The Phenomenology of New Myths and Places within Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’
Despite all the mathematical artefacts that now surround us, the world in which we find ourselves before we set out to calculate and measure it is not an inert or mechanical object but a living field, an open and dynamic landscape subject to its own moods and metamorphoses.(Abrams: 1996)
Distinct from more traditional historically objective hauntings, the dynamic landscape of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is not reliant upon invoking the memory of a desecrated ancient Indian burial ground or the traumatised spaces of abandoned asylums. Instead, Gaiman created an original narrative centred on his personal experience of the labyrinthine London Underground. Occupied by those forgotten by the real world, Neverwhere offers an alternative dimension in London Below that nevertheless remains rooted within the context of existent details and names of underground stations. Gaiman hints at the hidden truth of the genesis of these names that subconsciously bleeds through to London Above – is there an Angel called Islington? Constructing unique legends specific to each location, Gaiman’s narrative invokes a phenomenological perspective which recognises places in possession of their own agency, ‘phenomenology would seek not to explain the world but to describe as closely as possible the way the world makes itself evident to awareness’ (Abrams 1996).
Jayce Lewis: Subcultural synaesthesia & the music video
The experience of music and sound historically has been perceived in relation to the performance of the musician. Yet, with the invention of recorded sound an abstract perception of music as a purely aural experience has dominated.
Arguably the music video is an additional layer that permits the artist to represent their music visually. Jayce Lewis illustrates this relationship between music and video within the subcultural context of heavy metal. Lewis is unusual as an artist in his ubiquitous involvement with all aspects of his work. It is this intimate relationship that makes the content of his videos in relation to the music especially pertinent.
The Dread of Difference: Subcultural Semiotics and Identity
The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things to support and agree with it. (Bacon, F ‘Novum Organum’: 1620)
Subcultures and mainstream culture have a conflicting yet symbiotic relationship; each relies on the other to exist, yet they are fundamentally opposed to each other. Due to the very conscious and deliberate decision to reject sanctioned visual media, subcultures occupy a distinct position in relation to mass media and its influence. Specifically, this lecture will question some of the common assumptions regarding the representation of subcultural communities, and highlight the broader cultural influence of these representations.
Visual media is central to how we represent, make meaning, and communicate in the world around us. Therefore, as cultural practitioners it is crucial to develop a more sophisticated understanding of how these images are used to communicate; what they intend to represent; who they are directed toward; and how they are received.
Wearing Things: Bodies, Corpses and Cadavers
‘Materialistic’ is often considered an insult, if a person is seen to be too attached to their things they are deemed shallow or superficial. Somehow, we believe that a relationship to things comes at the expense of a relationship with people. The development of civilisation throughout organised religion, scientific enlightenment and the industrial revolution catalysed a developing and increasingly complex guilt felt relationship with our valued objects.
The lecture aims to pick apart this discomfort and argue for a more nuanced perspective on what our things mean to us. I argue that material objects play an essential role in the construction of our own identities, they act as connections to meaningful moments in the past, and help us make connections with other people. We will question the ‘naturalised’ negative assumptions of materialism, beginning with a look at the roots of anti-materialist paradigms of religion. Moving on in parts two and three to focus on contemporary subcultures who overtly reject this paradigm, constructing ever increasingly complex relationships to their things.
Performing the Abject: Collective nightmares of the subcultural body politic
HARVARD UNIVERSITY: USA
American Comparative Literature Conference
The heavy metal community have formed and passed down embodied traditions of extreme performance across generations. I argue the objective of the metal performance is transcendence from individual to a united subcultural body politic.
Fear Factory throughout their twenty-year career, have devoted their iconography, lyrical content and musical style as a reaction against the surplus repressive agenda of the capitalist west. Singer and lyricist Burton C Bell elects not to expressly identify with a specific political ideology, instead creates his own abstract narrative fiction. Particular emphasis is placed on the destructive capacity of western capitalism and its desire to reduce the populace to sublimated automatons
Alien: Isolation - Gender Performance and Fear of the Other in Survival Horror Games
OXFORD UNIVERSITY: UK
Fear, Horror, Terror Conference
Survival horror games have signalled a paradigm shift in the gaming experience. Progressing from a focus on violence, the player is required to employ clandestine tactics and problem solving in order to negotiate their terrain. Additionally the survival protagonist, lacking a portable armoury and advanced martial arts abilities, presents a rare virtual vulnerability which heightens the terror experience. Through analysis of the 2014 horror survival game Alien: Isolation, this paper examines the capacity for the enhanced immersive environment of the survival horror format to challenge dominant gender stereotypes within the gaming community.
The gender politics of the 1979 film Alien on which the game is based have been widely theorised and celebrated, yet Alien: Isolation is the first game in over fifteen years to fully incorporate a female lead character, namely Ripley’s now adult daughter. Unique for its deep rooted relationship to the original film, Isolation opts for the ‘survival’ genre over the ‘war’ format of the sequel Aliens favoured by previous games. Expelling the gun toting Marines, emphasis is now placed on the warring ‘queens’ Ripley and the Alien ‘mother’.
Bring me back my Beautiful Beast! : Horror and Subcultural Transformation
Vernacular Religion, Folk Belief, and Traditions of the Supernatural Conference
In 1988, Clive Barker noted, “The fiction of our fears is at its best also a fiction of transformation...” Throughout its history, transformation has been one of the most potent and persistent aspects of horror literature and film. Beyond the much-discussed aspects of 'body horror', transformation of an individual's character or moral compass could be said to invoke as much discomfort as Giger's Aliens. Perhaps most tellingly, beyond the extreme violence of the film Natural Born Killers, censors were most disturbed by a character who elects to join the film’s protagonists in becoming a killer. This example neatly illustrates the complexity of our relationship to horror cinema: The appeal of the abject goes beyond the basic assumption that we crave a visual thrill to a more multifaceted absorption into a genre that can shape our perceptions of self and community.