A Gothic-without-borders online conference

March 29, 2021

Hosted by the Department of World Languages and Literatures (WLL) in tandem with the SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at Simon Fraser University (SFU), Vancouver, Canada; coordinated by the SFU Center for Educational Excellence (CEE), and co-sponsored by the International Gothic Association (IGA).

Along with the co-presidents of the International Gothic Association (IGA), the conference co-chairs Dr John Whatley (SFU English) and Professor Jerrold Hogle (emeritus University of Arizona, English) recently welcomed attendees from around the world to a successful and four-day remote conference: “Gothic in a Time of Contagion, Populism and Racial Injustice.”

In conjunction with IGA, this event was primarily hosted and co-sponsored by the Department of World Languages and Literature, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Center for Educational Excellence at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. Special thanks are due to the representatives of these sponsoring units, the Associate Dean of FASS, Prof Sean Zwagerman, the WLL chair, Prof Melek Ortabasi, and Dr Mark Deggan, Lecturer in WLL. The technological, sequential, and design-based aspects of the conference were made possible through the expertise of Dr Dianne Jamieson Noel from the Centre for Education Excellence, aided by Saba Pakdel, graduate student in English.

Offered in the face of current covid-19 restrictions on travel, the conference theme and innovative modes of remote delivery attracted 266 registrations, some 240 attendees, 78 presentations and four plenary speakers from 21 countries.

SFU FASS and World Languages and Literature have indeed fostered global focus on Simon Fraser University while creating a new standard for virtual conferencing. Among the features of the event was its movement across seven time zones as panel schedules were geared to, respectively, Western, then Eastern North America & Latin America to the UK, Europe, Russia, and Asia, including Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan.

In its many sessions, panel papers, discussions, and welcomes provided an insightful and timely articulation of the Gothic mode across cultural and historical bounds. Paper topics ranged from 18th Century Gothic: Whig Populism, Revolution, and the Discourse of Disease to Early 21st-Century Gothic II: Pandemics of Technology, Hybridity, Adolescence, and Consumption. Plenary presentations included Professor Linnie Blake’s (Manchester Metropolitan University UK);Postapocalyptic Film and TV Capers: The Comedy Zombie and the (End of the) Neoliberal World, Professor Andrew Ng Hook Soon’s (Monash University, Malaysia) What's so Global about the Gothic?, Dr Mark Deggan’s (SFU WLL) “When you decide to leave, it's because you’re already dead”: Atlantique and the Planetary Gothic, and Global Professor Dr Maisha Wester, (Indiana University, USA) “You already dead”: America’s 400+ Year Pandemic.

Given the range and accessibility of the event, presenters and attendees termed it “a model remote conference,” and thought it “was exceptionally innovative in its design, very well prepared for, and was absolutely current” and hoped its design would be copied going forward.