If you take three motivational talks, an afternoon of wondrous workshops, and a programme packed with mystery and magic, stirring it all together in a large cauldron, what do you get? Spectral Visions: The Gothic, of course! 26th June 2012 saw the arrival of the long awaited conference at St Peter's campus, University of Sunderland. It promised to be an "exciting day conference [...] designed to ‘lift the veil’ on the enduringly popular genre of ‘Gothic’." The big question is though, did it deliver?
To put it simply, yes. Yes it did. Setting the mood for the rest of the day, Dr Alison Younger (Programme Leader, MA English) launches us to the genre of the Gothic, introducing us to some of its creatures, Professor John Strachan (University Northumbria) then taking us through a combination of Surrealism, and Romanticism, and the Gothic. Towards the end of the day, a fascinating talk titled 'The Dark Side of Macbeth' was delivered by Professor Willy Maley (University of Glasgow). I think it's fair to say that each of the three varied focuses proved to project an inspirational and intriguing experience from which a great deal could be plucked.
A selection of workshops ran in the afternoon, designed to introduce attendees to the style and atmosphere of the teachings of MA English. Delegates were able to choose from options such as Wuthering Heights, run by Dr David Fallon, and Dr Susan Mandala's 'Prehistoric Fiction: The Monster Within?'. On a personal note, I'd decided to opt for Colin Younger's 'Ghost Stories of the Northern Region', something I knew I'd find fascinating. However, I'd not quite anticipated the great level of enthralment the hour-long session was to bring. Have you ever experienced a discussion throughout which you're bandying around a hundred thoughts per second? It's riveting! For the A-Level students, additional workshops were run, covering topics such as 'American Gothic', Frankenstein, and 'Scottish Gothic'. Whatever your interests, there was certainly going to be something to cater for them.
This all sounds marvellous, but what if I told you a meal was also thrown into the mix? Yes, that's right. Lunch was provided, free of charge (yes, free, the very price of attendance at the conference itself!). We're not just talking a sandwich and a juice box, either. So, after watching a video clip of the slicing open of an eyeball, (thanks for that, Professor John Strachan, sincerely!), delegates were able to gorge in preparation for the afternoon's timetable. A-Level students were also able to explore the campus and gain a stronger feel for the university itself.
Providing enchantment in endless instalments, Spectral Visions was nothing short of a complete success. Attendees ended the day oozing with inspired and motivated energies, while all those involved in the piecing together of the intricately spectacular event could bask in the glowing light of prosperity. Eloquent and divine, Spectral Visions will forever remain unforgettable.