to premodern history. Hope you enjoy...


There’s a post on Hellenism and Christianity on Mike Anderson’s Ancient History Blog and Purple Motes has a piece on a Hellenistic ‘coronis’ epigram. A Blog About History has a short piece on the Trefael Stone, which has been revealed to be an ancient burial chamber cap, and Zenobia: Empress of the East asks Questions About the Queen of Sheba’s Gold. Spanning ‘ancient’ and ‘medieval’, the History Books Review has a review of Edward Luttwak’s Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.

Early Medieval

The History Blog has a story about an early Christian curse/cure stone found on a Hebrides island, and Heavenfield features a post this month on St. Michael, the Plague and Castel Sant’ Angelo. On Saints, Sisters and Sluts (Famous and Infamous Women in History), there’s a post on Emma of Normandy, Queen of England, The Renaissance Mathematicus tells the story of Gerbert d’Aurillac – a mathematician who became pope – and Leslie Hedrick writes on The Rebellion of Magnus Maximus in Britain. The Norse Mythology Blog posts A Middle School Student Asks About Norse Mythology and Norse Religion, and Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog has a piece on Procopius, Brittia and Britain.

Late Medieval

Esmeralda’s Cumbrian History & Folklore has a post on A Medieval Knight at Rest, Executed Today gives us the story of Peter von Hagenbach, executed in 1474 and L’Historien Errant has a post on Late Medieval Cityscapes. We also have some posts on life as a medievalist: Meshalim/Amthal/Exiemplos offers more Notes from the Life of a Medievalist, and, on In the Middle, Karl Steel bravely posts an outline (or a ‘prospectus of a prospectus’) of his new book, which follows on from the epilogue of How to Make a Human.

Other Stuff

For those who like their literature (and baked goods) inspired by the Middle Ages, there’s a video promo for K.A. Laity’s collection of short stories Pelzmantel on Bookreel.tv, a chance to win a copy of Blood Lance: A Medieval Noir on Getting Medieval, some information on Nicola Griffith’s forthcoming novel about Hild of Whitby (on Gemæcca), and these gorgeous illuminated initial cookies on Luminarium.

And finally, this month saw the arrival of the Manchester Medieval Society’s new blog. So far, only a ‘hello’ message, but more is promised soon.

Next month’s Carnivalesque will be an early modern edition, and will be hosted by Wynken de Worde. You can nominate posts for this edition via the Carnivalesque website.

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.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Journal Announcement and Call for Submissions: Monsters and the Monstrous

Volume 2, Number 2
Special Issue on Monstrous Pedagogy: Teaching and Reading the Twilight Saga

As we approach the release of the final cinematic installment of the Twilight Saga we want to focus on monsters and pedagogy and in particular the relation between “Twilight and the Classroom”. How do we teach Twilight? Why do we teach Twilight? Should we teach Twilight?

The Editors welcome contributions to the journal in the form of articles, reviews, reports, art and/or visual pieces and other forms of submission on the following or related themes:

● Twilight and Gender and Sexuality Studies

● Twilight and Literary Studies

● Twilight and Cultural Studies

● Twilight and Film Studies

● Twilight and Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity

● Twilight and Disability Studies

● Twilight and Religious Studies

● Twilight and Psychology

● Twilight and Sociology

Submissions for this Issue are required by Friday 3rd August 2012 at the latest.

Contributions to the journal should be original and not under consideration for other publications at the same time as they are under consideration for this publication. Submissions are to be made electronically wherever possible using either Microsoft® Word or .rtf format.

Length Requirements:

Articles - 5,000 – 7,000 words

Reflections, reports and responses - 1,000 – 3,000 words

Book reviews - 500 – 4,000 words

Artworks and photographs (Copyright permissions required)

Poems, prose and short stories

Other forms of contributions are also welcome

Submission Information:

Send submissions via e-mail using the following Subject Line: ‘Journal: Contribution Type (article/review/...): Author Surname’ and marked "Monstrous Pedagogy."

Submissions E-Mail Address

Submissions will be acknowledged within 48 hours of receipt.

Contributions are also invited for future issues of the journal which will include: "Monstrous Spaces/ Spaces of Monstrosity" and "Monstrous Beauty."

We also invite submission to our special features on Non-English Language Book Reviews, and Monstrous Pedagogy. Please mark entries for these topics with their respective headings.

We look forward to folks getting involved in and with the journal.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Review: Graeme Reynolds, High Moor (Horrific Tales Publishing, 2011)

High Moor is the debut novel by UK writer Graeme Reynolds. The book – told in three parts – tells the story of John, Michael and Marie (though mostly John), three friends who live in High Moor (near Durham) in the North East of England. Part 1 (set in 1986) begins when the protagonists are children, spending their time making camps and dens in the woods, and being terrorized by Malcolm Harrison and his gang of sadistic little thugs. One night, when Michael and Marie’s older brother David returns alone to their treehouse to retrieve some tools, something awful appears from out of the woods...

That’s right (in case you hadn’t guessed, given my usual material), High Moor is a werewolf novel. And it makes no bones about it. Before we even get to Part 1, the prologue, set in 2008, reveals a man who struggles to keep himself contained during his monthly transformation, an attack on a man out walking his dog, and a news report about the return of the ‘legendary High Moor Beast’, thought to have been killed over twenty years earlier. As we are taken back to 1986, we can’t help but feel a certain sense of fear for the children who play in the woods. And sure enough, it’s not long before one of them falls victim to the ‘High Moor Beast’. As the story unfolds, we find first David, and then Michael and John having to face this lycanthropic foe.

Added to this, High Moor has a policeman who goes against his superiors after realizing they are dealing with werewolf attacks, and the grizzled ‘expert’ he drafts in to help him, but who is haunted by his own past experiences with werewolves. Cue lots of silver weaponry and tethered goats used as bait.

Make no mistake, Reynolds’s werewolves are old-school: good old-fashioned, rip-your-throat-out lycanthropes. These are the creatures we know from The Wolf-Man and An American Werewolf in London, and the book has echoes of both films throughout. Only at a couple of points are we led to feel any sympathy for the attacking werewolves, though we identify with the humans who are turned following a bite.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve read this sort of werewolf story. I think I put that down to the fact that I read more female werewolf fiction, and female werewolves have a tradition of their own (which is a subtle plug for the book I’m putting together on this very subject, of course). But I think I’d also forgotten how much I enjoy this type of story. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a good ‘sympathetic werewolf just wants to find love’ tale. And I’m fascinated by all the stories out there about werewolves living (passing?) amongst humans. But, sometimes, you just want a creepy ‘there’s something lurking in the woods’ book. And Reynolds doesn’t disappoint on this score.

High Moor is a well-written adventure/horror, with a believable cast of characters and a nice dash of local colour. I have to admit, being in my early 30s, I enjoyed the 1980s setting of the first two parts of the book. It was evocative without being cloyingly nostalgic. Some writers do tend to go a bit overboard with presentations of the 80s – loading paragraphs with too many references to TV, technology, celebrities, music. Reynolds is a bit lighter in his touch. I loved the reference to the kids copying Spectrum games onto cassettes for one another, but these little period details didn’t detract from the overall story.

More seriously, Reynolds also includes some details that allow the story to avoid certain genre clichés that can be more problematic. Specifically, this comes in his inclusion of ‘gypsies’ in the narrative. Some people who have read some of my other reviews might know that the ‘gypsy’ in werewolf and vampire fiction is something of a pet peeve of mine. They are often used in a lazy way that panders to certain racial stereotypes. Now, the gypsy characters in High Moor have a lot in common with those in other werewolf fiction – particularly in their role as ‘keepers’ of lycanthropic knowledge. However, Reynolds adds just enough ‘reality’ to offer a bit of a challenge to the cliché. For example, when a character encounters the ‘gypsies’ for the first time, they (specifically the woman he meets) seem to be of the usual sort: ‘Dark, curly hair flowing down her back, curves in all the right places, and amber eyes that looked straight into your soul.’ Nevertheless, the man’s reaction seems more ‘real’, given that he is meeting the woman in 1944: ‘To tell you the truth, I was surprised to see anyone of Romany origin in the area. Most of them had been rounded up by the Nazis and sent to the death camps at Jasenovac.’ Back in the UK, ‘gypsy’ camps are presented more as our familiar ‘travellers’ camps’, rather than a romanticized version common to werewolf/vampire fiction. This causes one character to wonder whether people are suspicious of them because they know there are werewolves around, or because they are just generally suspicious of travellers.

If I had one criticism, it would be that the ‘bad’ werewolf that appears in the third part of the novel is a bit too powerful. In the world that Reynolds has created, werewolves can build up amazing power and skills, but this appears to be the result of years of living with the condition. The final showdown, though, features a newly-made werewolf who comes pretty close to defeating lycanthropes who have had a couple of decades to learn how to fight like a werewolf. I understand that this is necessary for a good climactic showdown (otherwise the fight would have been over pretty quickly!) but it seemed a bit hard to believe that this werewolf had become some a formidable foe so quickly. Nevertheless, perhaps I am being a bit unfair here, as the earlier parts of the novel had definitely set up that this character was pretty nasty as a human, maybe this would account for his brute strength as a werewolf? There’s a line in another werewolf novel (I think it’s Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, though I could be wrong) that states ‘angry people make bad werewolves’, and I think that certainly holds true in High Moor.

Overall, High Moor is an accomplished first novel. The writing is well-paced and enjoyable, the characters engaging and the ending intriguing (and definitely points to a sequel). This is not the most original take on werewolves. But though the reader is on familiar ground, it is well-loved ground, and this is no bad thing. For a first release from a (very) small press, High Moor is really promising, and I hope to see more from Graeme Reynolds and Horrific Tales Publishing.

Read my interview with Graeme Reynolds here