Abstracts are listed in alphabetical order by the surname of the presenter.
(University of Oxford)
The medieval Welsh texts Pedeir Keinc Y Mabinogi (The Four Branches of the Mabinogi) display a creative etymology that establishes a relationship between the text and the physical environment. It is possible to trace the movement of the literary characters across Wales, and to visit the exact places where the events of the narratives are said to have occurred. Place names further connect the texts to each other through their mutual geography. Two contrasting approaches of interpreting place names in these texts highlight the interconnectedness of text and place: naming can on the one hand be seen as endowing locations with history and cultural memory, on the other hand the tales can be seen to have originated around the existing place names.
This paper will trace the mythology and magical quality these specific places are endowed with through the literary naming process in 20th century re-imaginings of the medieval Mabinogi. The Mabinogi has been numerously reworked by authors from the 19th to the 21st century, some using the landscape set out in the medieval narratives, some moving the plot to an imaginary setting. Most of the re-imaginings re-create the metaphysical layer of locality and historicity of the literary landscape through the use of the same names, or names with similar sound structures. Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is a mythological adaptation, which uproots the medieval tale from its original landscape by placing the narrative into a Welsh valley unconnected with the topography of the medieval text, and thus establishes a geographical universality to the medieval story. In contrast, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, a loose re-imagining of the Mabinogi, is set in an entirely separate imaginary geography, with many of the place names possessing similar sound structures to the names in medieval topography.
This paper will trace the re-imagining of a medieval literary landscape, which is at the same time a physical geographical landscape, through the use of place names in 20th century adaptations of the medieval topography.
(University of Portsmouth)
This paper explores how a haunted landscape was articulated and experienced in Victorian English cities. The ubiquitous nature of Victorian urban ghosts tacitly undermines contemporary hegemonic narratives about the materialistic, progressive, spectacular but disenchanted nature of the modernising nineteenth-century city.
First, this paper considers how the urban environment differed from the rural in the ways it influenced the imagination of its inhabitants. It will suggest that the nature of the urban environment informed the type of supernatural entities which came to haunt it. In doing so it examines how the construction of haunted urban geographies arose from the unsettling nature of city life, experiences that generated both genuine unease and the fantasised titillation of urban gothic imaginings. Second, it builds upon these distinctions to consider differing ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ perceptions of fantasised urban space. Informed by theorists such as Michel De Certeau, it draws distinctions between the conceptualised city and the lived city. Thirdly, the paper offers a brief exploration of some of the cultural and communal functions of haunted geographies in the developing Victorian city. In particular, it will focus on the importance of ghosts and hauntings in mapping invisible, collective, although far from consensual geographies of local memory and imagination. Through considering the spatial, temporal, and psychical dimensions of these urban supernatural geographies it will be suggested that ghosts helped articulate an altered and perhaps alternative localised understanding of urban spaces and places.
The paper reiterates the importance of thinking with ghosts from historical, geographical, and sociological perspectives, thereby countering a tendency towards their theorised abstraction in hauntological approaches. Ultimately it seeks to suggest various ways in which we can comprehend the enchanted but unseen supernatural landscapes of Victorian cities. Whilst urban historians may be unable to map these concealed geographies we can nevertheless gain some phantasmal hints of the rich terrains of imagination, memory and feeling that were entwined within Victorian cities.
(University of the West of England)
Since 1999 I have been ‘deep mapping’ the traces, locations, and implications of a quasi-pagan, ‘animist’ mentalité that permeates the oldest Borders ballads, sometimes called the ‘supernatural ballads’ (of which Thomas Rhymer and Tam Linn are probably the best known). My concern has however been primarily with the possible implications of that tradition – when seen through the creative lens of testimonial imagination – for the development of contemporary cultural praxis. This in many ways parallels Felix Guattari’s promotion of ‘ecosophy’ – namely of a practical, transversal thinking that works at and across the intersections of environment, society, and that confluence of persona and forces we call ‘the self’.
In this illustrated presentation I will draw on my own research, creative work, and texts such as Emma Wilby’s The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Witchcraft and Dark Shamanism in Seventeenth-Century Scotland (Sussex Academic Press, 2010), to connect ecosophical thinking both with a tradition of vernacular singing and those elements of my work inspired by that tradition.
My aim in doing so is to illuminate an ecological praxis that acknowledged the centrality of continual flow, flux, or translation of energy and matter across the semi-permeable borders that differentiated one region, society, or person from another. From this perspective physical locations – landscapes – are indeed best understood as: “a polyrhythmic composition of processes whose pulse varies from the erratic flutter of leaves to the measured drift and clash of tectonic plates” (Ingold 2000: 201). It then follows that the environment of living beings as ‘landscape’ becomes: “a tangle of interlaced trails, continually raveling here and unraveling there” (Ingold 2011: 71), in much the same way as the traditional song landscapes of the ‘supernatural’ ballads heard through time.
(Università degli Studi di Milano)
The paper aims to investigate a particular kind of “haunted landscape”, that is, the “haunted mediascape”, the uncanny media landscape resulting from the intensifying global flows of information and visual imagery. Through an analysis of the extraordinary trans-cultural popularity of the Ring phenomenon, a series of cinematic horror productions which spread from Japan to Korea to the United States, the argument is made that the Ring franchise is a good metaphor of our concerns about the advent of new communications and media technologies – in particular, the shift from analog to digital.
The subject of the movies is the uncanny and deadly viral reproduction of a VHS tape, thus focusing on the linkage between media technologies and contents and the supernatural – and, perhaps most significantly, on the “dark side” of the viral marketing and circulation of a film through a virtually global landscape.
The term mediascape, coined by Arjun Appadurai, denotes both “the distribution of the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information” and “the images of the world created by these media”. The spatial “scape” metaphor focuses on the fluid nature of this global media landscape, highlighting the ways media technologies and contents can directly impact the landscape itself.
The Ring movies represent a haunting version of Appadurai’s concept, highlighting the cultural anxiety over media technology and imagery, which elicit both aggression and fear. The movies stress the uncanny sense of presence and even agency that we attribute to media technology, also accounting for the efforts we make to domesticate the new media technologies we can no longer fully cope with, by anthropomorphizing and naturalizing them – a process which can lead to the occult and the supernatural.
The old idea of the TV set spreading a hostile and haunting entity has been updated now by the move to the digital, and the Ring movies, focusing on the old technology of the analog videotape, anticipate the mediated horrors about the social practices of a global networked circulation and participation. The horror of the media is now the horror of the cross-cultural and trans-national media virus, represented by the new forms of “marketing contagion” – such as viral marketing and word-of-mouth buzz – and by the social networks that connect their doomed users within a global media landscape of fear and terror.
(Lancaster University & Keele University)
“Clawed, decaying fingers burst through the wall, crumbling the plaster into dust. Instinct takes over: I stumble over a chair and push somebody out of my escape route. This is no longer a game.”
Lovecraft inspired live roleplay games, like the one described above, make use of a variety of spaces in the UK landscape, with game organisers unleashing Weird monsters into youth hostels, scout huts and ex-military sites in an attempt to terrify and entertain their players. To consider how ‘the Weird’ is produced in such games, this paper brings together approaches from gothic criticism and organisation studies. Mieville (2008) argues that Weird narratives posit a radical alternative to the hauntological paradigm. Rather than uncovering the repressed or the buried, Weird narratives aim to en-Weird ontology itself. In the use of Lovecraft’s ‘mythos’, game organisers pursue attempts to produce such an ontological crisis for their players in the course of gameplay.
The most significant goal of the game is to promote a sense of immersion for players in the narrative. Such experiences are problematic, since players inhabit a space full of fakery and counterfeit in the form of inauthentic props, scenery and costume. Often, the physical space itself also poses a problem: a British scout hut is a poor substitute for a decaying New England mansion. Yet, this tension is also at the heart of the horror role-play experience, and can be traced to the origins of the Gothic form itself. From Walpole’s Strawberry Hill to Dennis Severs’ house in Spitalfields, gothic fakery in the form of paste-board walls, paper maché mouldings and furniture constructed from market crates celebrate inauthenticity in spaces that perform as Gothic.
Lovecraft inspired horror live role play continues in this tradition of counterfeit, yet simultaneously seeks to create an experience which feels ‘authentic’. The experience of the game seeks to be one which pragmatically dismisses doubts over authenticity by crafting a new, if tentative and liminal ‘reality’ (See Fine 1983; Turner 1982). In such edge-spaces, ambiguous practices and symbols fuse within an embodied experience. The practices of the game which play a part in this are not unique, but rather derive from the order of everyday interaction within the sub-culture and how this defines social meaning and value (Goffman 1967). Yet in the Lovecraftian mythos, the essence of the narrative lies in the disturbance of such comfortable relations to provoke horror. Subsequently, the ‘real’ practice of the game and the demands of the narrative are in tension.
Lovecraft inspired live roleplay finds unique strategies for negotiating the tension between the performative and counterfeit nature of Gothic and Weird forms on which it draws and the ultimate pursuit of experiences that simultaneously uphold and suspend a rational ‘reality’ in the liminal space of the game-world. The use of space is vital in the collapse of layers of fakery, allowing the player to ‘surrender to the ineluctability of the Weird.’ (Mieville 2009)
(University of Hull)
Gaston Bachelard has claimed that, ‘a house that has been experienced is not an inert box: Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.’ This paper will focus on the ways in which houses are portrayed as haunted, with particular reference to the ‘boom’ in haunted house narratives in the mid-twentieth century, which includes novels like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Anne Rivers Siddons’ The House Next Door, Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror, and Stephen King’s The Shining. The first part of the paper will explore the cultural underpinnings of the haunted house in the context of ‘bad places’ from classical myth and animist religions to their atavistic re-emergence in the present day, scrutinising Dr Montague’s claim in The Haunting of Hill House that, ‘The concept of certain houses as unclean or forbidden – perhaps sacred – is as old as the mind of man’. Of particular interest is the way in which these houses become ‘bad’ whether through recent acts of violence, or through larger issues of historical injustice. The way in which the American dream can be said to be ‘haunted’ by the horrors of slavery and the slaughter of natives, as Teresa Goddu has persuasively argued, will be relevant here.
The second, and main, part of the paper will focus on two lesser-studied haunted house novels, The Joss: A Reversion, by Richard Marsh, and Hell House, by Richard Matheson. In Marsh’s novel the female protagonist inherits a house from her uncle, which leads to her horrific persecution and the possibility of her being a victim of conspiracy. Matheson’s novel begins by exploring the scientific possibility of spiritual haunting in the house, which then becomes a horrific playground for the previous owner’s depraved manipulations, which are described through arguably misogynistic depictions of rape and abuse. Both these novels offer an interesting twist on the genre by exploring issues of power and control. Against the backdrop of the Gothic novel’s focus on imperilled female victims this murderous patriarchal influence reveals much about the way in which hauntings operate as well as commenting on issues of masculinity (as do the novels previously mentioned). Studied in their historical contexts, I intend to argue that these novels represent valuable examinations of domesticity, nationality, masculinity, and their attendant crises and anxieties: points of fracture exploited most effectively by horror fiction. Overall, I intend to demonstrate the role such fiction fills and how it can be used to reflect on these crucial social and cultural issues.
Gothic literature has long presented labyrinthine mazes and spectral landscapes as literary spaces to explore ideas of human existence and our place in the world. The same can be said of Science Fiction texts, with their alien landscapes and peoples, although the philosophical discussions have changed to debating the place of humans in the cosmos. However, it is Mars that has most often captured the imagination, either as a place of terror, the home of invading aliens or as a place of possibility for humans to conquer space through inter-planetary colonization. Mars, therefore, has been colonized by the human mind long before it will ever be colonized by humans themselves. Yet the stories of this ‘dead’ planet continue to be told. Alongside these stories, the ‘race for Mars’ continues with NASA’s project for a crewed mission and India’s recent launch of its own Mars probe, MOM, symbolising India’s technological advances.
A key text in the Mars literary landscape is Ray Bradbury’s fragmented ‘future history’, The Martian Chronicles (1950), which has informed literature, opera, radio and television. The Chronicles comprise a collection of short stories that blend Gothic and Science Fiction tropes, to examine the problems and possibilities of American colonization and expansionism. In order to do this, Bradbury creates a sublime landscape that draws on the idea of canals built by an ancient civilization proposed by Giovanni Schiaparelli and popularised by Percival Lowell. The landscape is then populated with ghostly figures, automatons, doubles and shape-shifters as Bradbury explores America’s past and future attempts at colonization. In many ways, Bradbury’s novel is an adventure story that mirrors their expansion in to the West of America, but implicit in the text is our knowledge of the near-obliteration of its indigenous peoples. Therefore, Bradbury’s novel can be read as a warning about ignoring the past, either Earth’s or, indeed that of any other planet, when considering interplanetary travel.
Bradbury’s final denouement is of a planet left with the ghostly remains of the American settler cities as well as the cities of the Martian people. It is only through the acceptance of Earth and Martian history, rejection of American ideologies and the blending of human beings and Martian cities, that enables the ‘New Martians’ to be created to ensure the future of Mars. Therefore drawing on Bradbury’s text, the television mini-series of the same name, and as well as sources such as Robert Markley’s, Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination (2005) and Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science, edited by McFarland & Co (2011) this paper will argue that despite our knowledge of the unlikelihood of a previous civilization on Mars, Bradbury’s text is as relevant today as it was in the 1950’s.
Using the culture of rock-carving in Northern England as a model of good practice the paper discusses ways in which the layer might be used to collaborate, to liberate and to commune with the dead. It also considers the ways in which the layer might be used to dominate, propagate authoritative discourses, and to silence other narratives. The paper is concerned with the use of the layer in digital media art, and discusses examples of digital media artworks which engage with mapping, transparency, erasure and lost narratives.
The paper aims to find common ground between some of the findings from selections of my practice (primarily landscape poetry) and findings from my current research in digital literatures and new media art; it asks what useful concepts might be transferrable between the two. In particular, with reference to the specific geographical locations in ‘The Hanging Stone’ (London Magazine Spring 2010, Inpress: 2010) and ‘The Lightning Man’ (Wasps on the Way, Mews Press, 2012) it elucidates the relationship to rock carving heritage in the region, explores ideas put forward by the radical landscape poets, and ultimately analyses the cultural, symbolic and narrative layers associated with those locations by way of an illustration of some of the key ideas in layer politics.
Digital media are inherently concerned with layers; the layer constitutes an intrinsic structural component as information is fetched from one linguistic layer to another until eventually, via the user interface, it reaches the reader. The impact of this can be seen in the fascination of digital media with the integration of locative features, whether used for advertising, mapping, poetry, or shared community experiences. Sometimes it is possible to toggle between layers, to turn them on and off, sometimes they are transparent, at least in part, at other times they might be completely opaque. Presented with this great range of approaches, and at a time when the future format of computing is uncertain, this paper calls for a discussion of the politics of the layer in digital media, and asks questions about landscapes haunted by conflicting narratives.
Wuthering Heights is a novel of the social contradictions of mid-nineteenth century British culture and society, and it is a novel that has a particular fascination for filmmakers and television producers. Most adaptations unfold the anguished gothic romance of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw in the elemental landscape of the West Riding of Yorkshire and follow Brontë in structuring the narrative in terms of the social rupture that is appearance of Heathcliff, the outsider, whom, as Eagleton notes, ‘emerges from that ambivalent domain of darkness which is “outside” of the tightly defined domestic system’ (Eagleton 101). For Nelly Dean, the novel’s principal narrator, Heathcliff’s is a “cuckoo’s” history (WH, p. 28); he is alien, an interloper and ‘In loving Heathcliff, Catherine is taken outside of the family into an opposing realm which can be only adequately imaged as “Nature”’ (Eagleton 102).
For reasons of dramatic economy and emotional intensity, film and television makers simplify the generational dimensions of the story and focus on the action of the gothic romance, the haunted love of Catherine and Heathcliff. Characteristically this romance is enacted in a mythical, imaginary landscape that is the place of love and betrayal. For example, in the classical Hollywood adaptation (1939), director William Wyler and uncredited art director Alexander Toluboff construct a fantasy picturesque wild space of ‘Nature’—the moors—and the Heights, the moorland homestead, becomes the primary focus of storms, cruelty and hauntings, dreams and hallucinations. This is rendered in the innovative visual storytelling of director of photography Gregg Toland. The tropes of this version of the story are iterated and reiterated by film and television makers in the apparently endless adaptations of the novel for screen. The landscape is visually consistent: it is rendered as a dramatic and romantic backdrop to the centrally-framed love story and its tragic denouement.
In this context, Andrea Arnold’s 2011 adaptation revises the conventional form of the love story as well as the cinematic iconography of the moors and the Heights by use of a strikingly realist approach to location, narration, cinematography and sound design. Specifically, Arnold and screenwriter, Olivia Hetreed, counter cinematic romanticism, typified by Wyler’s studio moorland scenery, with a naturalistic treatment of the Yorkshire moors as an ecosystem. Heathcliff and Catherine inhabit an ecology that is reproduced with minimal visual stylisation. Natural ambient sound and realist cinematography recreate the Yorkshire moorland with documentary accuracy, and the cinematic diegesis internally connects environment and narrative action: the moors are a generative space that is constitutive of the central love relationship and connected to the social ecologies of class, race and gender that the film explores. In fact, so insistent is the atmosphere of the moors, its own ecology shaped by the movement of wind and water, that cumulatively its presence is experienced as uncanny, the haunted, just as Arnold’s concentration on the minimal detail, initials scratched on a wall, becomes itself haunting and haunted in a surprising, unexpected manner, a naturalistic appropriation of the gothic narrative.
Eagleton, Terry. Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës. Macmillan, 1988.
It’s a fantastic place, not in the least like England, rich, secret and haunted […] I quite understand how otherwise respectable writers fall right down and write books on Cornwall. And why D. H. Lawrence loved it.
–Mary Butts, ‘Letter to Angus Davidson’, 8th February 1932.
Part of Mary Butts’ conglomerate Wessex (after Hardy), Cornwall is also a distinct place in her sacred geography, ‘rich, secret and haunted’. To write about this far southwestern county, however compelling, is she suggests, somehow unseemly for a ‘respectable’ or serious writer whose work might rank alongside modernist contemporaries. Butts’ work is still little read, despite its revival by scholars such as Natalie Blondel, Jane Garrity, and Andrew Radford who rightly assert her place among writers as Woolf, H.D. and Lawrence. Though largely absent as a precise setting in much of her published work, Cornwall’s landscape haunts the outsiders in a number of Butts’ short stories, just as it too remains haunted by traces of modernism (Lawrence, H.D., Butts, Woolf, Hepworth, Nicholson). This paper explores the presence of the Cornish landscape in Butts’ journals and short fiction, considering how this specific geography, imbued as it is with its own emergent sense of Celtic revivalism in the early twentieth century, animates the ‘rich’ vein of enchantment that runs through her work.
(University of Kent)
After reporting the ban on ‘hoodies’ by Bluewater shopping centre in May 2005, the British mainstream press suddenly began running stories of youths involved in anti-social behaviour and senseless violent offences. The ‘hoodie’ has since become an icon of dissolute adolescence, otherness and terror, representing the Broken Britain the Conservative party vowed to fix in the 2010 election.
Following on from the critical success of Kidulthood (Noel Clarke, 2006), the image of the hoodie began to be exploited and increasingly demonized in a short cycle of films that have come to be known as ‘Hoodie Horrors’. Mirroring the media images and stories of a feral Britain, these films appear to address the moral and ideological climate of contemporary Britain. Focusing on urban settings, and particularly the inner city council estate, this cycle constructs housing estates as abject spaces that mark the moral boundaries of the nation state. Indeed, these films code the council estate as monstrous and ‘hoodies’ the modern monsters. Although this cycle largely refrains from the usual recognized horror tropes, both Heartless (Philip Ridley, 2009) and The Disappeared (Johnny Kevorkian, 2008) portray inner city estates as haunted geographies and sites of Faustian nightmares. Contending that the urban is the place of real terror in contemporary Britain, this cycle forms part of a discourse of demonization of the new British underclass. Haunted urban geographies pass judgement on successive Conservative and New Labour governments, both of which sought to reconfigure citizenship around the double axis of inclusion/exclusion, work/worklessness. Council estates have been transformed in the public imaginary as ‘barracks for the poor’ (Jones, 2011, p81) that breed a parasitical and dysfunctional underclass of failed citizens. Undeniably, this cycle forms part of the moral panic over council estates that have unleashed a pervasive form of territorial stigmatization that has been inscribed upon the bodies of those who live in these abjectified zones. The films express a growing nation’s perceived fear of the inner city urban and its inhabitants. When both leading characters face a crisis of identity and sanity as they battle the citizens of ‘feral Britain’, the narratives ask the fundamental question, “what would you do?” Indeed, both films present an urban that is both unrecognisable and unfathomable to ‘upright citizens’. Focusing on Heartless and The Disappeared, this paper seeks to explore how a new urban horror film was born as the urban setting of the council estate – so long a vanguard for the aesthetics of British realism – was transfigured into a haunted setting of fear and terror, over which gangs of hoodies reign.
This town is filled with the ghost of my lost love. The keening hoot of the owl, the swish of skirts long gone and dry tumbling leaves dancing in the dark. I can see every corner of that space as it was, not as it is now. I know the heartache of the shopkeeper, feeling the body around them decaying, hour by hour, minute by minute. Eyes darting over the minutiae in the street around them as they listen for the fall of feet from customers, who seem to be much happier ordering dreams from their laptops than heading out on a quest into the cold, even though they seldom admit it…not even to themselves. I waited for so long at my till for the customer who would never come…
The ‘High Street’ is dying and ghosts of businesses, people’s hopes and ideas, proliferate in our streets at an ever-advancing rate… How do we propose to deal with their tombs?
At this time I would argue that it is palliative care that our high streets need. Gathering up old photographs and the anecdotes of loved ones and acquaintances alike…it only throws into relief the sharp and sticking fact that there is no going back.
But how to move forward?
I am just beginning a PhD throughout which my research will question the values of our current methods of life support for these spaces. Could a more creative approach, less reliant on conventional ideas of economy and spending save the spaces around which we dwell?
What do inhabitants actually want, and what will they put their name to? No man yet has found immortality through wealth and investment. Rather, great people live on in songs and ideas, in the fact that people still find them useful as an anchor for everyday lives and experiences. I believe that the best way forward for these spaces is to re-purpose them by moving away from the concept of the ‘High Street’ as a place purely dependent on commerce. Re-inventing the ‘Town Centre’ as gathering place, the hub in which to meet and exchange ideas and skills that benefit the growth of the local economy in terms of wellbeing and sustainability. Places that become the anchor for their inhabitants everyday lives and experiences.
In my paper I will invite you to meet the ghost of my shopkeeper. I will invoke the experiences of her spirit and discuss what can be learnt through failure once the ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ note has been served and how those moments when her face materializes in the mirror will inform and serve my research. I will bring you along on a ‘ghost walk’ through Falmouth, charting the changing landscape of my own ‘High Street’ in the town and telling its stories of lost loves and dead dreams. Come on a journey into the dark with me, after which I hope to discuss how creative practitioners might exorcise the demons that the recession has left wandering the streets and revive our ‘Ghost Towns’ for the better service of their inhabitants.
The High Street is dead, Long live the Town Centre.
From Software’s Demon’s Souls (SCE, 2009) and Dark Souls (Namco, 2011) are famous for levels of challenge which can drive a player to despair. Both games plunge their players into bleak, undead, deathless medieval landscapes where time seems frozen and they struggle, seemingly alone, in an unfamiliar and ruined world. This landscape is mostly populated by mindless and violent non-player characters – monsters, zombies, giants, and dragons – but through an unusual use of online features, From harnesses the experiences of others to enhance understanding of their bleak, unforgiving spaces. They project images of other players, simultaneously struggling with the game’s many frustrations, as fleeting ghosts. Bloodstains on the ground can replay the deaths of peers. When certain conditions are met, players can temporarily ‘invade’ the parallel game worlds of others; some take the form of brightly glowing spirits to aid their hosts whilst they remain. Others come as dark, malevolent Phantoms to murder players and steal their Souls and Humanity, here manifested as finite and valuable resources crucial for development and survival.
The potency of the Souls games is in their ability to express a space simultaneously through the visual representation of a landscape and through their ludic reflections of that world. Boletaria and Lordran are haunted, lonely, tainted places of fear and suffering; each player is a lonely, tainted ghost who exacerbates the fear and suffering of others. These games have a ludonarrative consonance – interactive and fictional elements are intrinsically related and supportive, each conveying the same ideas to the player. Bonfires in Dark Souls, for instance, are used as intermittent pockets of safety and rejuvenation in an otherwise cold and dark world. The ludic and fictional meanings of ‘bonfire’ are inextricably linked, confirming and reinforcing the player’s understanding of the space and their place within it.
This paper, through close reading, will unpick how mechanical representations of exploration and the supernatural construct an understanding of these fictional landscapes for the player. It will show how games express spaces not just as a representation, but together with a system which governs its operations and traversal. Dark Souls is not just a picture of a ‘Haunted Landscape’ – it is one.
(Royal Literary Fund Fellow, University of Plymouth)
What happens when you step out of time? What happens when you immerse deeper in time? What happens when time disappears altogether and you are left wandering in the miasma of presences that inform not only a spirit of place but the entire genetic, emotional and physical evolution of place and person? Writers unbind themselves from any notion of time when they are writing. When you immerse in the written word, everything else disappears. Margaret Atwood suggests that a writer is always two people. One of them goes to the shops, cooks food, makes phone calls etc. The other one, the writing one, negotiates with the dead. Writing as a territory in and of itself, then, is like a trap door that can send us into another space where previous notions of time, aliveness and deadness are no longer relevant. This paper will explore these ideas by looking at the process of writing as well as the processes that go into creating the geographic and geological character of place. Death, and the subsequent haunting, will be explored in relation to the work of the American poet Jack Gilbert as well as the work of the presenter of this paper, Alyson Hallett. This paper will suggest that the categories of dead and alive are in fact much more expansive and malleable than we often believe. When someone dies a new relationship is forged with that person, and evidence will be presented in relation to this.
(Chinese University of Hong Kong)
At the beginning of Amos Tutuola’s now infamous novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, the narrator calmly walks out into the world of the uncanny in search of the spirit of his recently departed palm-wine tapster. Is this a dream, an hallucination, a schizophrenic episode, a drunken vision, a portent, or something else? How is one to understand this dive into what is, after all, an extremely odd other-world? Indeed, it is the ease with which the narrator finds himself in the space of the supernatural that takes the reader by surprise. Where is his wonderment, where is his sense of estrangement, when he stands face-to-face with the supernatural? Clearly, it is elsewhere. But the nonchalance with which the narrator deals with the oddity of the bush of ghosts does more than make the reader swallow a sense of the weird; it makes us aware that the protagonist knows this place. It is a strange world, but one that clearly belongs to the everyday.
Taking this as my point of departure, this paper argues, pace contemporary criticism of African literature, that this conflation of natural and supernatural worlds should not be understood through a discussion of liminality. Rather it should be thought of in terms of the simulacrum. Put simply, the animist world breeds a new world or, at the very least, radically changes our perception of a world we thought we knew. Understood as simulacrum, this “new” world presents itself as a revolutionary philosophy of Life. In this material philosophy Man is regarded as simply another effect of Life – a part of the world rather than apart from the world. Taken to its full extension, this introduces one to an ontology that challenges the Greek model. That is to say – with all the caution that such a statement deserves –, the African animist world introduces one to what one might think of as an African way of being.
(University of Hull)
‘A transformation of the werewolf in literature made its greatest strides in the 19th century when the monster leapt from poetry to the short story’, inspiring authors as diverse as Catherine Crowe, Rudyard Kipling and G. W. M. Reynolds. This change brought with it varied literary representations of werewolves as they ‘embodied cultural anxieties about social change’. The Victorian period experienced numerous ‘social change[s]’, one of the most discussed in relation to werewolf literature being the fear of the ‘animal within’ due to Charles Darwin’s seminal texts On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871). These texts’ focus on human evolution led not only to growing popular concern regarding atavism and biological degeneration, but brought mankind and animals closer together than ever before. Werewolves were a particularly apt creation with which to explore these fears and anxieties; humans forced to shift in to lupine form has clear links to both personal atavism and social decline.
This paper extends Victorian werewolf devolution theories by examining several werewolf short stories in relation to the waning natural environment. Werewolf literature is a mode of horror that relies on the permanence of the natural world, such as the moon, and explores mankind’s relationship with it. Nevertheless, in the nineteenth century significant environmental changes took place; the industrial revolution caused an influx of people from rural to urban areas, and native wolves became extinct. My paper focuses on the effects of this encroaching urbanization on werewolves: how the destroyed natural environment echoes back through the modernised landscape; how werewolves embed their transformation onto their new environment; and how the memories of this past environment never leave as the werewolf continually leaves its mark. The werewolf is a figure divided. For some, the werewolf transformation forces a return to nature in the midst of busy urban life; an involuntary return reversion to a savage, animalistic state suited to scavenging the dwindling wilds. For others, it is a hybrid form that allows communing with nature whilst their human side remains invested in the modern industrialised world. The werewolf is the perfect creature to live in this tumultuous and uncertain setting, gaining the best of both environments.
‘There was the hum of bees and a whisper of wind in the trees and all round the soft enchanted Cornish air, laden with dream-stuff’ (E. F. Benson, ‘Pirates’).
This paper examines the wonderful Cornish ghost stories of E F Benson. Benson’s father was bishop of Truro and Benson has a distinctive view about the Cornish landscape and the possibilities of slippages, (particularly in time), that Cornwall offers. Benson’s Edwardian Cornwall evokes times gone by – ghosts of those long dead and vivid echoes of pre-history. There are wonders as well as horrors, light as well as darkness here. Benson’s landscapes are often drenched in sunlight, but peaceful and lush landscapes hide real terrors; witchcraft, violence, monsters and death. There may be peace to be had here but all too often older, darker stuff seeps up from the ancient granite.
Since I was a student at Falmouth Art College in the 1980s, I have been engaged in a long-term project; a series of paintings of the view from the house I lived in, looking down the road, across the town, to the sea beyond. These paintings started as a study of light and space in this pleasant urban landscape, but developed into a series of paintings of it at nighttime, with the urban landscape being engulfed in darkness beyond the partial reflections of myself and the interior of the room on the double glazed window.
These works represented the convergence of a number of interests; the combination of three genres – landscape, interior and self-portrait in one image, and the viewer’s relation to the fictional space of the painting. These paintings also embody two ideas, frequently thought of as antithetical; the everyday and the metaphysical.
(Central St Martins, University of the Arts London)
Goosebumps, hairs stand on end, a knot in the stomach, an inexplicable feeling of chill… a place can have a visceral impact on the human subject.
In this paper, I will consider the affect of site and how echoes of the past resonate with the present in certain historic spaces. With reference to my 2004 installation, Visitation, sited in the crypt of St Pancras church, London, and 2012 performance, Medium, in the belfry of St John on Bethnal Green, London, I will examine how site, sound, technology and computer manipulation were combined to imagine the spirit world and evoke a digital sublime.
(Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań & The Warburg Institute)
The aim of this paper is to rethink images of space haunted by spectres of history and postmemory in recent Central European literature.
The notion of Central Europe and the critical approach to imagined boundaries between East and West has been for decades a crucial subject particularly in works of Polish and Czech authors. Milan Kundera and Czesław Miłosz are to be counted among the most notable examples. In the 21st century this model of description is gradually declining; we may however venture a thesis that there appears a novel current in conceptualising the historical experience of the Other Europe, which gives up on realist paradigm and draws on such literary qualities, as irony, absurd, grotesquery and supernaturalism in return. I would like to focus on two contemporary authors: Andrzej Stasiuk (Poland) and Jáchym Topol (Czech Republic), especially on their grotesque plays (Dark Woods, Waiting for the Turk, The Road to Bugulma), which were commissioned by the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus as part of the project The new Europe – waiting for the barbarians?.
Stasiuk announced in his celebrated travel book On the Road to Babadag. Travels in the Other Europe that “the visible is fading into the narrated, it is fading, but does not disappear entirely.” The quoted sentence could assume the proportions of a principle for the latest current in describing non-Western space, which reveals more of historical and narrative entanglement than it consists in topographical details. Stasiuk’s and Topol’s plays embed national prejudice, fragmentary narratives of traumatic, historical experience, echoes of soviet and colonial suppression in their images of landscape and environment.
In my paper I would like to elaborate the above mentioned issues in reference to the concept of postmemory and the anthropological idea of ‘modernity at large’ by Arjun Appadurai, which could enrich the postcolonial approach to the literature of Eastern Europe. I consider Appadurai’s notions of deterritorialization (primarily conceived by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Anti-Oedipus) and mass-mediated images successfully applicable to examination of contemporary literature.
The Secret World (Funcom 2012-present) is as an occult-based Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). The newly magically endowed player-character is placed in ‘a landscape where every conspiracy theory, every myth, fable and urban legend is true’, as the publicity for the game claims. While hermetic fiction, in Old and New guises, has informed many previous games, tabletop RPGs as well as videogames, The Secret World is the first MMORPG to do so and thereby allow players to occupy the same large-scale virtual space, working under the aegis of one of three potential factions. The game itself may be said to be ruled by two not necessarily consonant systems: the Weird Tale and the systemic necessities of the MMORPG. The paper argues that the confluence of these two grammars at work in the game produce a landscape that is both haunted and hermetic. This is established through some close textual analysis of the influence of the game’s ludic, participatory and networked characteristics.. A core plank of the argument is that the use in the game of an aesthetic developed within the hermetic tradition (and indeed more generally in Occult ‘fiction’) promotes a playing experience that is geared by a conspiracy hermeneutic. This is mainly accrued through the defacement of schematic boundaries between fact and fiction and is realised in a range of ways as a ‘haunted landscape’. Perhaps occupying an even more lowly status than the Gothic, is the videogame. However, the return of the hermetic in the haunted landscape of The Secret World demonstrates a shared, if strangely paired, interest in ludic participation.
(Kings College London)
The Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT), developed by Ricardo Dominguez and Brett Stalbaum at UCSD, is a GPS enabled, mobile phone app and art project that would potentially lead illegal immigrants to water caches left in the desert of the Mexico/San Diego borderland. The TBT has faced much criticism and censure from various institutional bodies including the FBI and UCSD. It is only in the last two years that the project has been able to move out of the inertia caused by a federal investigation. However, its future continues to be at risk due to the increasing power of cartels over the movement of people across the border and the danger this technology poses to both its users and the NGOs that could potentially be involved in its distribution. One of the key aspects of the TBT is a secondary GPS program – the Geo-Poetic System – which is a function of the app that allows the border crossers to read poems written by survivors of this perilous walk and others who support their right to water whilst crossing the desert. San Diego is very special in this regard, as it is the only State in the US where it is legal for caches of water to be left in the desert. It is unlikely to ever see this situation replicated in Arizona, for example. In using GPS mapping software, Dominguez and Stalbaum are inscribing the desert by creating paths and roads, both virtual and walked, working to structure and organize a wild space for their own purposes. However, the desert has been a locus of thought on deconstruction from Baudrillard’s ‘deserts of the real’ to Derrida’s desert imbued with the force of ruin. This paper looks at whether, in archiving the desert through GPS technology, the TBT is falling into traditional modes of map-making which seek to neutralize and stabilize. Simultaneously, I want to challenge these concepts of the desert and the map in the name of the spectral presence of the undocumented immigrants that walk and inscribe the desert with their own narratives. I posit that it is not just their physical paths that haunt the desert but also the narratives created through the use of poetry – a poetry that archives the undocumented in a space that has been designated as “empty” [Baudrillard] and “anarchivable”[Derrida].
Two stop-motion animation films from Laika Studios, Coraline (2009) based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, and ParaNorman (2012), chart the difficulties faced by the two eponymous characters, as they come to terms with their identity and their environment. Norman and Coraline are young people obliged to live in public and private spaces haunted by supernatural beings, creatures which gain their existence and most fearsome powers in direct relation to the moral, social and cultural failings of adults. The films explore how the children, treated as and feeling themselves to be, outsiders, must uncover and understand their haunted histories of as part of a process of personal and social acceptance. As they deal with zombies, witches, ghosts and demonic figures, the challenges presented to Norman and Coraline become ways whereby adults and children, alive and dead, learn to challenge the assumptions of past and present. Although the supernatural is defeated and expunged in Coraline, in Norman’s home town of Blithe Hollow the haunted landscape is embraced as a necessary component for understanding and reconciliation.
But the haunted landscape is ever present in both films through the medium of stop-motion animation itself. Both Coraline and ParaNorman had purpose-built sets in which the models of characters were manipulated and filmed, and this paper will address what this means for an exploration of the haunted Gothic textual landscape for children. Children as figures of Gothic terror have for some time been recognised as the site for adult anxieties as the return of the repressed fears of childhood. In unpacking how these two films reverse this model, however, to signal how the child must cope with the repressed of the adult world, I will consider the interrelation of text and technique as they interrogate social identities and conventions, and promote the Gothic child’s vision of the horrors of being in the grown-up world.
Since it first aired in 2008, the ABC series Breaking Bad has been celebrated for its cinematic visual style. Significant to the narrative is the recurring use of the desert landscape. This paper examines the idea that, in narrative terms, the desert functions repeatedly as a symbolic location for character transition; a visual representation of what Victor Turner defines as ‘liminality’ or the place ‘betwixt and between’. The desert locations of New Mexico are an evocative representation of the idea that liminality is an intermediate place where individuals are stripped of their social differences, of their normal identity and are on the verge of personal transformation. In Breaking Bad this transformation is significantly poignant and visible in the ways that the male characters are represented when located in the desert.
This paper examines the visual and narrative significance of the desert, and the idea that it functions as a point of threshold in which the transitional selves of characters seem to dissolve and shift. Through the narrative progression of five series of this landmark TV drama, representations of the male characters, seem both haunting and haunted whenever the symbolic desert landscape is used. Producer and writer, Vince Gilligan, situates the show as a ‘postmodern Western’ and acknowledges that this is inextricably tied to its recurring use of the New Mexico landscape. So, this paper also explores contemporary issues of masculinity in connection to the desert with reference to the visual aesthetics the traditional Western.
Part of the success of Breaking Bad is attributed to the ways in which it challenges assumptions about traditional values and experiences of ‘ordinary’ middle class Americans following the global recession. In light of this, the paper also investigates ways in which the desert might function as a symbolic location to reflect this disintegration and the current state of flux for both the family and masculinity in contemporary Western society.
(The Open University)
In this paper I will discuss the cluster of Fairy Traditions situated in the Scottish Lowlands, specifically the Borders, and how the geographical and political influences converged in the folkloric. The Lowlands (Scots: the Lallans or the Lawlands; Scottish Gaelic: a’ Ghalldachd, “the place of the foreigner”), a place not necessarily ‘low’ (it has its share of mountains) or even a place (it is not an official geographical or administrative area of the country) seems to have more than its fair share of ballads and tales associated with Fairy/Faerie, indeed some of the most famous of all. The Border Ballad of ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ is based upon the 12th Century Thomas of Ercildoune, and relates an encounter with the Queen of Elfland, and the subsequent ‘crossing over’. This crossing of a threshold results in a Gift – the Tongue that Cannot Lie (the gift of prophecy, which Thomas of Ercildoune was said to have, his prophecies being extant) – an exchange which could be read as a metaphor for the creative process. Is the Crossing in fact a synaptic leap, the exchange between the Left and Right sides of the brain? The encounter was said to have taken place on the Eildon Hills, in the Scottish Borders, which the author has visited, conducting his own phenomenological research. Nearby the Rhymer Stones attests to the ‘veracity’ of the legend – it was in fact erected in 1929 by the Melrose Literary Society and supposedly marks the spot on which the fabled Eildon Tree once grew, under which the historical Thomas was said to have taken his famous nap (on awakening, he meets the Queen of Elfland). The presence of such memorials (sites of neo-pilgrimage) fixes the legend, and become a form of telluric battery, storing up the mythic associations of a place, added to by every subsequent pilgrim. Other spurious monuments (e.g. the grave of Bedd Gelert, North Wales) become money-spinning omphalos, boosting the local tourist economy. In the hills above Aberfoyle, home of Rev. Robert Kirk, 17th Century Scottish Minister and author of The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, a row of red mushrooms lead visitors on the Fairy Trail to the ‘fairy circle’ which Kirk was said to have stepped in, disappearing into Fairyland, where, according to his legend, he remains trapped to this day. Despite the kitsch quality of this commodified mythscape, some visitors have attested to psychic experiences, even receiving communication from Kirk himself. A form of channeling is said to take place, and wisdom from the Otherworld is downloaded – again in a way which suggests the creative process. Are such experiences a way of creating meaningful narrative for the mysterious experience of inspiration? Sites that have a liminal quality – streams, caves, glades, pools, romantic ruins, shorelines, bridges – and certain times of day (dawn, dusk) and year (midsummer, midwinter, Samhain) have been frequently conducive to creativity, not only featuring in the content of ballads and tales, but creating the conditions for their composition in the first place. The pink noise of, say, a babbling brook, affects the brainwaves, changing them from Alpha to Theta – when greater synaptic leaps occur, the spark of inspiration bridging the gap. Is this the ‘fire in the head’ WB Yeats describes in the ‘Song of Wandering Aengus’, in which the protagonist goes out to a hazel wood, and, at a transitional time, encounters the Muse in the form of a ‘glimmering girl’, which he spends the rest of his life pursuing? Other examples from the Lowlands to be explored in this paper include: Tam Lin (Carterhaugh, at the meeting place of the rivers Ettrick and Yarrow; or possibly in the Cheviots); Michael Scot, the medieval mathematician, scholar and ‘wizard’ (Fife); and ‘Wild Merlin’, Myrddin Wyllt, who retreated to the ancient forest of Caledon, traumatised by the massacre at the battle of Arfderydd in the year 573. The harsh reality of the Border Reivers and the Lowland Clearances have also added to the palimpsest of narratives which saturate the area, providing a rich peat distilled into the tales and ballads preserved for a long time in the Oral Culture the area (and transposed to the Southern Highlands of Appalachia); as well as its literary heritage. With the referendum on Scottish Independence looming, narratives of nationhood and the ‘hot zones’ of disputed territory will become increasingly topical.
I am proposing to show a selection of photographs which are of a very raw nature being infrared photographs that derive from the liminal margins of land and ocean. Taken at the turning point between night into day and day into night, the proposed infrared photographs come directly from being present on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Cornwall. Over the last three to four years I have worked extensively at a remote site on the Atlantic coast in Cornwall and also remote stretches of the Pacific including Hawaii last year in which my fascination and pull to record this beautifully potent and ephemeral, invisible but felt force from the other side was felt in astonishing depth and clarity.
Most recently a few a months ago in Cornwall, I was working with mixing dinosaur bone matter and oil paint together, bone matter from a living creature over 140 million years ago. I became very taken by the act of painting with this medium, and the plethora of aspirations and visual images caught on the documentation of this painting with the spirit and the sublime aroused a growing intrigue to photographic this force, energy and visual spectacle on film. This relationship is particularly heightened by the very recent passing of my later mother. I seek to present a series of visually intoxicating images taken at the edge of our known world and the edge of a world yet fully seen and experienced. I will take my infrared camera into and around this liminal zone and reveal and visualise with great respect and attachment images from the sublime.
(University of Gloucestershire)
This paper focusses on poetic depictions of landscapes that are ‘haunted’ by the presence and absence of landscape deities such as lake, tree or mountain spirits. By incorporating mythical figures into their work, poets such as Gary Snyder, Michael Farley and Lynne Wycherley draw on elements of what Snyder (1980) terms the ‘symbol-detritus’ of culture. In The Savage Mind (1974), Claude Lévi-Strauss describes the bricoleur’s first step as retrospective, turning back to an existent set of tools or materials in order to improvise with what is to hand. Strauss’s theory has been developed further by Michael Leyshon and Jacob Bull (2011), who argue that people assemble a storied-self by creating a bricolage of the here from their memories and associations of a place. This in turn can be developed to form the concept of ‘storied-place’, where a poet creates an imagining of a place’s identity by drawing on its mythical and physical heritage. What is striking about many of the poems examined is that some of the mythical elements they incorporate are more noticeable for their absence than their presence. For example, the ‘fisher-king’, who only exists as a memory in Wycherley’s (2000) ‘The Black Fens’. This leads me to conclude that such poems are examples of what can be termed ‘negative bricolage’, where one or more elements is highlighted as missing. John Clark (1991) defines bricolage as ‘the re-ordering and re-contextualisation of objects to communicate fresh meanings, within a total system of significances’. In the case of many of the poems examined, incorporating the absence of mythical figures adds new meaning to their existing associations and the poet’s depiction of the landscape’s identity, particularly when such an absence is placed in the context of environmental damage such as peat stripping.
(University of Debrecen)
In my presentation I intend to provide a textual analysis of the found footage horror film, The Blair Witch Project. The movie tells the story of a group of youngsters who went to shoot a documentary in the forests of Maryland, but the only thing remained behind them was their recordings from which the film is made up. In my presentation I am going to investigate how the forest is depicted as a spectral place by analysing the movie’s spatial and temporal aspects. Through my analysis I argue that the very idea of spectrality and features of ghostliness pervade not only the cinematic landscape, but they affect the construction of the images and the way it structures the film viewing subject, therefore the space of filmic haunting (the cinema or the living room) becomes a haunted space too. While providing a close reading of the haunted nature of the movie, in my analysis I am going to give an interpretation of spectrality from mainly a temporal and a spatial perspective as well; in order to do that, I am going to use the classic psychoanalytic terms of the ‘uncanny’, and I am going to reflect on the link with Jacques Derrida’s concept of the spectre.
Through my analysis I am going to investigate the filmic representation of the forest of Black Hills, Maryland as a spectral place: I am going to reflect on the visual depiction of temporal and spatial uncertainty which is the key feature of ghostliness. The Blair Witch Project plays upon the idea of spectrality on the extra-diegetic level of film viewing as well. My argument is the filmic suture (the invisible link between the seer and the seen) works differently in this found footage horror film: by showing a movie about making a movie, and having the filmic characters talking into the camera, the spectator is constantly reminded of watching a film. Since the ghost hides within the lack created by the cinematic apparatus, by opening the cinematic suture The Blair Witch Project provides a possible experience of the cinematic ghost that haunts exactly the gaps in the cinematic apparatus.
By applying an interdisciplinary approach to the textual analysis of the movie, I am going to give a reading of the rural filmic ghostliness that does not simply provide the theme for this production, but it defines the cinematic frames and the mediation of the diegetic reality; the movie unifies the on-screen landscape with the off-screen space, transforming cinema into a haunted place.
Ambrose Bierce’s tall tale, ‘The Difficulty of Crossing a Field’ paints a static picture of a Southern landscape into which a white planter miraculously disappears, ‘right before the eyes’ of watching neighbours. The landscape which swallows the planter is inhabited by slaves who appear as both a insistently repeated presence and an uncanny absence in the story’s order of signification. As both Toni Morrison and Teresa Goddu argue, race is a constitutive element of, rather than simply a subject for, the American Gothic. This very short piece of newspaper fiction presents a stark pictorial map across which we can trace the relation between the historical trauma of race and Gothic language effects which both express and silence it.
(University of Greenwich)
Before the Holocaust, Poles and Jews had for centuries lived side-by-side as neighbours. As Joanna Żylinska (2007, 283) has pointed out, however, the Polish-Jewish relationship highlighted the ‘structural ambivalence’ around the term ‘neighbour’: ‘Even though it involved physical side-by-side coexistence, neighbourliness in fact seems to have preserved the distance between the Poles and the Jews.’ The inherent antagonism in neighbourly proximity is epitomized by the violence that took place in the Polish village of Jedwabne in 1941, when, as initially publicised by historian Jan Gross in Neighbours (2000) Polish villagers herded their Jewish neighbours into a barn and burned them alive. Alongside attempts to excavate the mass graves in Jedwabne and enact gestures of mourning, the strategies of remembering and mourning the loss of Jewish communities have taken new forms in film and visual culture in Poland. This paper will focus specifically on a recent film that configures the space of the Polish village as haunted by the spectral presence of the Polish-Jewish past, Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s Aftermath (2012).
Aftermath is the first fiction film to draw on the events of Jedwabne, and thus remains a highly controversial work in Poland. It is concerned with a villager who has become obsessed with collecting Jewish gravestones, which were uprooted and used to pave the village’s streets, and planting them in his field, literally cultivating Jewish memory. The film cinematographically suggests that the space of the village is haunted by a spectral presence, by, perhaps, the externalised echoes of unresolved ethical transgressions. The film utilises editing and camera work familiar to viewers from horror films: point-of-view shots from disembodied perspectives which spy on the characters, for example, or shots from a hand-held camera that follow the characters closely as they walk, suggesting a presence stalking them. Objects inexplicably disappear and just as inexplicably return. Time and space is out of joint in this village where literal displacements haunt the present: the film soon reveals that the land that the Polish farmers currently occupy in fact belonged to Jewish families before they were killed, and the land that the Poles used to farm is now useless swamp land. It is at the heart of this ancestral land that the remains of the Jewish villagers, murdered by their Polish neighbours, have been buried. The ruptures inherent in haunting and barely supressed violence emanate, it seems, from this disturbance in the moral order. The film, I argue, attempts to heal the ruptures in time and space; the bones of the Jewish villagers are exhumed and re-buried according to proper mourning rituals in marked graves, and the film’s final scene reveals Jewish visitors saying Kaddish over the new cemetery. This paper questions the ethical implications in what has been called ‘remembering to forget’, raising ghosts and spectres in order to send them away again so that they do not remain to haunt the living with memories of unresolved, traumatic pasts. Drawing on Colin Davis’s Haunted Subjects, and the work of Jacques Derrida, the paper considers an alternative position, one that refuses to terminate the process of mourning, as an ethical obligation to the deceased.
(The British Art Journal)
Since the dawn of time people have erected stones, constructed temples, built churches and organised spiritual gatherings in certain deliberately selected places that seem to possess a powerful spirit of their own. This ‘spirit of place’ or, in Latin genius loci, is known all over the world under countless names from China to Mexico and, of course, also in the British Isles. Apparently artists, more than people in many other walks of life, seem to have the capability to sense these spirits and often feel an urge to capture them in their work.
As an art historian specialising in the Victorian era I want to use this paper to examine the phenomenon of the genius loci by means of pictures created mainly by the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist schools. It is, after all, among the oeuvres of these painters that we find an uncommon number of works related to the ‘spirit of place’. Symbolist landscapes in particular show the artist endeavouring to convey that there is more than meets the eye to the location they have depicted.
There are two important questions that I wish to explore. First of all: why is it that artists are so often inspired by these unusual locations? One could propose that they are ‘merely’ affected by a place’s peculiar congruence of light, colour, sound, scent and tactile features, but one could also presume that they are influenced by something else that is more difficult to define. My second question is therefore: what exactly is this ‘spirit of place’? Drawing extensively on mythological, spiritual, literary, art historical, historical and – ultimately – scientific sources I will try to formulate an answer to these questions.
Avery Gordon argues “haunting is a constituent element of modern social life … To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects of it. The confrontation requires (and produces) a fundamental change in the way we know and make knowledge, in our mode of production.” (1997:7)
I would like to argue that the closely observed experimental short films made by Tait in her native Orkney & Edinburgh record the impact that progress and change have on this environment. Her films track the adaptation of local people who, while they have no say in the decisions made by the ruling powers – actually do contribute and preserve, by leaving traces both on and in the land and the memories of those who live/d there. I will argue for an (eco) feminist re-evaluation of the links of wo/men with nature and a sense of place in terms of embodiment and empathy. And further, that while the absences of people working within change (rather than making it) are often covered over or forgotten, their traces are still felt and even passed on in a form of “unconscious” which films like Tait’s evoke.
(London Metropolitan University)
How far is too far? How can we look over the edge, feel our way beyond the horizon, traverse time zones and cross the bounds of one human life? This paper explores the use of artworks as instrumental in making encounters that slice through the regular temporality of our earthbound navigations. As we move through the landscape, it alters in correspondence with the altered states of our haunted selves, tempered by our perceptions, memories and inner temporality. Landscape and our magical relations to space-time are key elements in new works presented here, such as Inside Our Blues (2013) which draw on surrealist film practices, shamanism and ritual in the form of the song-film. These works connect us to an altered experience of our surroundings, using paint, film and voice to invoke expanded consciousness, connect with ancestral ghostly traces and explore the possibility of psychic time travel.
Song-films work with the voice as spirit presence, as in Alive Alive-O (2011), where a ‘remembered song’ creates a psychic architecture and re-inhabits the strange and magical shape of an empty ruined boat as an invocation. In a new work, Thrashing In the Static, the wavelengths of a lament for an ancestor soar over the edge, across time zones from the foreshores of the Thames to Singapore. The surrealist thinker Artaud proposed a ‘sorcerer’s cinema’ and Inside Out Blues (2013) was made on an artist’s residency in Marseilles, working with Artaud’s text To Have Done With the Judgement of God as a song-film. On the edge of fortress Europe, the voice crosses borders in a frenzied dance that soars over the razor wires of the rich and dives under the sea, letting the outside-in and the inside out. Invisible migrant spirits fleeting on the streets, whilst millions of others are imprisoned in the new fortresses of capital away from the edge of the sea, the boats and the deep.. ‘Acces Interdit’, you are being filmed. This work raises the disembodied inside-out spirits of the dispossessed, of Artaud the mad radio star and suicided painters in the southern light, bringing them back to this landscape. We feel the emergent singing voice rather than understanding it, a spirit form carried on the air while the body creeps, contorts, and crawls across the earth.
These works build on the use of high speed filming, long exposure photography and sound recording to work with the ‘strangeness’ of dissonant temporalities for a body of practice-led research on time and affect, using cinematic devices to expose ghostly traces, invoking a kind of expanded, other-worldly temporality. Broadly, this research explores the nature of ‘affect’ as an extra-perceptual experience, raising questions about the time we live by and how we experience the space around us.
(University of Roehampton)
There is no landscape (whether natural or thought) that is not inscribed, erased and re-inscribed by histories and ghosts. In particular, the German landscape is populated by emotive places and experiencing them is intensified by the complex interweaving of topography and histories with personal and collective memory and forgetting and haunting.
This paper will investigate one particular site; the location of German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s hut situated in the mountains of the Black Forest south of Freiburg at Todtnauberg. It has been a contentious building/location since its construction in the 1920s and has reflected and articulated Heidegger’s concerns with landscape in relation to rootedness, dwelling, language and homeland. Heidegger recognised Todtnauberg as a locale ‘haunted’ by uncertainty and open to possibilities; to a sense of becoming – a site of appearances and disappearances; a place to hear the call of Being.
However, the paper will draw attention to the more complex spectral qualities of the site as inscribed by Paul Celan’s poem, ‘Todtnauberg’. This poem was written in response to a meeting between Heidegger and Celan at the hut at Todtnauberg in July 1967. It presents the site as a palimpsest, haunted by histories and in particular Heidegger’s nefarious involvement with National Socialism. In the poem, Celan’s appreciation of Heidegger’s mountain life was mediated by ghosts and his imaginings of what had happened there before.
‘Todtnauberg’ is barely a poem but is rather a single nominal phrase, choppy, distended and elliptical and unwilling to take shape. It is not an outline but the remainder or residue of an abortive narrative. The poem presents a site that has not only been actually and symbolically tainted by the fascist past, but also serves as an imperfect setting for events that fractured Celan’s own past.
The paper will distinguish between the ideas of ‘landscape’ and ‘terrain’. ‘Landscape’ is understood as a symbolic setting for an individual’s passage through time and is a continuous and coherent whole. ‘Terrain’ is a more fragmentary experience onto which a coherent sense of self cannot be projected. The concept of ‘terrain’ suggests a ‘de-coherence’ that exceeds the geographic setting; it is a place of haunting and ghosts. The place of the poem, presents past and present as a ‘terrain’ that can be described only in abstract fragments rather than a coherent whole. The paper will explore this spectral experience of remnants and shards that transform Heidegger’s familial home into a fractured and residual place.
(Central St Martins, University of the Arts London)
Over the past decade I have been making a series of art works entitled NEVER AFRAID in which, through painting, film and installation, I revisit places imprinted within my memory. I hope to capture something of the haunting nature of these places – landscapes on the rural urban fringe – through my work. With reference to my own practise and examples of the NEVER AFRAID artworks, primarily the paintings, I will discuss the uncanny nature of these landscapes and my paradoxical attempt to both invoke and exorcise the memories embedded within them.
NEVER AFRAID! This maxim crops up repeatedly in my artwork and has its origins in an oral history, passed on to me by my mother and grandmother and linked to my maternal family’s locale. I grew up in the suburbs, right on the messy edges, where the new build advanced into the ruins of an old stud farm, patches of damp looking small holdings and rusting barns. The neat gardens ended abruptly at a line of ancient woodland; sheds were the last out-posts between the lawns and the undergrowth. To step off the trimmed edge of an immaculate lawn was to take a plunge into the darkness and tangle of the woods. Domestic comfort and safety were soon out of sight. This was a place haunted by the unknown, by the ‘other’. One could be ambushed by wild gangs of children, glimpse flesh moving mysteriously amongst the rhododendron bushes and finally find oneself alone and spooked by the wind rustling dead leaves. These landscapes were enticingly magical places. There was always the feeling that, if entered too deeply, one could be lost forever never more returning home for tea. As a child this suburban ‘Heart of Darkness’ found its way into many of my dreams and later, as an adult, into my artwork. Over the past decade, as part of a body of work titled NEVER AFRAID, I have been making a series of small, intense paintings of these transitional landscapes. The paintings are usually shown as part of an assemblage or installation. Their intimate scale engenders a solitude through which the viewer can participate in this private world. Painted with the maxim ‘NEVER AFRAID’ – a reference to talismans and incantations, such as the ‘Bless This House’ samplers which attempt to project the domestic space against the foreboding of omnipresent danger – these landscapes, both enticing and menacing, banal and fantastical serve as a reminder that the wilderness is only just beyond the shed. These wildernesses on the rural urban fringe are liminal spaces. In my artwork they serve as intermediaries between being and non being. They are haunted realms. I hope the sense of the ‘other’ and the supernatural they engender in me may be accessed through my NEVER AFRAID paintings.[\toggle]
Using the principles of the palimpsest to look at the world, the most distant layers erased or partially erased by the ones in front, the landscape can be seen as a series of elements, pictorial, psychological,and metaphorical. Examining the archaeological scars of human activity, including ancient monuments; ritual, psychic automatism, spontaneity and improvisation are summoned by the artist to orchestrate and abstract what is seen in the landscape and what is held latent in the mind.
(Cornish Language Partnership/Keskowethyans an Taves Kernewek)
The Edwardian project of re-casting Cornwall’s histories into mythical and romantic ‘folk tales’ is perhaps most evident when addressing the idea of a Celtic identity. Cornish and Welsh accounts of heroes such as Ke, Uther Pendragon, Arthur, Morgana and Tristan etc. tend to be subsumed into a medieval English and French romantic tradition while texts such as The Mabinogion, Bewnans Meryasek and Bewnans Ke etc. are left to the language scholars. The stories that are left tend take on a parochial outlook, retold as drolls, notions of place and superstition increasingly take centre stage as their link with the Cornish language is lost. History becomes legend, stories become superstitions and Kernewek (the Cornish language) the ghost that haunts an Anglo-Saxon retelling of a commodity suitable for promoting tourism.
Whilst learning Cornish might exorcise some of these stories, for example scratching away at the palimpsest of place names, revealing the primary sources behind popular romances such as Tristan and Isolde and the story of Jan Tregeagle as a Cornish version of Dr. Faustus, another possibility exists. In this paper I suggest a social and linguistic understanding of Kernewek helps access the imagination and philosophy behind a people that elevated a sense of place above the importance of the individual. Instead of trying to ‘resolve’ the things that haunt us an understanding of Kernewek reveals a more mercurial world, one where the Newtonian colour spectrum does not exist, the distinction between organic and inorganic things is important and nouns can mutate according to how a speaker cares to talk about a subject.
(University of Rhode Island)
Postimperial metropolitan fiction frequently utilizes tropes of hospitality and ghosts, motifs expressing concerns with how the past haunts the present. Hospitality, in a multicultural society, suggests the reception afforded new populations but also the danger perceived roles (host and guest, prior old and incoming new) would become fixed, that there would thus be a conceptual failure to provide a true home for all, that domestic spaces would be rendered inhospitable. Specters are, in Jacques Derrida’s formulation, the ghost of that which could come back, a fitting afterimage of an imperial past whose resonances linger into the present. These tropes are perhaps all the more telling in an age in which multiculturalism is announced as over, an era where changing demographics do not necessarily coincide with an account of how home spaces still resonate with the ghosts of empire. My papers examines Hilary Mantel’s 2005 novel Beyond Black and Helen Oyeyemi’s 2009 White is for Witching to map the dramatic intersections of these thematics, tropes tracing postimperial legacies haunting hospitality. Black offers a medium, Alison Hart, who circles bedroom communities outside London. She contacts the departed loved ones of clients through the spirit of someone from her own troubled past. As the novel progresses, more ghosts from her traumatic childhood, one spent outside an Army base, gather in an attempt to launch a spectral assault. However, rather than the expected haunted house, such specters infest motels, automobiles, and new subdivisions, the quotidian spaces of transience and suburbia. Witching centers on Miranda, a young woman besieged by spirits who inhabit her home in Dover. Her house, which also serves as a bed-and-breakfast, proves inhospitable for all non-ethnically English visitors because of a family curse from the Second World War. Miranda further suffers from the eating disorder pica and consumes non-edible substances, a malady echoing the house’s inability to take in “new” people. Both unable to properly “digest,” the young woman on the edge of adulthood and the city on the edge of England battle with an apparent inability to accept the new.
In both novels, spirits signify a fractured and complex temporality—and help produce inhospitable and transient spaces. The novels present English places impacted by ghosts of national and imperial pasts, specters who threaten to render the present uninhabitable. Here, the present is not wholly present to itself, for it contains not only the residue of the past but also the germ of what might come back. Consequently, time and history are not a progression of discrete moments bound smoothly by a linear causality; rather, the spaces of the present are troubled by unwelcoming ghosts disrupting domesticity and rendering hospitable homes problematic. The apparent security of the present finds the past is unstuck, that the specters of traumas past return to shape present and future. These ghosts must be exhumed before the present can find the hospitable spaces of a home.
Jean Baudrillard invoked Jorge Luis Borges’ ‘On Exactitude in Science’ when claiming that America is a desert—an expansive cultural void where the real and unreal are enmeshed so thoroughly that distinctions between them disappear. This hyper-reality is exemplified in Jacques Derrida’s notion of the specter: a liminal Other that oscillates between the familiar and unfamiliar. He elaborated on the nature of the spectral in ‘History of the Lie’: ‘The fabulous and the phantasmatic have a feature in common […] they do not pertain to either the true or the false, the veracious or the mendacious. They are related, rather, to an irreducible species of the simulacrum or of virtuality’ (65). While recognizing this virtuality risks encouraging nihilistic and deconstructive practices, Simon Critchley advocates that embracing the spectral Other fosters ethical implications by allowing the Self to step outside ontological and logocentric thinking that would otherwise marginalize the Other.
The late David Foster Wallace was heavily influenced by post-structural philosophy but also sought a way of rescuing literature from what he felt were harmful postmodern practices. His goal of literary redemption can be seen in how he maintains an ethical treatment of the spectral Other in his construction of barren, hyper-real landscapes within his first two novels: Broom of the System and Infinite Jest. The fictional Great Ohio Desert (G.O.D.) in Broom of the System is a simulation of wilderness designed by the governor of Ohio to remind people living within the commercialized cityscape about the virtue of pastoral landscapes. The traditional, American literary idea of the wilderness as a place of self-discovery and refuge from cultural influence is promoted by the G.O.D. However, the G.O.D. is a fake desert built over the “real” wilderness of Wayne National Park because the governor felt the national park did not conform enough to the traditional concept of wilderness. The inauthentic, hyper-real desert essentially becomes its own commercialized space. In its simulation and liminal commercial-natural existence, the G.O.D. becomes a specter of the national park’s destroyed wilderness as well as a specter of cultural waste. Infinite Jest also contains hyper-real landscapes worthy of scrutiny. The fictional Great Concavity/Convexity is an artificial wilderness near Quebec created by the literal waste of American commercialism. Another example is the Baudrillardian map created by tennis students during the war-game Eschaton that ends in the students violently arguing as the map territory and real territory blend together.
The symbol of the Brockengespent cast over an Arizonian desert in Infinite Jest comes to symbolize Wallace’s ethical treatment of the spectral Other. The Brocken spectre is an effect created by the magnification of an observer’s shadow upon the surfaces of clouds when the observer is standing on an elevated plane. The Broken specter is essentially the unreal being projected onto the real in order to produce the Other. Wallace’s hyper-real landscapes ultimately answer Critchley’s call for avoiding oppressive, ontological/logocentric thinking by engaging the spectral Other in order to counteract what Wallace felt was most detrimental to American life: cultural solipsism.
My recent publication ‘Ghost writing: photographing (the) spectral north’ (2013) is a practice-led enquiry into specific wartime sites in Scotland (Hoxa Head in Orkney and Lossie Forest in Moray), unregulated northern spaces in which the past irrupts the present, challenging our experience of the present as cohesive. The theoretical framework for this investigation has emerged from encounters with the work of Jacques Derrida and Tim Edensor, specifically Derrida’s writing on photography and spectrality (1998, 2010) and Edensor’s work on spectral places (2005, 2008). It is my contention that photography is a kind of ghost writing which, following Derrida, is essentially spectral (1998: vi). This writing figured as a disruption of self-identity and self-presence is a hauntology par excellence. The fieldwork and reading for the above publication has led me to think quite differently about photographic practice. Accounting for photography as a kind of ghost writing has required me to consider the possible futures of the images that I make, and, ultimately, I have to come to regard photography as an anticipatory practice. This has enabled me to think about photography as a practice in search of futures which hover in the landscape around us, only to be inscribed as images of the past which come back and come back again to freely haunt the present. I intend to continue with this research by interrogating the question of the futurity in relation to photography, specifically with regard to the subject of landscape. The paper will consider whether photography’s peculiar relation to time makes it a particularly appropriate medium to capture the spectrality of certain landscapes. It will also explore how might we begin to theorise the way in which latencies of the future are articulated by photographic images.
Derrida, J. (1998) Right of Inspection, translated by D. Wills. New York: Monacelli Press
Derrida, J. (2010) Copy, Archive, Signature: A Conversation on Photography, edited by G. Richter, translated by J. Fort. Stanford: Stanford University Press
Edensor, T. (2005) Industrial Ruins: Space Aesthetics and Materiality. Oxford & New York: Berg
Edensor, T. (2008) ‘Mundane Hauntings: Commuting through the Phantasmagoric Working-Class Spaces of Manchester, England’ Cultural Geographies 15 (3) 313-333
Wall, G. (2013) ‘Ghost writing: photographing (the) spectral north’ Visual Studies 28 (3) 238-248
(King’s College London)
In the nineteenth and early-twentieth century the haunting presence of ruins in the Italian landscape was central to theorisations of history and subjectivity. Canto IV of George Gordon Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1818), Charles Dickens’s Pictures from Italy (1846), Henry James’s Daisy Miller (1879) and Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva (1903) all circle around the ruin in order to express something about our experience of time. In this paper I create a dialogue between the literary texts and Sigmund Freud’s deployment of the ruin as a symbol of the human psyche. As we shall see, Freud continues in a Byronic tradition, situating himself as observer and writer of an interior mindscape. Freud’s archaeological metaphors are self-consciously situated in a literary context as his interpretation of Jensen’s Gradiva shows. In Childe Harold and Pictures from Italy, the focalisation of Italy is dependent upon the placement of the poet or writer within the landscape: much like the psychoanalyst, the writer self-consciously positions himself as archaeologist. In the later texts, James and Jensen destabilise this model: the narratives are heavily focalised through the male protagonists’ perspectives; the unknowability of the Italian ruin becomes symptomatic of the fundamental enigma of self and other.
However, in each of the texts under consideration, the ruin is both haunting symbol and unavoidable literalism, and this problematises the truth-claims put forwards by the authors. The Italian landscape becomes increasingly illusory: a function of British, American, or German subjectivity. The texts self-consciously address this; Italy is aporetic – the point at which realism flails and stutters to a halt. I argue that this points us towards a national problematic: in the early texts (prior to the Risorgimento) the domination of the Italian states by foreign powers is a key concern. In the later texts, it is the presence of tourists that threatens to undermine the reality of Italy. In the writings of these foreign authors, Italy fails to be itself – to be fully present. It is instead represented as spectral: a ghost of the past and of the future. In Pictures from Italy Dickens writes of the Italian people that,
Years of neglect, oppression and misrule have been at work, to change their nature and reduce their spirit; […] but the good that was in them ever, is in them yet, and a noble people may be one day, raised up from these ashes. The uncanny reappearance of the past within the present landscape – epitomised by the enduring presence of the ruin – is used as a way of conceptualising not only human subjectivity, but also nationalism. Each of the literary texts shows in a different way that national identity (Italian, German, American, British) is formed amongst the ruins: in a haunted liminal space, synonymous with ‘now’.