Thanks to the financial support of Doctoral Services at Manchester Metropolitan University and the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS), I was able to present my research paper on the Contemporary Irish Female Gothic at The Year of Gothic Women conference held at Dundee University in August 2023. This was a three-day conference that began on Tuesday 29 August, however, I arrived in Edinburgh at 7am on Monday morning, and took a 90-minute bus trip from the airport to Dundee bus terminal. Once I had checked-in at my hotel, I set out my itinerary for the days ahead, read over my paper, and even managed to do some sightseeing around Dundee. I spent quite a bit of time at The McManus, an art gallery and museum laid out across two floors and set inside a really striking Gothic Hall. As a fan of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, I particularly enjoyed the ‘Dundee and the World’ exhibition in the Albert Hall which housed artefacts from the Dundee Whaling Expedition. I was also thrilled to finally see Laura Knight’s oil painting called The Last Act from 1929. In the evening I had dinner at an Italian restaurant and went to bed early to catch up on some much-needed sleep after my early flight.
Tuesday marked the first day of the conference, and I began by registering in the Dalhousie foyer of the Dundee University campus. Here, I met the lovely conference organizers, Deborah and Anna, and picked up a beautifully-presented conference pack containing my conference programme, name badge, and some other lovely goodies! At noon, I attended a walking tour of Mary Shelley’s Dundee led by Dr. Daniel Cook who took us to some notable sites linked with Shelley, including The Howff Cemetery, the Glassite Church, and the Frankenstein Steps which marks the site where Shelley spent two extended summers as a young girl before writing Frankenstein. In the afternoon, following a brief welcome from the conference organizers, and a Keynote from Professor Angela Wright, I presented my paper titled ‘‘…something dark and lethal’: Towards a Contemporary Irish Female Gothic’ on The Gothic in Modern Ireland panel. I shared this panel with two wonderful academics who were both friendly and insightful, and provided me with some really useful feedback on my research. The panel was also attended by a number of PhD students working on various elements of the Irish Gothic. As a distance learning PhD student living in Ireland, it was great to finally meet others working within the field of Gothic Studies, and to chat and network with other postgraduate students. This panel also gave me the confidence to speak about my research in a formal setting, and certainly helped me to begin preparing my paper for future publication.
On Wednesday, I was set to attend a panel on Domestic Hauntings. I was particularly intrigued by a paper titled ‘A hauntology of cats,’ however, due to unforeseen circumstances the scheduled panelists were unable to attend the conference and so the panel was cancelled. This led me to attend a panel on Shirley Jackson instead. During this session, I was introduced to the field of Mobility Studies, and its interaction with the Gothic through a fascinating reading of Jackson’s 1948 novel, The Road Through the Wall. This paper was followed by an analysis of Hangsaman using the lens of bibliotherapy, and finally, an assessment of the 2020 biopic, Shirley, which introduced me to the Gothic concept of biofiction. I had not encountered this field of academic study before, and so was very interested to discover that it spoke directly to my own PhD project which also considers the Gothic’s relationship with ‘Frankenfictions’ and transmedial production. The Q&A session that followed this paper was also helpful, and gave me the opportunity to ask for further research material on the subject. After the panel’s close, I had lunch in the Dalhousie foyer, and in the afternoon, attended another panel, this time on Gothic drama which linked directly with a section of my PhD project. In the evening, I had a quick dinner back at the hotel before going to a reading from Addie Tsai’s biracial, non-binary retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, titled Unwieldy Creatures. This event was held in the McManus Museum across town and was a great way to get to know people in a more informal setting.
Unfortunately, my flight home was scheduled for the afternoon of the last day of the conference, but I still managed to catch the morning session panel which looked at the Gothic spaces and landscapes in novels by Ann Radcliffe. My own MA thesis was focused on Gothic landscapes, and so I was delighted to have been able to attend this session before making my way back to Edinburgh airport. In the afternoon, I packed up my belongings and began my journey home. Despite my early exit, I still managed to keep up-to-date with the last of the conference happenings thanks to regular ‘X’ (formally Twitter) updates and real-time commentary from the conference organizers and panel attendees. These posts in particular made my long trek back to Dublin much more enjoyable, and allowed me to extend my conference experience for a little while longer!
Since returning home from The Year of Gothic Women conference in Dundee, I have found that I am much more confident in my research, and feel than I am now more than capable of presenting my work at other in-person conferences. This experience has also contributed greatly to my teaching career, and has certainly helped me gain confidence in the third-level classroom. More than this, having stayed in touch with a number of PhD students from the event, I feel I now have a network of people I can contact and converse with which has, in turn, made my distance-learning experience less lonely and less daunting. At this point, I am excited for future events, and can’t wait to see where the next conference experience takes me.