Archive for September, 2013

01
Sep
13

Strawberry Hill

I waked one morning, in the beginning of last June, from a dream, of which, all I could recover, was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle (a very natural dream for a head like mine filled with Gothic story).

– Horace Walpole, 1765.

 

I had the pleasure of visiting Horace Walpole’s estate at Strawberry Hill in Twickenham. The estate has been restored, and is a tourist attraction (mostly locals). Restorations are still being made to the building – his bedroom is one of the works-in-progress. Most other rooms such as the library and several bedrooms are restored. Here are some snaps:

 

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The Castle from the exterior.

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Restored stained glass in the castle’s windows. Note the Gothic arches.

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The Library. The arched frame swings outward, allowing people access to the books behind it.

 

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As part of the experience, I undertook a ‘Twilight Tour’ of the grounds. This is Margo, the director’s cat, who lives on the grounds. I thought it apt that we were joined by a black cat for a night tour of the grounds.

 

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The stained glass stuff.

 

 

 

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01
Sep
13

Gothic London

London in the summer time

Call me now, use the satellite

– Red Hot Chilli Peppers, ‘Emit Remmus’

Rather than flood this site with a mass of touristy pictures of London, I’ve decided to give this post a theme : Gothic London. London, to me, exemplifies Walpole’s notion of the fusing of ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’. Unlike cities such as Perth and Singapore, where I’ve spent lots of time in, London is a city that has such a rich history, possibly one of the richest in the world. And so it pleases me to present a ‘Gothic Tour’ of London, a host of things to see that might tickle the fancy of a person interested in Gothic stuff.

 

Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church

St Pancras Church, Euston Road

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Nestled in the heart of London, off Euston Road, is the St Pancras Crypt Gallery. An actual art gallery in a church. It is a short walk away from the Kings Cross/St Pancras station along Euston Road, on the way west to Paddington. You go around the side of the building and this is what it looks like from the outside. Exhibitions are held there from time to time. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed when I visited it, due to it being Bank Holiday Weekend. For information about exhibitions, check out the Gallery’s website here.

 

Cafe in the Crypt, St Martins in the Fields 
St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ, United Kingdom

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Nestled in the heart of Trafalgar Square, it’s easy to miss the cafe while walking past. It is directly opposite the entrance to the Portrait Gallery. Walking down a spiral staircase, you are transported into a different world…….

 

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Here, you can chill out in the confines of a restored church crypt and have a coffee, cake, and bask in the cafe’s gloomth.

 

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Inscriptions like these adorn the floors. Amazing. For more information, here is the cafe’s website.

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom
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The Museum has a host of stuff from medieval stuff to samples of Gothic architecture. Some exhibits I found particularly interesting:

 

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Sample of a Gothic arch. This is EVERYWHERE. Exhibit A – arches in Westminster Abbey:

 

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But I digress. More interesting exhibits in the V and A:

 

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The Ars Moriendi (Sixteenth century) – manual describing how people can have a ‘good death’.

 

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A Memento Mori head. You can’t see much from this picture because this exhibit is made of glass, but it is of a woman with a skull superimposed at the back of her head. To get a better idea, imagine Professor Quirrell/Voldermort’s grotesque double head – that is what this glass skull looks like.

 

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Sculpture of Death (Seventeenth Century). This one is interesting in that Death here wields a bow and arrow, and is dressed in shabby rags rather than the clichéd robe-wearing, scythe image of Death.

 

Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk, London, Greater London SE1 9DT, United Kingdom

 

This attraction deserves special mention because of the production that I caught – arguably one of his most ‘Gothic’ plays, Macbeth. The standing tickets were a steal at 5 pounds, and the production was one of the best I have ever seen. I caught an evening show at 7.30 pm, an apt time of day for the experience of the play’s dark subject matter.

 

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My picture is rather blurred, but this is Billy Boyd – who played Pippin in Lord of the Rings! I couldn’t recognise him at first with the excessive facial hair and makeup, but when he recited his lines his identity was unmistakable. His performance brought a slightly comedic turn to Banquo which I had never considered before. One scene that struck me was at the beginning of the play, right after the witches deliver their prophecies and vanish. Banquo and Macbeth then totter off stage, laughing the prophecy off as if it were a joke. It is a constant reminder to me about how live productions can introduce elements of characterisation that go beyond the lines written in a script.

 

So all in all, quite a bit to see in London by way of Gothic stuff. What one can see and experience is directly proportional to the amount of time one can spend – I’m sure I would have found more things to see if I had more time on my hands!

01
Sep
13

IGA 2013 Debrief : International Gothic Association Conference

I’ve just gotten back from a month in Europe, where I attended the IGA 2013 conference. It is a biannual conference that brings together the biggest names in Gothic scholarship from all over the globe in one location. Having attended mostly conferences pertaining to the disciplines of MEMS and Shakespeare studies, it was a welcome experience to meet up with individuals who are familiar with critics who have become household names in the discipline, academics such as Jerry Hogle, Fred Botting , Anne Williams, and David Punter.

 

The first keynote address was delivered by Fred Botting, who discussed the idea of the ‘Automaton’ in the Gothic tradition, and its relation to the concept of the ‘Double’, using examples such as the figure of the vampire, and utilising psychoanalytic theories.

 

The second keynote was delivered by Joan Hawkins from the University of Indiana. I had the opportunity to catch up with Joan on several occasions – she specialises in horror film, and worked closely with Carol ‘Men Women and Chainsaws‘ Clover in the past. Joan’s talk was on avant garde horror and art horror, providing a refreshing look at films outside the ‘canon’.

 

Sandra Vasconcelos from the University of Sao Paulo gave the third keynote, going beyond the traditional Anglo-centric paradigms of Gothic critique to address the concept of ‘Tropical Gothic’. It is interesting to see how Gothic critique is increasingly expanding to include literary traditions from countries such as Japan, Australia, Asia, and in this case, South America.

 

Other interesting papers were Kelly Hurley’s paper on hysteria and body horror, Christina Morin’s paper on Irish, pre-Otranto Gothic, Laura Kremmel’s paper on Gothic and 18th century medical theory, Kathleen Hudson’s paper on the role of the servant in 18th century Gothic texts, Anne Williams’ reading of Walpole as a hysteric, and David Punter’s examination of penetration and the human body.

 

All in all it was a great conference. Got to know lots of people doing contemporary and 19th century stuff, but not many with an interest in Gothic poetry and pre-Otranto stuff. If you happen to be a researcher and have an interest in these fields, do hit me up!




'horror': Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’.

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