2022-2023 seminar Ana Teixeira Pinto: Ghost Stories

About Ana Teixeira Pinto

Participants second year: Ioli Kavakou, Lucas Lugarinho Braga, Zuzana-Markéta Macková 

Participants first year: Cloë Janssens, Gabriel Acevedo, Lena Pfäffli, Louis Schou-Hansen, Meii Soh, Seré, Sille Kima, Stephen McEvoy, Weronika Zalewska

              

INTRODUCTION: 

Do you believe in ghosts? Anthropologist E.E. Evans Pritchard argued that belief in the supernatural was not superstition but explanation. In her book Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, Avery Gordon contends that forces from the past and their shadowy manifestations control present life in more complicated ways than we tend to admit. In a similar manner our seminar is less concerned with whether ghosts are real, than with what they can tell us about reality.

A ghost, to quote Gordon, is “not simply a dead person, but a form by which something that was lost makes itself known or apparent to us, even if fleetingly or in a barely visible manner.” The ghost, “is just the sign, or the empirical evidence if you like, that tells you a haunting is taking place.” As literary theorist Sladja Blazan notes, the sighting of a ghost always exposes the entanglements of horror and history, and “the way the past makes cultural demands on us we have difficulty fulfilling.”

Surveying bodysnatching stories, from the Balkans to Uganda, Gothic novels and supernatural fiction, this year’s seminar will look at things that “haunt like a ghost and, by way of this haunting, demands reparation, justice, or at least a response.” Pausing at the threshold between horror and history, we will hear what vampires, ghosts, witches and zombies have to tell us about the complex intersections of race, gender, and class, modern medicine, changing conceptions of the body, the symbolism of blood, colonial power, real estate value, gender troubles, capitalism or sexuality

 

Preliminary Bibliography:

Tuck, Eve, and C. Ree. A Glossary of Haunting. London: Routledge, 2013

Avery F. Gordon. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Blazan, Sladja (ed.). Haunted Nature: Entanglements of the Human and the Nonhuman. Cham, CH: Palgrave McMillan, 2021.

White, Luise. Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Christopher Craft. “‘Kiss Me with Those Red Lips’: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker's Dracula.” Representations 8 (Fall 1984): 107-133

 

 

Seminar 1 (November) in Arnhem

In the gothic novel, all metamorphic entities and/or metamorphosis are figured as a deformation or transmogrification. In a similar manner all economic and geopolitical flows, however mobile, are fixed within an imperial frame. Any conversion that runs counter to the colonial norm is figured as an unnatural inversion. The gothic representations of shapeshifting in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, show how monstrosity is mobilized to connote value conversions via their embellishment with racialized inscriptions of difference, in order to strengthen colonial categories of Self and Other. In Dracula, as Christopher Craft notes, Stoker “borrows from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde a narrative strategy characterized by a predictable, if variable, triple rhythm. Each of these texts first invites or admits a monster, then entertains and is entertained by monstrosity for some extended duration, until in its closing pages it expels or repudiates the monster and all the disruption that he/she/it brings.”

 

Seminar 2 (February) online

In her essay “Inheritance and Finitude,” Donna V. Jones ties the quest for immortality to the temporal structure of the economy, that is, to the “inheritance of assets already accumulated and living on immortally as it were and trivializing the efforts of the living.” In this seminar we will look into fantasies of eternal life, the early 20th century search for supermen types, the conversion of wealth into power, and evolutionary schemas.

 

Seminar 3 (March) at PAF

The materialization of psychic phenomena was a widespread obsession in late-nineteenth-century occult circles. Around the 1870s, a plethora of psychics claimed the ability to act as conduits or transmitters; much like a human radio frequency receiver, they could allegedly capture cosmic vibrations that were said to manifest in a fashion similar to electromagnetic waves. At the time the field of physiology dealt with telepathy and telekinesis, and there was no clear distinction between the scientific domain of neurophysiology, the emergent field of electromagnetic technologies, and the para-scientific circles of esoteric beliefs and séance gatherings.

Though, at present the concept of media is almost wholly equated with technology, throughout the modern period, it extended beyond the technological field, to include aesthetic and spiritual registers. As T.J. Clark noted, the very notion of mediation already entails some mixture of sensory, perceptual and semiotic elements: what the word “media” refers to, in its widest sense, is a coded mode of materiality, which could be generalised to include all “domains of cultural exchange.” Almost every human culture has a figure that fulfils a mediator-like role, someone who can travel, or act as a psychic conduit, between worlds. Often termed “shamans” by anthropologists, these figures became a cypher for the religious “other” of Europe, during the period in which the West reconceptualised the entities, which are to be assigned the function of a medium, and the ways and means of mediation.

 

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