September 2015 - Darkness & Light: Exploring the Gothic, John Rylands Library, Manchester
The John Rylands Library – Darkness & Light: Exploring the Gothic
The exhibition brochure is out... I am delighted to have an essay featured in it, to accompany the Gothic Women case I curated for the exhibition.
Here's the text of the feature, for those who aren't able to get to Manchester before December 2015. It really is worth making a visit – the exhibition has some wonderful displays. Check out the website for more info, times etc.
Women & the Gothic
"The Gothic: abject, unreliable, dangerous and downright weird.
Which also sums up how I've felt about myself since realising I didn't fit the one-size-fits-all template of marriage, kids and sublimation to the wishes of others (age 5, if you're asking). I've always felt like an outsider, which has not always been easy.
The Gothic has an extensive history of being ridiculed. In the 1980s, NME dismissed us as an uncool fad (we're still here, the NME isn't); Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote off Gothic literature as 'the trash of the circulating library'; Renaissance scholars dismissed 1000 years of art, erudition and scientific endeavour as 'The Dark Ages'; the Romans laughed off Alaric and his Goths as barbarian nobodies (and look what happened to them).
The Gothic endures, despite never being quite in fashion, despite existing on the fringes. Perhaps that explains its allure and its terror. All of us have cobwebbed dungeons in the psyche. They are frightening places, and we are sold the lie that if we paint our world pastel shades and furnish it with white leather sofas everything will be all right. We ignore personal darkness at our psychological peril. Far wiser, in my humble opinion, is to explore the haunted castle and face those fearsome ghosts.
With that in mind and with lantern held aloft in trembling fingers, I undertook the challenge of making a personal selection reflecting Women and the Gothic. There was no way that my wish-list could be displayed. That would have filled The John Rylands Library in all its Gothic beauty.
Some choices are well-known, some are hidden from history. I was drawn to writers who were not content to follow, neither in their lives nor in their works. In the Gothic they discovered imaginative possibilities and seized those opportunities with verve and dynamism. They pushed the boundaries of the Gothic, using it to challenge and inform. Their writing transcends expectations. Here you will find no absent or marginalised gothic heroines, no quivering victims of Gothic male fantasy.
Here be dragons."