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GEOFFREY CHAUCER STUDENT SOCIETY

Department of Studies in Drama and Pre-1800 English Literature

University of Łódź

Student Conference

The Supernatural, the Fantastic and the Oneiric
Łódź, 6th November 2010

BOOK OF ABSTRACTS

From Nosferatu to Twilight. The Ever-Changing, Yet Invariably Appealing, Cinematographic Depictions of Vampires
Aleksandra Antosik, University of Łódź

antosik.aleksandra@gmail.com


With all the recent frenzy revolving around teen dramas from the Twilight saga and CW' TV series The Vampire Diaries, it appears only natural to mention the origins of vampire characters in popular fiction. Initially, vampires were brought into existence by the literary authors, among whom John William Polidori and Bram Stoker deserve special recognition. The former created the first vampire story The Vampyre, while the latter wrote Dracula, the most influential piece for the entire genre, thus providing an inexhaustible source of inspiration for film directors. At the beginning of the 20th century, owing to the technological advancements, Stoker’s novel was adapted into motion pictures.

The purpose of this paper is to analyse transformations of the vampire’s image from the earliest days of cinema to its present-day manifestations. Firstly, it is essential to note the conversion from Tod Browning’s or F.W Murnau’ s appalling, fearsome and repugnant version of the vampire to the current portrayal of sexually attractive, charming and seductive beings. Such an extreme alternation may appear to be introduced solely for commercial purposes. By contrast, a claim could be ventured that it reflects the intensifying obsession with capturing and immortalising one's youth.


It Was Your Decision.’ On the Metaphors of Vampiric Existentialism


Aleksandra Bubiło, Maria Curie-Sklodowska University

cydienne@hotmail.com


In “Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture,” Mary Y. Hallab wrote that “vampires address issues and attitudes about death and immortality that are meaningful in all times and places” (5).1 The aim of this paper is to analyze the nexus of immortality, death and sin as represented by means of selected cinematic and literary portraits of vampires and their existence within heterotopian American communities. Transgressing the border of clinical vampirism, pop culture villainy and widely understood inhumanness, vampires will be shown as complex creatures whose existence is marked by choices extrinsic to their supernatural ‘essence’, be it media- or folklore-molded. I will especially focus on Abel Ferrara’s ambiguous rendition of Nietzschean vampirism in the movie The Addiction, and the Darwinian Bildungsroman The Vampire Tapestry by Susan McKee Charnas, though other refigurations of the nocturnal predators will also be considered. Given vampires’ deeply-rooted cult status among monsters in the American (panic) pop culture, it is worthwhile to ponder how past and more neoteric examples of vampirism provide metaphors for the changing ideologies and discourses of, in the words of Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, “society dominated by its own violent implosion in loss, cancellation, and parasitism” (11)2.


Anthropomorphizing The Inanimate in The Hallucinatory Vision of Charles Dickens in a Christmas novella The Chimes
Bożena Depa, University of Warsaw

nenta@interia.pl


Dickensian prose is known for its picturesque and haunting style in setting depiction unveiling the oneiric and uncanny quality of the city of London. One of the most underrated Christmas Books, The Chimes, proves to be a excellent example of a new fairy tale portraying the pervasion of two spheres: the realm of fantasy and the truth. The narrator exposes the correlation between the disturbing vision of the animized metropolis and the protagonist’s hallucinatory fancy caused by his inner unrest and agitation, questioning the boundary between the dream and reality and the limits of perception. Despite the technical restraints of the seasonal miniature’ construction, Dickens succeeded in capturing the heroes’ psychology and the spirit of the city through the medium of anthropomorphizing the inanimate, employing the supernatural and implementing powerful, semantically loaded images of London corresponding well with the protagonist’s inner dilemmas. The narrative strategy balancing on the edge of dream and reality employed in the Carol does not only expose the creative skills of the novelist, but also the potential of the Chimes as a embryonic novel.


Provoked Madness, Staged Séances and Not-So-Supernatural Beings - Sarah Waters' Stripping the Victorian Era off Its Mysticism
Urszula Elias, University of Gdańsk

urszula.elias@wp.pl


My paper concerns two novels by Sarah Waters, a modern British lesbian writer - Fingersmith and Affinity. Both books are set in the Victorian England. The author recreates the Victorian world from the perspective of young lesbians from different strata of the English society - from a petty thief to an upper-class lady, from an imprisoned medium to a respected lady visitor. To a reader's surprise, Sarah Waters toys with conventions - not only she mocks the genre convention of a romance and a lesbian novel but also she deprives the Victorian setting of its mysticism. In the first novel, Fingersmith, one of the two main protagonists is locked up in a lunatic asylum. Yet, her madness is not a result of a mental disorder - the girl is utterly sane and her confinement is a result of a despicable plot. Mistaken for another person, miserable and abused, the girl plunges into lunacy. In the latter novel, Affinity, the main protagonist becomes intrigued and - later - obsessed with a female inhabitant of the Millbank prison who is believed to be a medium. Given evidence of the supernatural powers allowing the spiritualist to leave the Millbank bars at her whim, the heroine fantasizes about the prisoner and plans to flee with the medium to Italy. She is then brutally disillusioned in the course of action. My aim is to concentrate on the two title phenomena in Waters' books.


Psychoanalytic Comments on Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Maciej Grabski, University of Łódź

gdzie.twoja.kielbasa@gmail.com


Before they evolved into one of the most successful pop acts in the music market, the illustrious Genesis, led by a charismatic front man Peter Gabriel, found themselves merely on the fringes of mainstream. Gabriel’s peculiar sense of humor and his roundabout fashion of songwriting both left an indelible mark on the band’s early efforts and established Genesis as one of the most celebrated progressive rock acts of the early seventies. Gabriel’s knack for obfuscating reaches its glorious peak on the group’s 1974 album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a dreamlike tale of a punk named Rael, who travels through the subterranean New York in search of his missing brother and encounters a hatful of bizarre creatures in the process. The multifaceted story, a reputed variation on John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, may be seen as an elaborate bildungsroman, the action of which takes place in the main protagonist’s mind. The idea behind my paper is to show how certain themes and motives of Gabriel’s allegory go in accordance with Sigmund Freud’s theory of an individual’s psychological growth; how particular ideas and symbols belonging to the realm of fantasy may parallel the psychoanalysis-related phenomena, a correspondence which may, or may not have been accidental on Peter Gabriel’s part.


Fringe as a Modern Horror. The Theme of the Double and Other Gothic Elements
Anna Koronowicz, University of Gdańsk

anna.koronowicz@wp.pl


Fringe, an American television series created by J.J. Abrams, follows an FBI agent Olivia Dunham and her team solving criminal cases which involve supernatural elements. The series is heavily indebted to The X-files on the surface but it creates a mythology of its own. This paper focuses on the gothic elements in Fringe, especially on the theme of the double which is the prevalent motif of the series and shows how these elements are being used to create a modern horror.

The world of Fringe utilizes the theme of the double in the introduction of a parallel/mirror universe, where everything and everyone has a counterpart. A special brand of characters, called the shapeshifters, can transform into virtually anyone, becoming their evil twin. The second season ends with the main female character trapped in the parallel universe when her doppelganger takes her place.

Other gothic elements that Fringe uses include the mad scientist and suspicious experiments, supernatural beings, omens, prophecies and dark setting. All these elements, as well as the theme of the double, are approached with a twist.

Following the notion that the gothic usually focuses on the suppressed fears and emotions, Fringe can be regarded as the perfect example of 21st century gothic, focusing on the problem of identity and the fear that science may become the means of the world destruction.




Animals as an Inherent Part of Fantasy Settings
Katarzyna Kurzawińska, University of Łódź

kasia-katarzyna@gazeta.pl


This paper will concentrate on answering some fundamental questions concerning the motif of animals which is quite common and tends to reappear frequently - especially in fantasy literature. Some of the topics on which it will focus are: the bilateral dependence of the human kind on animals and the benefits which may be derived from living in symbiosis with nature; the place and meaning of animals in fantasy literature; the significance and symbolism of particular animals and the origin of this symbolism. The author will also make an attempt to review rhetorical devices which make animals become powerful and meaningful for specific stories. The literary works chosen so far for the main focus of the analysis are the Philip Pullman’s dark materials trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Reference to their film adaptations and some other literary works is also being taken under consideration.

Speaking the Unspeakable. Madness as a Way of Expressing the Taboo in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace
Milena Leszman, University of Gdańsk

milenaleszman@yahoo.com


Grace Marks, the novel’s protagonist is a servant who, accused of murdering her employer, is put in the Lunatic Asylum and subsequently subjected to various tests, including a seance, during which the doctors hope to find the truth about her life. In Alias Grace, the seance functions as a parody. Grace is accompanied by her Doppelgänger, who speaks through her body, uttering taboo words. In my paper I am going to study the way in which, using madness as an excuse for revealing the unspeakable, Atwood criticizes the Victorian society, in which the novel is set. At the same time, she polemizes with the psychonalytical feminism. Telling her tale, Grace constantly undermines the truth about her identity. As a madwoman, she is an unreliable narrator, yet it is only through her words that the doctors can find the truth. Grace’s autobiography is therefore put into question, as the heroine cannot be trusted. Through her madness, Grace gains an enormous power over her doctors and is able to manipulate the facts. Such approach leaves the reader haunted by the implication that within the maze of assumptions constructed by the heroine, it may be impossible to discover the truth about an individual all along.


Under the Cover of Fantasy – the Supernatural Convention as a Means of Playing with the Reader
Joanna Matyjaszczyk, University of Łódź

j.matyjaszczyk@interia.pl


It is obvious that the supernatural is used in many literary works not only for its own sake but it is there to serve some other purpose, such as, for example, evoking subconscious fears, exploring little-known or obscure parts of the human psyche (in the case of gothic stories) or functioning as a mirror, reflecting or sometimes distorting the human world to present its mechanisms, flaws, etc. (in the case of fairy tales). It is the author of the story who uses supernatural elements in these ways. But what happens when it is a character, especially the narrator who seems to play with the convention of a fairy tale or a gothic story for his or her own benefits? Can the supernatural function as a trap that this character sets for anyone who wants to get to know his or her true story? How does the reader's tendency to follow the well known schemes that these two conventions use make him so prone to deception and to taking what he or she reads for granted?

This paper is an attempt to illustrate (on the basis of “The Temple” by Joyce Carol Oates, “Werewolf” by Angela Carter and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats) the mechanism of the narrator using elements of the supernatural convention to hide some other story behind them, and to show how noticing the narrator's unreliability, which effects a change in our perspective, modifies the story or even reveals a completely new one, this concealed under the cover of the supernatural. The analysis focuses on how the narrators build the connection between their stories and fairy tales (in “La Belle Dame sans Merci” and “Werewolf”) or conventional gothic stories (in “The Temple”) and how the narration is carried out in such a way so as to give an impression of objectivity and reliability, yet also includes 'hints' left for the reader that suggest playing both with convention and narration.




Ghost Narrative: The Use of the Supernatural in Muriel Spark's Short Story “Portobello Road”
Marta Nowicka, University of Gdansk

emnowicka@gmail.com


The aim of this paper is to analyze Muriel Spark's employment of supernatural motifs, especially in her short story “Portobello Road” (1956). In Spark's text the ghost, Needle, is aware of her situation and can explore it. She is also able to possess objects, utter words and become visible under certain conditions. The paper compares Spark's ghost with that typical of Ghotic fiction. Further, the employment of a ghost as a narrator is considered and its implication for the narration/narrative of the text is discussed. Spark's narrational technique in this story is compared with that in “The Girl I Left Behind Me” (1957) and The Hothouse by the East River (1973). Spark's deployment of supernatural motifs is seen in the context of the author's metafictional concerns.


The Graveyard Society – Supernatural Beings in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book
Małgorzata Południak, University of Wrocław

malgorzatapoludniak@yahoo.com


Though the characters created by Neil Gaiman in his The Graveyard Book may seem rather traditional as they are mostly ghosts, which is a motif certainly not new in literature, it is interesting how they are portrayed and what functions they play in the novel. I will explore how the image of ghosts, vampires and werewolves is transformed by Gaiman to be alternative to the one that the reader may know from traditional stories. The position of these creatures in the world of The Graveyard Book and their characteristic features seem to influence the meaning of the story itself, and the aim of my presentation will be to find out what the function of ghosts, as well as vampires and werewolves in the novel is.

The detailed examination of the above listed creatures will be based on critical works concerning the traditional image of vampires, ghosts and werewolves in the literature and, hopefully, in fantasy in particular. By comparing the traditional image of such creatures to the ones created by Gaiman, my presentation will aim at investigating whether Gaiman’s novel fits the genre of horror fantasy with its alternative use of certain gothic elements.



The Fate to Rule Them All?
Jacek Rózga, University of Łódź

rozgaja@o2.pl


The primary concern of my conference paper will be the concepts of wyrd, fate and destiny in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and in some basic examples of the contemporary English fantastic literature. The paper will examine a few literary characters, whose lives best exemplify and illustrate whether fate and destiny indeed influence the characters’ choices and their way of acting, or whether fate and destiny are non-understandable entities against which characters are helpless and simply have to follow the path woven for them, without any option of free will and choice. The paper will concentrate on Shakespearean Macbeth as a tragic character whose life would have looked different if it had not been for the Wyrd Sisters’ prophecy that determines his future behaviour and choices. The paper will also treat with the prophecy from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and argue that it has a tremendous impact on the behaviour and deeds of certain characters, although it does not foolishly mislead the characters into their doom, but instead pushes them to using their reason and to action. The paper will in addition present J.R.R. Tolkien’s Children of Hurin, where the main character’s life is doomed by a fatal curse, and all his life choices are destructive either to his friends or to himself. The essay will examine the Lord of the Rings for the book has its concern with fate and destiny as well. Not only does the inscription on the One Ring constitute the fate of the Middle-earth and all its peoples, but also the prophecies made by some of the characters have causative powers over other. The paper’s main points will be centered upon the following thesis statement: ‘The character’s choices and decisions, their will and future are determined by wyrd, fate or destiny. Although the characters may try to lead a different life, they are unable to do it and, consciously or subconsciously, follow the paths of their destiny straight into the hands of destruction, which is not necessarily theirs.’

The Elven Worlds of Tolkien and Shakespeare: Elves in The Lord of the Rings and A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Alicja Rytel – Kuc, University of Łódź

alanis89@wp.pl


The aim of the presentation is to compare elves in The Lord of the Rings and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The paper will first of all address the issue of the origin, nature and development of elves as depicted in English literature. The speaker will present the difference between elves and fairies and compare the appearance of the creatures. Their usage of magical powers will be described as well, especially the reasons why they use magic. The speaker will also discuss the social position of elves among the races in Middle Earth as well as the internal hierarchies of the elven kingdoms. Elven women will be compared in The Lord of the Rings and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to show their position in Elfland. Such a comparison might prove interesting, as Tolkien’s female characters are not fully developed and seem rather static. The last part of the presentation will be a slide–show. It will be connected with modern fantasy literature, which has been inspired by Tolkien or Shakespeare.


Double Identities: New Scottish Gothic
Agnieszka Sienkiewicz-Charlish, University of Gdańsk

agsien@gmail.com


Arguably Gothic aesthetic has developed in Scotland in the 18th century as a result of two historical events: the Union between the parliaments of England and Scotland and the Jacobite Rebellions which followed. The Union resulted in the split in the Scottish society as some people supported the Jacobites; the others felt members of the Union and the British Empire. Gothic writers chose to address the nation’s identity crisis through the exploration of the theme of the double. One can name here such works as Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner as examples.

I would like to argue that at the end of the 20th century the Gothic mode is still very much alive in the Scottish literature with the writers turning again to Gothic aesthetics in order to explore the lost part of their nation’s identity.

The paper examines the theme of the double in contemporary Scottish Gothic on the example of Brian McCabe’s “The Host”, Ali Smith’s “The Hanging Woman” and Jackie Kay’s “The Woman with Fork and Knife Disorder.”


Predestination or Free Will? The Mechanism and Role of Prophecy in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth Cycle
Anna Standowicz, University of Łódź

anna.standowicz@o2.pl

Prophecy has always played an important role in the mythical hero’s life: his life and exploits are often foretold long in advance. As fantasy novels share many traits with myths, the same holds true for some of their protagonists. One of such protagonists is Richard Rahl, the main character of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth cycle.

The purpose of my presentation is to examine the mechanisms of written prophecy and prophetic visions about Richard, paying special attention to his own attitude towards it and its significance to his life. This, in turn, will enable me to analyze the dichotomy predestination – free will as presented in the novel.

Moreover, I would like to remark upon Richard’s resemblance to Jesus Christ, stemming mainly from the fact that the births and resurrections of both were foretold long before their times. It is immensely interesting to observe how both heroes act and react, knowing what future holds in store for them.

In sum, The Sword of Truth, a series of twelve novels written by Terry Goodkind, is a valuable source of insight into the matter of prophecy. The author often raises the issue of the relation between prophecy and the concept of human free will – one of the basic tenets of Christianity. In my paper I would like to examine this particular subject.




Fairies which Steal Children: A Comparative Analysis of Keith Donovue’s Novel The Stolen Child and the Poem “The Stolen Child” by William Butler Yeats
Justyna Szyma, University of Łódź

szyma.justyna@gmail.com


The presentation will focus on a particular type of magical creatures, namely faerie-changelings, which seem to appear in literature from time to time. I want to talk about the notion of fairies which take children away from the real world to other, mystical places. I will mention the difference between the picture of an average fairy and the image of its ‘children- stealing’ counterpart.

I will compare two depictions of such fairies, coming from two literary works – the poem “The stolen child” by W. B. Yeats and a novel of the same title written by Keith Donovue. Despite obvious connections between the two works, there are some differences between the image of a fairy as presented by Yeats and Donovue; these pertain to the name of these creatures, the way they make children disappear as well as the reasons for which they do it. The presentation thus comprises two parts, and its aim is to familiarize the audience with the picture of fairies that abduct children and to compare the two literary works on these grounds.


Diabolical Pacts – the Notion of Witchcraft and James I’s Daemonologie
Agata Wachowska, University of Łódź

agata_wachowska@o2.pl

Witchcraft, as refuted and disregarded as it is contemporarily, was given careful consideration as far as in ancient cultures of Egypt and Babylonia. It is mentioned a number of times in the Bible and has been studied by theologians for centuries. The aim of this paper is to elaborate on the definition of witchcraft which is anchored in the Bible. It also seeks to present how this issue was approached in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in England, as these were the times of severe persecution of witches and so-called “witch hunts.” The basis for analysis will be Daemonologie by king James VI & I, which exemplifies the prevailing beliefs. I hope to outline James I’s justification for addressing the issue and his methods of persuading the readers of his convictions. Furthermore, the paper attempts to mention how the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas as presented in Summa Theologica could be applied to James I’s vision of witchcraft.


What Makes a Dwarf Dwarfish? Depiction of Dwarfs in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series
Maciej Wieczorek, University of Łódź

dirvinho@gmail.com


This paper will seek to analyze the depiction of the dwarfish race in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, with the main focus placed on the novels Thud! and The Fifth Elephant. Dwarfs were frequently described in literature throughout the ages, and the presentation will attempt to retrace and compare certain recurrent themes connected with dwarfs. The texts consulted include selected works of the Norse mythology, including the Völsunga Saga as well as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion, with an additional choice of fragments from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In this paper, I will discuss a number of the most frequently discussed issues associated with the dwarfs, including: the presentation of dwarfish women based on the Discworld character of Cheery Longbottom, the love for gold and mining, their natural enemies and a few others. I will also try to prove that despite the fact that certain changes took place in the way dwarfs were described throughout the centuries, the depiction of this ancient race remains largely unaffected, with a few aspects being constantly referred to.


Four Hobbits and Accent Diversification in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Magdalena Zając, University of Łódź

zajac1234@gmail.com


One of the remarkable characteristics of human language is that it may be used both to express one’s identity as well as to identify others. An element instrumental in this application of language is accent; a feature of speech that can prove incredibly revealing. It can give away information about one’s age, gender, place of origin or the social class one belongs to. It can be used as a means of manifesting one’s affiliation with a certain group or community. The manner in which one speaks can also have a significant bearing on the way in which one is perceived by others. Regardless of what features of character one actually possesses, speakers of some accents are considered to be more reliable and hard-working, while speakers of others are often looked upon as more gregarious and amiable. Hence it is no wonder that pronunciation frequently plays a vital role in cinematography, and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is no exception. It is a film trilogy that makes considerable use of accents to enrich character portrayal, the case of the four hobbits, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, being especially interesting. Since their speech in Tolkien’s books does not seem to be diversified as far as pronunciation is concerned, the filmmakers were at liberty to assign them with any accents they saw fit. As a result, even though belonging to the same race, the four hobbits’ speech appears to be largely dissimilar. The aim of this presentation is to identify the different accents with which they speak in the film trilogy, as well as to investigate how their pronunciation reflects their personalities and corresponds to the roles they play in the story.


1 Hallab, Mary Y. Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture. NY: State University New York Press, 2009.

2 Kroker, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker. Body Invaders: Panic Sex in America. New World Perspectives, CultureTexts Series, Montreal: New World Perspectives, 2001.



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