Wednesday, 04 February 2015 17:20

GANZA 2015 Blog Post

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Last week, I was lucky enough to attend and present at the second biennial conference of the Gothic Association of New Zealand and Australia, themed 'Gothic Spaces: Boundaries, Mergence, Liminalities', held from 21st-22nd of January at the Novotel Darling Harbour, Sydney.

GANZA President Dr Lorna Piatti-Farnell opened the conference by posing an intriguing question: "Where is the Gothic hiding?" Over the next two days, a huge variety of wonderful papers were presented that each mounted their own unique scholarly expeditions to seek out the shadows in which the Gothic could be found lurking... But it turns out the Gothic is everywhere! It's on your TV and your movie screens. It's sitting on your bookshelf and hanging in your closet. It's in the walls of your house and the dark recesses of your mind, and, of course, it's the monster under your bed. This is exactly what a GANZA conference is all about; a bunch of researchers from different fields and at varying stages of their careers coming together to share their genuine love for all things spooky.

Following the opening address, Professor John Stephens from Macquarie University delivered the first plenary session of the conference. Professor Stephens presented a fascinating paper on the concept of cognitive mapping in the gothic topographies of children's literature and film, particularly in the iconic works of Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton. Day two also brought us another excellent plenary session, this time by Professor Paul Giles from the University of Sydney, who spoke on the idea of temporal prolepsis in various forms of Antipodean Gothic art and literature.

There were so many fascinating papers scheduled on both days it was certainly a challenge to choose which parallel sessions to attend, with many engaging in some sneaky panel-hopping to try to get a glimpse of all the researchers in action. Dr Lorna Piatti-Farnell delivered one of my personal favourites, a wonderfully animated paper drawn from her chapter in The Gothic and the Everyday: Living Gothic, which she edited in conjunction with Dr Maria Beville, on the spectral faces of Hallowe'en pumpkins. She made us all reconsider the humble ''jack-o-lantern'' and its peculiar origins in (terrifying) carved turnips. I can honestly say I will never look at a turnip in quite the same way again.

Now to digress from all the academic talk, I just have to mention the fabulous food the Association provided for us throughout the conference. Endless lunch buffets, delicious sweet treats, and a steady stream of hot coffee ensured our brains stayed switched on for every panel. The conference dinner at Adria Restaurant in Darling Harbour was a great way to end the first day with even more food and a few drinks (we were all very well behaved). Once the conference was brought to an official close, it was off to Sydney's oldest pub, the Hero of Waterloo, for one more night of Gothic themed frivolity with our newfound friends. The Association put on a hilarious Gothic pub quiz that ended with a tour of the pub's reportedly haunted cellars. Unfortunately there were no ghost sightings, but not for lack of trying because I'm fairly sure I heard a few muttered incantations from the crowd... Take a bunch of Gothic scholars to a haunted cellar in the dead of night after a few drinks and what else do you expect to happen!

On behalf of all the delegates, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the conference's tireless organisers, our gratitude to the Association's fearless leader Lorna who made each of us feel so welcome, and to everyone near and far who attended and made it such an inspiring and memorable experience. I hope I speak for many of my fellow attendees when I say I can't wait to do it all over again in Wellington, in 2017!


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