Meme - a novel & In search of digital gothic

Teasdale, B (2022) Meme - a novel & In search of digital gothic. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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This doctoral thesis comprises a novel, Meme, which I consider to be in the new genre of digital gothic, and a piece of contextualising research, In Search of Digital Gothic. Meme tells the story of Scarlett, a PhD student in Digital Anthropology who stumbles across the existence of an ancient folk tale that is so disturbing, frightening or dangerous that it has always been forbidden from being shared. Scarlett comes to believe that the tale was leaked onto the internet, and sets out to track it down. In doing so, she discovers it may have played a role in the death of her brother Nathan, whose suicide some years before has left her traumatised and unable to connect with the world around her. In my contextualising research, I explain how I was drawn to the "digital gothic" as a way to express the sense that, beneath the perfect sheen of our twenty-first-century digitally mediated lives, there are troubling and ambiguous forces that border on the uncanny. The Gothic as a genre is a natural correlative or container for such ideas, and my project explores existing manifestations of the digital gothic in both prose fiction and multimedia works. In Part II, "Infectious Media", I examine the behaviour of 'memes', and analyse their unsettling features as 'uncanny replicators' that display 'uncanny metalepsis'. I draw comparisons with Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), arguing that Dracula is in essence -a meme; and with the ghost stories of M.R. James, in particular "The Mezzotint" (1904), where multimedia objects repeatedly breach their protective frames. Part Ill, "Digital Masks, Digital Ghosts", explores 'presence' in the digital age, with a focus on the haunting possibilities inherent in social media and communications, anonymity and trolling. I use the recent cinematic subgenre of webcam horror (Unfriended, Cam, Host) to examine the notion of the digital ghost. Finally, in Part IV, "Haunted Mazes", I discuss the manifestation of 'uncanny time' and 'interactivity' in the digital gothic, utilising the metaphor of the maze or labyrinth. I use the Jacques Derrida/Mark Fisher concept of 'hauntology' as a frame to examine these themes in the M. R. James ghost story "Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance" (1911), and Charlie Brooker's interactive television episode, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018). Taken together, the novel and the contextual research offer an innovative creative­critical undertaking that nonetheless draws upon an existing tradition of literary work, and resonates meaningfully with the wider culture beyond it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

This research was funded by the South-West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (AHRC).

The document attached to this record is the contextualising research section of the thesis only. It does not include the creative component, which is the manuscript for the novel Meme.

Keywords: PhD by Practice, creative writing, gothic fiction, ghost stories, folk tales, suicide, interactive media, horror films, social media, digital communication, memes, Bram Stoker, M.R. James, Charlie Brooker
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2022 15:25
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 18:34
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