While in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro evocatively engages with Victorian fin-de-siècle Gothic tales (especially those of Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood), the creative wellspring for his newest film, The Shape of Water (2017), pours from the Romantic period. It is Frankenstein meets melodrama (Thomas Holcroft’s A Tale of Mystery comes to mind), and it’s absolutely brilliant. Romantic Romanticists, this is definitely the movie you want to see for Valentine’s Day.
If your inbox looks anything like mine this first week of January, it’s flooded with advertisements for gym memberships, discounted vitamins, and fancy planners that “guarantee” you reach your goals. I started wondering when the idea of a New Year resolution became such a widespread cultural phenomenon. The Romantic period seemed like a likely point of origin, given the increasing emphasis on individual experience.
“New Year’s Eve,” one of Charles Lamb’s Elia essays published in the London Magazine in January 1821, does not prove my hypothesis. But it does express an interesting attitude toward the New Year.
The start of a new year seems like a good time for change, and I’m happy to announce that, as of today, Stephanie Edwards is taking over as Managing Editor of this blog.
It has been a privilege to work with so many brilliant colleagues during my time as Managing Editor, but I know the blog is in capable hands. I want to thank our bloggers for their hard work and our readers for their support.
Happy New Year, everyone!
[Trigger warning: suicide, mental illness, self-harm]
When Carrie Fisher unexpectedly passed away in December of 2016, I was inconsolable. It was the day after Boxing Day and I was sat around the kitchen table with my extended family when I started scrolling through Twitter and began seeing tweets announcing her death. My eyes immediately began burning with tears and, as another member of my family saw the news on their phone and the group began talking about it, I excused myself to the bathroom. As soon as I shut the door I began to sob uncontrollably and remained in that state just long enough for my family to not suspect anything, wiped my tears, and rejoined them. I joined the conversation my family was having about her death and participated like any “normal” person would – acknowledging the sadness of the death of a celebrity you did not know and then moving on. What I could not tell my family in that moment was that I did know Carrie Fisher; I knew her intimately and she knew me, even though we had never met. We had spoken many times throughout my twenty-seven years of life, although not necessarily in the traditional sense. Our conversations happened through books, films, interviews, through our experiences and through our persisting bodies, all of which are intertwined with our illnesses.
In the spirit of Rousseau, I must confess. I confess that I have always held what is probably a peculiar interest in a rather particular narrative genre. This genre might best be described (perhaps also in the spirit of Rousseau) as “scholarly autobiography.” It is not quite the dissertation, or thesis, itself. Many of us, I’m sure, are already all too familiar with that genre’s idiosyncrasies, conventions, and requirements. In any case, the dissertation properly belongs in the realm of scholarship. Yet, neither is it really the conception, or account, that we all have in our minds of where we see our scholarship positioning us in relation to ongoing conversations with colleagues, or within our field more broadly. Nor is it even how we imagine our work will evolve in the future. Nevertheless, this genre pertains precisely to the dissertation, itself. Moreover, it is a genre that all of us, as graduate students, are deeply invested in. I speak, in particular, of the stories surrounding our dissertations. Often these are autobiographical, but many times they also take on the aspects of history, fiction, even myth: from whence our interests came, how they shaped our decisions to become scholars, and how they continue to guide us along what may well be for many of us our own personal “Quest Romance.”
Although we normally discuss terror, horror, and the sublime in relation to early Gothic literature, I’d like to call our attention to another similar, but significantly distinguishable affect: dread. Dread is unique because of its future orientation, something we don’t normally talk about with the past-dominated Gothic. However, I’d like to present two readings of dread, in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) and MG Lewis’s The Monk (1796) to demonstrate how integral this expectant affect is to the genre.
…or is it simply a by-product of the Western influence?
I’ve been googling the term Gothic romance in the Balkans, and in certain Balkan countries, apart from getting the search results connected to the Gothic genre and how it came into existence, not much information appeared, specific to that part of the world, in literature, film or any other medium. I did, however, find articles and news reports of the Gothic as a lifestyle, fashion statement and part of the music genre, a “movement” that I belong to as well, but that is a story for a different post. In this post, I would like to focus more on the Gothic genre or the lack of its presence, other than the historical one, on the Balkan territory.
Dr. Nikki Hessell is a co-winner of this year’s NASSR/Romantic Circles Pedagogy Contest, as announced at NASSR 2017 in Ottawa. Nikki is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at the Victoria University of Wellington. She’s been kind enough to tell us about her submission and share some tips for graduate students on teaching Romanticism.
Dear Fellow Graduate Students,
I am posting the following statement of behalf of the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus.
“The NASSR Graduate Caucus echoes the statements made by the NASSR Advisory Committee and Executive Board regarding what has been occurring on the NASSR-L and supports their decision to disaffiliate from the listserv. We are working towards creating a more collegial space, both online and offline, for the Romantic graduate community. If you have any suggestions, or would like to contact the co-chairs directly, please email NASSRGradStudentCaucus@gmail.com. Please also keep in touch via Facebook (NASSR Graduate Student Caucus), Twitter (@NASSRGrads), and the NGSC Blog (www.nassrgrads.com).”
When an undergraduate professor assigned Roland Barthes and told me, “The Author Is Dead,”1 I heard with elation the clarion cry of burgeoning self-importance. I was no longer a measly high school student who naively derived literature’s meaning from the author’s personal psychology. No, no, I was a college student now and could refer to The Text as Ding an sich. In fact, by interpreting it, I was basically writing the darn thing! Reborn as a liberated reader, I ultimately heeded the call to become a literary critic myself.