Review: Werewolves, Wolves and the Gothic

Excellent review by Scott that expertly analyses the stand out essays and themes of the collection.

The Dark Arts Journal

Werewolves, Wolves  and the Gothic

Edited by Robert McKay and John Miller. (Wales: University of Wales Press, 2017. 272 pages). ISBN 9781786831026

The eleven essays in McKay and Miller’s Werewolves, Wolves and the Gothic focus on a creature that has already been analysed critically in a number of texts in terms of the social anxieties it represents—i.e. class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. According to the introduction, Werewolves is meant to offer a new perspective through the lens of the “ecoGothic,” where werewolves and wolves are both regarded as “perpetrators” and “subjects” of violence as a consequence of past extinction and current rewilding efforts (5). As a centralizing idea, it’s a lot to bite off, even for a “my-what-big-teeth-you-have” sort of monster, resulting in a collection that contains some profound insights and originality, but also instances where more chewing is needed for digestion.

Certain essays stand out in terms of…

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OGOM Migration Announcement

Dear followers,

We have been migrating the Open Graves, Open Minds website and blog to our own OGOM domain name (where we had our original website). This makes us easier to find through the more memorable domain name and allows more control over the content and appearance.

If you have subscribed to us with the WordPress ‘Follow’ button, you should have been transferred to the new site and still receive email alerts. If this hasn’t worked, you will have to subscribe again on the new site; if this is the case, we do apologise, as we do for any other inconvenience this has caused.

Bill, Sam, and Kaja

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L’Abbe Bordelon’s ‘Monsieur Oufle’ on Radio 4 Extra

There is currently a radio adaptation of Abbe Laurent Bordelon’s A History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies of Monsieur Oufle (1710) on the BBC iPlayer. In the story, the eponymous M. Oufle, a believer in the supernatural and reader of works such as Jean Bodin and Henri Boguet (both of who wrote about lycanthropy), is so influenced by what he has read that he believes he has transformed into a wolf. Chantal Bourgault Du Coudray suggests in The Curse of the Werewolf; Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within that the ‘principal message of Bordelon’s novel, then, is that all that is published is not necessarily true, and that the cultivation of an independent and critical approach to reading and learning is therefore essential’ (p. 13).This interpretation does not entirely encompass  the difficulties faced by Enlightenment scholars when reading earlier non-fiction accounts of lycanthropy, often by religious men. Bordelon embodies contemporary concerns regarding the relationship between fiction, non-fiction, subjective truth and imagination. His account of M. Oufle’s episode of lycanthropy, apparently brought on by an over-active imagination, makes early Medieval accounts of werewolves symbolic of the superstition of previous generations.

Bordelon’s tale is delightfully hilarious and it is possible to hear echoes of the character of M. Oufle in Richard Thomson’s ‘The Wehr-Wolf’ (1828), one of the earliest examples of the werewolf story in the English language.  The narrative contains the character of a pompous doctor who is scratched by a suspected werewolf and is convinced that he has become one himself.




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Review of ‘Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter’

The New York Times has reviewed the new television programme Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter (2015-) which is appearing on the channel Adult Swim.

It looks like a great show for the festive season as our brains get addled by excessive food and drink.

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CFP – Haunted Studies: The Ghost Stories of M. R. James, 19 March 2016, The Leeds Library

The Victorianist: BAVS Postgraduates

Haunted Studies: The Ghost Stories of M. R. James – a one-day conference at The Leeds Library, 19 March 2016

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Ramsay Campbell
Jacqueline Simpson
Andrew Smith

The ghost stories of Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) are amongst the most influential in the English language. Never out of print, they have been adapted numerous times for stage, screen and other media and their formal and thematic features have come to embody the very model of the traditional English ghost story. Although widely read and tremendously influential, his stories have only recently begun to attract detailed academic attention.

Following the successful symposium, M.R. James and the Modern Ghost Story, held at the Leeds Library in March 2015, we are excited to announce a second one-day conference bringing together researchers with an interest in James’s fiction, assessing the significance of James’s ghost stories from a range of theoretical, literary and historical…

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Gothic Blooms: The Dark Sunflower


Following my post on Bloody and Monstrous Flowers. I thought I would picture my gothic sunflower. I have grown black tulips in the past but this is much more beautiful and surprising. I have commented on flowers that are thought of as monstrous in my book. These often include artificial hybrids, double blooms, freakish colours and out of season flowering. There is no denying that there is also a terrible beauty to be found in such luxuriants and this black/purple sunflower is  stunning….darkness made visible.

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Wolf Alice Late at the Library


There is a Late at the Library Fairy Tale and Wonderland Event at the BL on 21st November which looks really magical. You can see a performance of Wolf Alice and take part in some scarily dark adventures through mirrors and looking glasses when Alice and her mirror image Alice explore their darker sides in a funny and gently disturbing piece by acclaimed performance artists Cocoloco. Poetic and just a little naughty. Adjoa Andoh peforms Wolf-Alice, the brilliantly gothic, twisted short story by Angela Carter with live illustrations by Gabi Froden. I really want to go to this….

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Bloody and Monstrous Flowers: These Tulips Should Be Behind Bars


There has been a lot of discussion about Poppies recently in relation to remembrance. I was outed as a botanist by a  journalist in The Independent  at the OGOM Company of Wolves conference because of my earlier work Botany, Sexuality and women’s writing, 1760-1830, from Modest Shoot to Forward Plant and I do still have a contract with Reaktion for a book on the Secret Life of the Tulip. Though I can’t imagine completing this any time soon, I do get asked what unites the different strands of my research (vampirism, botany, etc.). Well this poem for one! There is a connection to the wreathes of poppies as the tulips become ‘red sinkers’,  around the neck.   I’ve always been fascinated by the dark and bloody  imagery of these tulips. They are ‘excitable’, vampiric, tongued and monstrous, they eat up the ‘oxygen’ and they ‘should be behind bars like dangerous animals’. There is something of the medical or body gothic here too that I like so much in the work of Tracy Fahey.

The poet is a patient in a sanatorium ‘swabbed’ clean of her ‘loving associations’ and attended by nurses and anesthetists. In a nightmare vision of drowning, ‘bright needles’ and recovery, the unwanted ‘too red’ tulips speak to the redness of the body’s wounds. Open mouthed and vivid, they turn to gaze on the faceless, shadowy woman they obliterate.  I have been thinking about this poem recently in relation to our Books of Blood project (which is going to have a poetry strand). I wanted to post it in celebration of that and of gothic flowers everywhere. I find it remarkable, scared and bare, the word play (‘stupid pupil’), the uncompromising darkness (‘I didn’t want any flowers’), the wilful loss of self (‘I have no face’), there are no words for how good a poet Plath is. I guarantee you will never see tulips in the same way again.

‘Tulips’ (Sylvia Plath)
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage——
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free——
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.


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The Cinematic History of Fake Blood

Claret, the red stuff, gore, ichor, life fluid, strawberry jam, protesters free-bleeding at the gates of parliament. It seems like blood is everywhere. Pertinent given the conversations that I have been having with Sam regarding the Books of Blood project on which she is currently working.

Later this year, I’m hoping to catch the Blood exhibition at the London Jewish Museum. Whilst at the Globe (where I moonlight), the season has ended and I am watching the red stains fade from the stage. Spilt by countless tragic heroes and malignant villains, these remains tell the story of what has been. In 2014, so many arteries were opened during Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus that the production got the reputation for leaving them fainting in the aisles. The sight of blood and the opening of the body has an intense affect on the viewer.

Of course making convincing blood is a lot harder than you might think. And to prove this the people at have made ‘The Cinematic History of Fake Blood’, a video that gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to mixing up believable blood. It’s not for the faint of heart.

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Gothic Doubling and the Double, Gothically by Katherine Bowers

Over on the Facebook site, Bill has shared this very interesting article about the Double as a Gothic trope. Written by Katherine Bowers, ‘Gothic Doubling and the Double, Gothically’ looks at Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Double (1846) and how it has been reproduced and, as it were, doubled in films.

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