My first conference experience happened in 2018 when the International Gothic Association held their annual conference at Manchester Metropolitan University. After a conference the following year in Chicago and a two-year delay due to COVID-19, I was delighted to return to the event this summer thanks to research funding from the Graduate School. The 2022 event was held at Trinity College Dublin, and is the largest gathering of academics within the Gothic specialism in the world. The conference’s remit was wide-reaching, with presentations on content as diverse as classic literature, ballet and TikTok, but each responded to the theme of Gothic Interruptions, inspired by the recent pandemic. The keynote address responded to Ireland’s own Gothic heritage; Professor Jarlath Killeen from Trinity’s own School of English spoke on contemporary Irish folk horror films. MMU were represented by the Centre of Gothic Studies’ Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes, who delivered a plenary on the Spanish Civil War as a Gothic Interruption, and numerous conference papers from the Centre’s PhD cohort, recent graduates, and academic staff.
I was able to deliver a paper on my specialism of Contemporary Gothic TV, focusing on how the frustrations of co-habitation during the COVID lockdowns were reflected in Gothic sitcoms created and aired in this period. While the paper itself was not on the topic of my PhD, which addresses representations of bisexuality in Gothic TV, the texts I analysed, Ghosts (2019-present) and What We Do In The Shadows (2019-present) are each present in my thesis, and I gained valuable insight by approaching these texts from a new perspective. Indeed, in both writing the paper and discussing the texts in the question-and-answer session, I discovered new avenues to pursue in my research to benefit my thesis.
The greatest benefit the conference had for me was the opportunity to network. As this was only my second in-person conference since the pandemic began, and also my second international conference, I had the invaluable opportunity to discuss my research interests with fellow academics who provided me with not only useful directions to pursue in my research, but also wonderful encouragement and advice to continue with my thesis after a difficult two years of writing during lockdown and during difficult personal circumstances. Without the funding from the Graduate School, I would not have had the opportunity to once more feel like I belonged to a research community, a feeling that had been lost in the switch to remote working, and I would not have met so many valuable connections.
Finally, the opportunity to attend this conference was beneficial to me on a personal level, as I am an Irish citizen who has not been able to return to the country in nine years. The organisers of the conference organised events to explore Dublin’s Gothic history, including viewing the Book of Kells, a walking tour of Dublin, and culminating in a Gothic Disco in the basement of a decommissioned church in the city centre. As an Irish citizen, this also gave me the opportunity to explore my own history alongside deepening my knowledge of the Irish Gothic.