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The Far Side of English

The Far Side of English



Ana González-Rivas Fernández

"When classical myths meet Gothic: the case of Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus"

Throughout the course of history, the Gothic has been regarded as opposite to the classical. However, the relationship between the two concepts is not as simple as it might appear at first sight. In this workshop we will first analyse how the tension between the classical and the Gothic developed, considering concepts such as the “sublime” and the “grotesque”. We will then examine the particular case of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus (1818-1831), which updates different classical myths, now interpreted from a Romantic point of view. We will also demonstrate how Shelley revisits the Greek tragedy from the new narrative framework of the novel, a change of literary genre that likewise contributes to the modern adaptation of the classics. At the end of the workshop, we will have proven how the Gothic and the classics work side by side when it comes to infusing terror in the reader.


Christos Angelis

“Gothic and Science-Fiction in the 21st Century: Zombies, Conceptual Monsters, and Vengeful Singularity”

The Gothic and Science Fiction have had a long evolutionary voyage that has brought significant changes in terms of style, setting, characters, and content in general. Monstrosity in particular seems to have entered a long, ongoing process of redefinition, the results of which are unclear. What once was a straightforward – albeit threatening – monster in the form of a werewolf, a vampire, or a Lovecraftian entity, has become over the years a figure that does not seem to be described by the same definitions of monstrosity or otherness. In this workshop we will attempt a look into the future, analyzing the complex dynamics of 21st-century monsters, particularly in terms of otherness and reality. Among others, we will study the zombie figures in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One (2011), and the conceptual monsters of Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts (2007). We will also talk about artificial intelligence and the thought experiment known as “Roko’s Basilisk”.


Susanne Ylönen

“From the Childish to the Sublime: Mapping the Aesthetics of Horror”

The landscape of horror includes monsters of different kinds and the experiences we face when venturing into this landscape likewise range from looming apprehensiveness to acute dread and agitation. In the field of aesthetics the experience of horror, or art horror, has been discussed through terms such as the sublime, the uncanny and the grotesque, but in contemporary children’s culture monsters are also often made cute, or cutified, which calls for an even wider range of terminology. In my PhD research, I have mapped the aesthetics of horror within children’s culture by arranging terms from fields as diverse as psychoanalysis, aesthetics, semiotics and the social sciences into a three-part topography. This topography consists of elevating, beautifying and degrading approaches that I discuss under the headings of aesthetic sublimation, aestheticization and aesthetic sublation. As such, this map forms a heuristic tool for navigating the landscape of horror, while paying attention to the discursive choices and performative aims that we follow when sharing horror stories with each other. Childish, cute monsters affect us differently than the faceless spirits of gothic novels or the masked killers of slasher films, but they are still part of an aesthetic scale, which serves our appetite for the strange and the frightening.



Per Klingberg

 “On Monstrous Mothers And Unsettling Nursery Tales: A Discussion of Lucy Clifford’s ‘The New Mother’”

Victorian writer Lucy Clifford’s short story “The New Mother” (1882) is as unsettling as it is hard to immediately classify. Is it a typical cautionary tale of the 19th century or a prime example of weird fiction avant la lettre? The protagonists of the story, the children Blue-Eyes and Turkeys, are tricked by an enigmatic girl into behaving so badly that their loving mother threatens to abandon them, sending a monstrous new mother in her stead, with glass-eyes, claws and a wooden tail. Convinced that this is a mere threat from their mothers’ side, the children persists in their disobedience, only to find out that it was all too true. She leaves them to their fate: and when night falls, the new mother arrives to the cottage. Terrified, the children flee into the surrounding forest where they live out the rest of their days, abandoned and afraid.
Long a largely forgotten story, “The New Mother” has been the subject of a critical and academic reappraisal during the last decades. In their readings of the work, interpreters such as Alison Lurie and Anita Moss highlights what they view as the subversive nature of the work. There is, however, a harmonizing tendency common to these modern readings that makes them problematic: by trying to fully explain or reduce the bizarre elements of the story, these interpretations are not able to account for the fundamental strangeness of the work. This paper, then, seeks to discuss an alternative ways of reading the story.



Nicholas Wanberg

“The Re-Grooming of Chewbacca: The Force Awakens as a Revisionist Narrative”

Chewbacca, from the Star Wars series, has been seen by many commentators as a Tanto figure, the primitive, racialized sidekick who accompanies the white male hero on his adventures. It is easy to see why this would be the case. Chewbacca is frequently associated with primitivism in the original trilogy, from his appearance and dress or his propensity for physical (typically unarmed) violence. While other's blasters are modeled after pistols or even machine guns Chewbacca's blaster uniquely resembles a crossbow, further emphasizing his use of tropes of primitiveness. Even his language is comprised of aminal-like noises, which the audience can only recognize as being language at all by the reactions of other characters. Likewise, he is a fairly passive character, never making contributions which might change the plot (except in conjunction with Han) and spending most scenes in the background. Being primitive, of course, is not necessarily a wholly negative trait in the Star Wars universe, where Ewoks trump high tech imperial troops and the main protagonists have weapons more akin to swords than guns, but Chewbacca's portrayal is that of a modestly ineffectual character, rather than a superpotent one like the jedi. His brief appearance in the prequel movies only further reinforces these trends. The most recent film, however, The Force Awakens, works against this precedent, showing the way fictional works can act from within the canon of existing franchises to resist problematic tendencies already present in the series. In the latest movie, Chewbacca takes a more active role, talking back to his white superior with implied wit and even contributing plans. His crossbow-like blaster, meanwhile, is recast as a superior, rather than an inferior weapon, something to be envied by the other characters.


Yuan Jiang

“The Three Body Problem and Chinese Science Fiction”

The Three Body Problem,  a science fiction trilogy written  by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin,  is widely  acclaimed by  readers and recognized as the best science  fiction  in China. It tells a story about alien invasion of earth triggered by an accidental interstellar communication during the Culture Revolution.  In 2014 it was introduced to the west by  Chinese-American  science  fiction  writer  and  translator  Ken  Liu.  Gaining widespread popularity among the western readers, the English translation of this book won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Science fiction, as a literature genre, does not have  much respect in China.  Early  Chinese science fiction was born at the end of the Qing dynasty, around 1903 to 1912. At this period, Chinese writers and translators mainly adapted foreign science fictions such as  Jules Verne's  Journey to the Centre of the Earth  into Chinese.  Following the collapse of the Qing-dynasty in 1911,  China's earliest purely literary periodical,  Story Forest, not only published translated science fiction, but also original  works. After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, science  fiction  became  a  tool  for  popularizing  scientific  knowledge,  and  its  main intended readers were children.  During the Cultural Revolution very little literature was published  and science fiction  basically  disappeared in mainland China. In 1979, a newly founded  magazine  Scientific  Literature  began  publishing  translations  and  original science fiction.  Since  mid-1990s, Chinese science fiction experienced a renaissance. With the success of The Three Body Problem, Chinese science fiction may has a brighter future. 


Ana González-Rivas Fernández

“Questioning the supernatural: telekinesis, haunted houses and hypotexts in Bulwer Lytton's The Haunted and the Haunters; or the House and the Brain

Pliny the Younger’s letter about ghosts (Plin. Ep. 7, 27, 5-11) (1st- 2nd century A.D.) has found a wide reception in Gothic literature, where it has been revived in different ways. In Bulwer-Lytton’s The Haunted and the Haunters (1859) Pliny’s text is again present in form as well as in content, thanks to a process of literary updating that works at different levels of the narrative scheme (the narrator-narratee dialogue, physical and temporal space, the description of the ghost, the fears of the victims, the protagonist’s reaction, and the resolution of the conflict). As this conference will demonstrate, in this example of intertextuality Pliny’s letter ceases to be a mere literary source to become part of a modern literary convention, showing then how intertextuality may function through a complex system of connections and embrace areas that go beyond the text itself.


Sari Piittinen

“Monsters and Others in the Post-Apocalyptic Digital Game World of Fallout 3

The Gothic and Science-Fiction are highly influential to storytelling in digital games. In the digital game Fallout 3 (Bethesda Game Studios 2008) the Gothic and Science-Fiction are intertwined in the creation of new types of monsters and “others”. By focusing on the monsters and “others” in the game I aim to investigate the influence of complex Gothic connotations and how the Gothic effectively functions together with Science-Fiction in digital game stories. My paper provides an interpretative analysis of a digital game by employing the method of close reading from the field of game studies. Data for the study has been collected from repeated plays of Fallout 3, consisting of screen captures and notes, and analysed drawing on theories of the Gothic. The results of the study show that characters that are mutated into “others” are treated as monstrous by humans and are victims of injustice. The results also support the argument that monstrosity is socially constructed. The study highlights the continuing relevance and potential of the Gothic and Science-Fiction in a relatively new medium of storytelling: digital games. As the popularity of gaming grows, so does the cultural significance of digital game storytelling. While only one game is analysed here, insights gained from this study can be applied more generally to theories of the Gothic and Science-Fiction particularly in digital games, as many of the themes are universal to games.


Kaisa Kortekallio

“Ending the World of Humans. Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach and Timothy Morton’s Dark Ecology

Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy (2014) creates a world outside the world of humans. It describes human efforts for controlling both the environment and their selves, and evokes nonhuman powers that annihilate those efforts. These aspects of the trilogy can be considered apocalyptic. However, unlike some of the classics it has frequently been compared to – Strugatsky brothers’ Stalker, Stanislav Lem's Solaris, J. G. Ballard’s zone novels and H. P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror – the trilogy does not constitute a defeatist ethos. Instead, it turns away from anthropocentric misery and opens up to the forces of nonhuman Life.
Southern Reach has most commonly been received as “ecologically minded Weird fiction”. The context of Weird fiction provides rich potential for the interpretation of both VanderMeer's work and certain posthumanist styles of nonfiction – in this case, the dark ecology of Timothy Morton. Weird fiction, as well as the contemporary movement of New Weird, is most often characterized by its evocation of a sense of dread, cosmic awe, or terror (Miéville 2009, VanderMeer 2008). Like the writers of Weird tales, Morton insists that the real is permeated by strange and awesome processes. In his writings, he also evokes the effect of the “everyday sublime” with literary techniques typical to the Weird: cognitive estrangement, evocation of material monsters, foregrounded nonhuman agency, grotesque proportions, and a strategic reversal of subject-object relations where the first-person human narrator becomes a “litmus test for hyperobjects”.
In the presentation, I consider how these estranging techniques are used to develop a sensitivity to more-than-human environments. I suggest that the Weird and apocalyptic aspects of the trilogy contribute to a posthumanist conception of life – starting from the assumption that the end of the world of humans has already happened.


Quentin Davis

“The Monsters of The Mind in Horus Rising: The Seeds of Heresy are Sown

The grotesque contradicts what is natural and “correct” with unnaturalness and blends elements that do not fit together (Perttula 2011, 35). This makes such occurrences distasteful to the reader. In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, we are dealing with issues of technological advancement and bioethics, which cause wariness, disgust, revulsion and a fear of maltreatment of others.
This presentation will explore the concept of the monsters of the mind in Horus Rising: The seeds of heresy are sown. The text contains numerous, challenging moral dilemmas that challenge our own perception of what is right and wrong, by disrupting our logical thinking and forcing us to accept viewpoints and concepts that clash with our own rationality.

It is imperative that we evaluate our own perception of technology, ethics and morality, as these are becoming evermore intertwined. We must ask ourselves to what extent are we willing to encroach on our humanity in favour of technological advancement? Is it acceptable to impose technology and empirical doctrine on those not willing to accept them? If we do not come up with definitive answers to these questions, our humanity may succumb to the monsters of our minds.                                        


Elizabeth Oakes

“Gendered representations of the monstrous in two Phillip K Dick novels”

Taking Alys in Flow my Tears the Policeman Said and Palmer Eldritch in the Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch as case studies, this research examines how Phillip K Dick represents female and male monstrous characters at the linguistic and symbolic levels. Both characters are particular types of monstrous others, Alys through virtue of the distance of her deviation from norms and Palmer Eldritch through cybernetic enhancement and later possession by an alien entity. While the nature of their monstrosity affects the representation of each character, there does seem to be a gendered element, especially when viewed against the background of Dick's larger body of work.
This research attempts to illustrate the gendered nature of Alys and Eldritch's representation by asking what semantic fields and syntactic structures other characters employ when speaking about them, how they are represented through the focalizer, and what linguistic patterns characterize their own representations of self? Special attention is paid to the symbolic associations of the semantic fields characteristic of each character.
Though the representational patterning for both characters is complex, it can be broadly stated that Alys's monstrosity derives from a fear of chaos as void while Eldritch's monstrosity functions as the embodiment of a corrupt social system or the collective dark side of a society's consciousness. The fears which they comprise and the linguistic patterns associated with each character reflect a particular understanding of gender and illustrate the gendering of taboo.


Leena Vuolteenaho

“Christian and Buddhist Immortality Narratives in ‘Doctor Who’”

Encounters with aliens, travel through time and space, groundbreaking medical innovations, even eternal life – in science fiction, the sky’s the limit. The genre is particularly well-suited for thought experiments regarding the effects of new technology or other currently unattainable possibilities on human nature and the human condition. Thanks to the narrative and conceptual freedom allowed by the conventions of the genre, science-fiction stories can explore the ethical implications of phenomena not encountered in present-day reality – such as immortality – as if they were a human possibility. In my PhD research project, I describe the immortality narratives found in Christian and Buddhist ethics – what kind of stories the religions tell about immortality, with a focus on its ethical implications – and then examine the ways in which these Christian and Buddhist narratives can be seen in the British science-fiction television series “Doctor Who” and in the way in which the series addresses the ethics of immortality. My presentation focuses on the 2015 “Doctor Who” episode “Heaven Sent”, which combines science-fiction and Gothic/horror elements into a kind of nightmarish “Groundhog Day” variation, with both Christian and Buddhist ingredients prominently featured. By examining the episode, I offer an overview of what constitutes the Christian and Buddhist immortality narrative, respectively, as well as what the general immortality narrative of “Doctor Who” entails, how it echoes those of Christianity and Buddhism, and what the episode in particular says or suggests about immortality. The research is conducted within the discipline of English philology, and also utilises tools and methods from theology and religious studies, social ethics, narrative studies, and film/television studies.


Jani Ylönen

“Engineered for Monstrosity”

While Emiko in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009) and Carl Marsalis in Richard Morgan’s Black Man (2007) appear human by their physical appearance, they are classified as monsters in the worlds  of their novels. As genetically engineered  beings, who were made to service the humankind in various roles from soldiers  to sex slaves, the reasons for this  categorization  are mostly hidden in their  DNA.  Nevertheless,  they  are  used  to  define  humanity  in  the  future  of  these  SF  novels  in similar  fashion  as  has  been  done  with  monsters  throughout  history.  Correspondingly,  they  also exhibit  potential  for  examining  the  borders  of  human  and  non-human  and,  in  addition,  ethical questions specific to the contemporary society.
In my presentation  I will examine Carl and Emiko through the frameworks of  monster theory and feminist posthumanism. Using the works of such scholars as Rosi Braidotti and Elaine L. Graham I will  discuss  how  these  characters  are  categorized  as  monsters  and  how  are  these  definitions connected  to  the  way  the  transgress  different  boundaries.  I  will,  for  example,  analyze  how  their Otherness is constructed in connection to technology and gender. The focus will be on matters such as how their engineered backgrounds draw attention to reconfiguration of human and non-humanthat is currently occurring in the world around us and will no doubt accelerate in the future.
One  of  the  central  hypotheses  is  that  Emiko  and  Carl  represent  a  division  between  the  values  of essentialist  humanism  and  the  movement  towards  posthuman.  They  represent  fears  caused  by technological advancement, but also the hopes for the disintegration of the traditional categories.


Muutettu: 19.4.2016 10.07 Muokkaa

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