Amsterdam | 2 February 2023, 9:30 – 17:00 | Oudemanhuispoort 4-6 (OMHP), room A1.18C
Organizers: Bart Mulderij and Marijke Valk (University of Groningen)
Open to: PhDs and RMA students; OSL members have first access.
Credits: 2ECs can be obtained by presenting a paper or submitting the final assignment (please see below for more details). NB: Credits can only be awarded to humanities ReMA and PhD students from Dutch universities.
Registration will open on 28 November 2022. NB: Should you encounter problems with the registration form, please try emptying your cache and/or signing up via a different browser. If the problem persists, you can register by emailing email@example.com with your name, affiliation, status (ReMA, PhD, other) and research school membership.
‘Lifting the Veil: Science, Superstition, and the Supernatural’ is a one-day symposium on Gothic interpretations of science and the supernatural, taking place in Amsterdam on 2 February 2023. The symposium will feature lectures by two keynote speakers, namely Dr Eleanor Dobson (University of Birmingham), author of Victorian Alchemy: Science, Magic and Ancient Egypt (2022); and Dr Evert Jan van Leeuwen (Leiden University), co-editor of Haunted Europe: Continental Connections in English-Language Gothic Writing, Film and New Media (with M.S. Newton, 2019). In addition, there will be two panels with presentations by students and early career scholars.
An increasing amount of scholarly attention is being paid to the interplay between science and the supernatural within fiction, predominantly concerning the emergence of occultism during the Victorian period as a reconciliation between the incomprehensible natural sciences and the familiar religious framework, and the tension between the Victorians’ desire to learn more about the world and being terrified of what they learned. Recent influential works on the topic include Ferguson’s article (2017) on the connection and overlap between the natural and occult sides of the scientific spectrum in Victorian occult fiction; Corcoran’s (2021) contextualization of the rise of spiritualism as a result of the technological advances that occurred during the nineteenth century and its influence on Gothic literature; and Kirland’s book (2021) on the influence of the horror within Gothic literature on modern video games. This growing body of scholarship also highlights promising avenues for future research, including interdisciplinary approaches – as shown by Kirkland’s literature/video games analysis – as well as Gothic and Victorian echoes in contemporary representations of science and the supernatural.
This symposium re-examines the role of occult elements in Victorian occult fiction novels as part of the cultural fear of the supernatural and spiritual. To this end, it intends to provide a new angle on (Victorian) Gothic and occult studies, by using canonical and non-canonical literary works to approach the Victorians’ fear of the natural sciences in a manner that emphasises the Victorians’ desire to control the unknown.
9:30 – 9:45 Welcome and Introduction
9:45-11:00 Keynote lecture 1
- Dr Eleanor Dobson: ‘Between Science and Magic: The Ancient Egyptian Occult in Fin-de-Siècle Fiction’
11:00-11:30 Coffee break
11:30-13:00 Panel 1
- Yuqi Khoo: ‘Neo-Victorian Reading of the Stereotypical Scientist in Riot’
- Karen D. van Minnen: ‘The Haunted Cocoon: Angst, Ghosts and Conspiracies’
- Marijke Valk: ‘“The Chimera of Magical Fascination”: The Representation of Alchemy in Victorian Occult Fiction’
14:00-15:30 Panel 2
- Shiyi Zhu: ‘“Do you think I am a hypocrite?”: Unveiling, Dramatizing and
Reconciling Identity Anxiety in MazM: Jekyll and Hyde’
- David Slot: ‘“You Bewilder Me” — Appropriation and Disavowal of the Grotesque
Body in George MacDonald’s Lilith and H. G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor
- Bart Mulderij: “‘Fear the Old Blood’: Victorian Anxieties in Bloodborne”
15:30-15:45 Coffee break
15:45-17:00 Keynote lecture 2
- Dr Evert Jan van Leeuwen: ‘Sociological Satan: Gaskell’s “Lois the Witch” (1859) and Victorian Class-Consciousness’
Dr Eleanor Dobson ‘Between Science and Magic: The Ancient Egyptian Occult in Fin-de-Siècle Fiction’ Dr Eleanor Dobson is a senior lecturer in nineteenth-century literature at the University of Birmingham, whose current work focuses on the reception of ancient Egypt in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This includes notions of the supernatural and the occult, particularly how these ideas operate at the edges of a range of scientific discourses, as well as Gothic genre, the natural world, gender and sexuality. Her most recent work, Victorian Alchemy: Science, Magic and Ancient Egypt (2022), focuses on science of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, specifically when it is seen to intersect with contemporary ideas about the supernatural or occult, charting these tropes forward into modern media, spotlighting particular nineteenth-century legacies.
Dr Evert Jan van Leeuwen – ‘Sociological Satan: Gaskell’s “Lois the Witch” (1859) and Victorian Class-Consciousness’ Evert Jan van Leeuwen is a University Lecturer in English-language literature at Leiden University. His research focuses on fantastic fiction and counter cultures from the eighteenth century to the present, which encompasses the Gothic aesthetic, Horror, and Science Fiction. One of his recent major works includes his work as a co-editor of Haunted Europe: Continental Connections in English-Language Gothic Writing, Film and New Media, which offers a comprehensive account of the British and Irish fascination with a Gothic vision of continental Europe, tracing its effect on British intellectual life from the birth of the Gothic novel, to the eve of Brexit, and the symbolic recalibration of the UK’s relationship to mainland Europe. Currently, he is focussing his research on the relation between social issues and fantastic fiction.
Students can obtain 2ECs by presenting a paper (see guidelines above), or by submitting a critical reflection (1400-1600 words, excl. bibliography) to firstname.lastname@example.org before 28 February 2023, 23:59. In their reflections, students should discuss one of the panels and/or keynote lectures in light of relevant secondary sources (at least five); they are also welcome to elaborate on how the panels relate to their own research interests. Credits can only be awarded to humanities ReMA and PhD students from Dutch universities.