MISKATONIC LONDON ANNOUNCES ITS SPRING 2020 LINEUP OF TALKS

The world’s longest-running horror-centric educational organization – with branches in London, New York and Los Angeles – is pleased to announce its spring lineup of monthly classes in horror history, theory and production. Miskatonic talks bring academia into a casual environment, with illustrated excursions into horror’s dark corners led by some of the genre’s most renowned luminaries.

This semester sees Miskatonic London embark on a partnership with a new venue: “Miskatonic London is thrilled to take up residence in the gorgeous Grade II listed Swedenborg House in Holborn,” says Miskatonic London director Josh Saco, “An inspiring venue with a history of being home to alternative discussions.” The move comes as our beloved longtime London venue, The Horse Hospital, is currently negotiating against a debilitating rent increase (read more about how to support the Horse Hospital’s campaign efforts HERE). “We’d like to thank and celebrate our time with the Horse Hospital and continue to keep a close relationship with them, as we all should, says Saco. “The Horse Hospital is a vital venue for London and beyond.”

FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS FOLLOW BELOW.

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About The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies™:

Founded by film writer/programmer/publisher/producer Kier-La Janisse (author, House of Psychotic Women) in 2010, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies™ offers classes in horror history, theory and production, with branches in London, New York and Los Angeles, as well as hosting special events worldwide.

Miskatonic London classes take place at:
The Swedenborg Society
20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London UK
Tickets £12 advance / £15 door
Full Season Passes £50 (plus taxes and fees) available HERE.
www.miskatonicinstitute.com

Any questions or interview requests should be sent to miskatonicinstitute@gmail.com

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MAGIC AND POLITICS IN ALAN MOORE AND JACEN BURROWS’ LOVECRAFT ADAPTATIONS
with instructor Matt Green
Thursday, January 9 – 7:00pm-10:00pm
Tickets: https://www.miskatonicinstitute.com/events/magic-and-politics-in-alan-moore-jacen-burrows-adaptations-of-lovecraft/

Alan Moore reports that, through researching his latest adaptation of Lovecraft’s life and work, Providence, he “became more fully acquainted with academic literary criticism.” The extensive evidence of research throughout the series supports this claim. In this talk, scholar Matt Green argues that Providence uses the comics form to assert the value of humanities research, and of the arts more broadly. The comics series educates its audience in reading and research practices (some of which are more providential than others). Green’s focus– like Moore’s and, arguably, like Lovecraft’s — is on the relationships between imagination and the historical realities of readers; the discussion maps Moore’s reworking of Lovecraft onto current political turmoil in Britain and the US via Moore’s underlying premise that we can trace the origins of our contemporary moment through the societal anxieties encoded in Lovecraft’s fiction. The analysis combines key concepts from adaptation studies, comics studies and postmodern theory to help us understand the way in which Providence uses the comics medium to put into practice Moore’s hopes concerning the world-altering potential of art and scholarship. Put differently, Green will be discussing some of the less obvious ways in which Lovecraft has been deployed by one of Britain’s most prolific contemporary magicians.

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EROTIC GROTESQUE NONSENSE AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF JAPAN’S CULT COUNTERCULTURE
With instructor Jasper Sharp
Thursday, February 13 – 7:000pm-10:00pm
Tickets: https://www.miskatonicinstitute.com/events/erotic-grotesque-nonsense-the-foundations-of-japans-cult-counterculture/

In this illustrated lecture, Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp leads us into the feverish world of ero guro nansensu, a term abbreviated from the English “erotic grotesque nonsense” that first entered common parlance in Japan in the 1920s, when it was applied by reactionary cultural critics to a group of writers who traded in detective, horror, and mystery fiction with an emphasis on deviant sexuality, the irrational, and the bizarre.

Most influential of these was Edogawa Rampo (1894-1965), whose very name, conjured from the Japanese syllabary in homage of his literary model, Edgar Allan Poe, highlighted the true threat of this new cultural wave: it’s overseas origins. The alienness of ero guro from Japan’s cultural traditions and its popularity with the masses saw it increasingly viewed as a threat by nationalist and conservative voices during the late 1920s and 1930s, and proponents soon fell victim to the repressive state censorship of the wartime years.
However, in the more relaxed climate of the postwar decades, a focus on a decadent and perverse sexuality, and the altered states of the physical body as a metaphor for the national body saw this seductive tension between the outlandish and the homegrown, the horrific and the ludicrous given full vent.

Sharp will explore the page, stage and screen manifestations of a term that has come to embody more an ethos than a genre, looking at, among other things, the impact of the avant-garde theatre and the modern Butoh dance movement on the work of Ishii Teruo (Shogun’s Joys of Torture; Horrors of Malformed Men) in the 1960s, the role of voyeurism and the shock of new and foreign cultural forms in Watcher in the Attic (1976), and articulations of the monstrous and the carnivalesque in the underground animation Midori: The Girl in the Freak Show (1992).

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GOLEMS, DYBBUKS & OTHER MOVIE MONSTERS: THE SEARCH FOR A JEWISH HORROR FILM
with instructor Mikel J Koven
Thursday March 12 – 7:00pm-10:00pm
Tickets: https://www.miskatonicinstitute.com/events/golems-dybbuks-other-movie-monsters-the-search-for-a-jewish-horror-film/

This class is divided into two parts. In the first part, Mikel Koven illustrates the representation of Jews and Jewish characters. Mainstream horror cinema has been known to draw upon Jews and Jewish belief traditions as a kind of domesticated exotica. Jews are cast as either wise scholars of arcane magic, or as voices for cynical positivism, proponents of scientific rationalism in opposition to Christian metaphysics and mysticism. In many cases, the cosmology shown in these films is much less Jewish, and more likely to be Christian beliefs performing a kind of Jewish drag show.

The second part of the session explores Jewish folklore and looks to legends about Golems and Dybbuks as sources for cinematic horror. Ultimately, this class is designed to explore the relationship between cultural identity and horror cinema. Specifically, Koven discusses the extent to which these films avail themselves to Jewish lore and also maintain the cultural contexts which first developed these narratives. In other words, just how Jewish are these Jewish horror movies?

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THE WORLD IS FULL OF TERRIBLE PEOPLE: SHIRLEY JACKSON AND FEMALE VIOLENCE
with instructor Bernice M. Murphy
Thursday April 9 – 7:00pm-10:00pm
Tickets: https://www.miskatonicinstitute.com/events/the-world-is-full-of-terrible-people-shirley-jackson-and-female-violence-london/

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) remains best known for her supernatural horror novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959. After several decades of critical and commercial neglect, her work now has a higher public profile than ever. Her back catalogue has been re-published by Penguin, Ruth Franklin’s award-winning 2016 biography inspired numerous reviews and articles, and Jackson’s estate has released two well-received collections of her previously unpublished work since the late 1990s, with a volume of her selected letters forthcoming. A film adaptation of her 1962 novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle was released last year, and Mike Flanagan’s 2018 Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House brought a whole new generation of fans to her work.

In the first half of seminar, I will be talking about who Jackson was and the reasons why her work remains so important for horror fans and creators. The impressive scope of her literary interests will be an important theme. As well as creating the most famous haunted house of the twentieth-century, Jackson also played a foundational role in establishing the ‘Suburban Gothic’ sub-genre (in her debut novel, The Road Through the Wall, 1948), wrote what is still the single-most notorious American folk horror tale (‘The Lottery’, 1948), and penned a bleakly funny apocalyptic satire (The Sundial, 1956). What’s more, she was also one of the most high-profile working mothers of her era, thanks to the many non-fiction stories about her busy family life published in contemporary women’s magazines.

In the second half of the talk, I will focus on one particularly timely (and influential) aspect of Jackson’s interest in domesticity and female interiority: her recurrent depiction of deeply troubled young women. I’ll argue that precocious mass-murderer Merricat Blackwood, the narrator of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, is the precursor to the many young women in the contemporary horror cinema canon who find the boundaries between reality and fantasy dangerously malleable. Within American horror cinema, teenage girls are often only permitted to openly express rage when their actions are related to some kind of external supernatural force (as in The Exorcist, Carrie, Teeth, Ginger Snaps and Jennifer’s Body). We Have Always Lived in the Castle is therefore particularly interesting in that it explicitly relates its heroine’s disturbing behaviour to the deeply dysfunctional workings of the nuclear family. I will then discuss several recent horror films focusing on homicidal young women whose behaviour and motivations owe much to the Jackson blueprint. These films will include Excision (2012), The Bleeding House (2011), Black Swan (2010), Stoker (2013), The Eyes of My Mother (2016), and Thoroughbreds (2018).

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BLOOD IN THE STREETS: FILM CYCLES, SERIAL KILLERS AND THE GIALLO
with instructor Austin Fisher
Thursday May 14- 7:00pm-10:00pm
Tickets: https://www.miskatonicinstitute.com/events/blood-in-the-streets-film-cycles-serial-killers-and-the-giallo-london/

The vast collection of rapidly-produced murder mystery films that emerged in 1970s Italy has become known in exploitation cinema histories as the giallo. This all-encompassing categorisation has however subsumed several smaller, loosely-connected film cycles, each of which was embedded in its immediate cultural, economic and political contexts in different ways. This talk will investigate how a collection of these cycles capitalised on preoccupations with the recent past in 1970s Italy, and an attendant sense of disquiet towards modernity and the pace of socio-cultural change. This will in turn reveal various strategies that were being deployed to exploit the local film market, in a perpetual attempt to capitalise on topicality and the perceived tastes of the popular audience.

The key cycles to be considered include a small collection of films that make explicit reference to memories of the Second World War weighing heavily upon the present (In the Folds of the Flesh, Naked Girl Killed in the Park, Watch Me When I Kill, Hotel Fear), commentaries on the increasingly globalised lifestyles of affluent post-war modernity (a much larger category, including such films as Blood and Black Lace, A Quiet Place to Kill, Blade of the Ripper and What Have You Done to Solange?) and ‘rural’ gialli that gaze inwardly at Italy’s atavistic underbelly, to deploy a well-established set of discourses surrounding the nation’s past and the onset of modernity (Bay of Blood, Don’t Torture a Duckling, Torso, The House of the Laughing Windows, Bloodstained Shadow).

Ultimately, the talk will consider these films as prime examples of the serial repetition that characterised Italy’s popular film industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Numerous opportunistic (and usually short-lived) bursts of activity – known locally as filoni – emerged around the profitable film genres du jour. By looking at several of these cycles side-by-side (and placing them in the broader context of numerous filoni focusing on violent crime that emerged at the same time), this talk will examine how this sector of the film industry engaged both with contemporary events and the whims of the market: firstly, by creating speculations in an attempt to predict where the next cycle might lie, informed by previous patterns; and secondly, to exploit the short-lived favourable market conditions of already profitable cycles. My interest is therefore not with uncovering ‘hidden’ preoccupations in the films. Rather, it is with investigating how the industrial conditions of filone filmmaking demanded production decisions that relied on the assumption that such preoccupations were present in a target audience.

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