CFP: ’Asylums, Pathologies, and the Themes of Madness’, Patrick McGrath Symposium, Stirling, January 2016

Asylums, Pathologies and the Themes of Madness: Patrick McGrath and his Gothic Contemporaries

University of Stirling, Scotland

Saturday 16th January 2016

Keynote Event

  • During the symposium we will be delighted to invite speakers and attendees to view exhibits from the newly acquired Patrick McGrath archive at the University of Stirling’s library.

Keynote Speakers

  • Professor Lucie Armitt, University of Lincoln – author of Twentieth-Century Gothic (University of Wales Press, 2011)
  • Professor Sue Zlosnik, Manchester Metropolitan University – author of Patrick McGrath(University of Wales Press, 2011)

Modern and contemporary Gothic is widely recognised as a literature of madness. Many of the mode’s key writers – including Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk and several notable others – are consistently preoccupied with psychopathology, perversion and the divided self. This first British symposium dedicated to exploring Patrick McGrath’s fiction, writing and life, seeks to capitalise upon a growing recognition that he is one of the leading purveyors of the contemporary tale of psychological terror and horror. An important contribution to English letters as a whole, McGrath’s fiction has been noted as parodic (The Grotesque, 1989), psychologically disturbing (Spider, 1990), and darkly sexual (Asylum, 1996). In her full-length study Patrick McGrath, Sue Zlosnik has suggested that in his fiction an “inclination towards Gothic excess remains in tension with a sceptical and ironic sensibility” (2011, p.5). By disentangling this and many other tensions and intertextual resonances that may be relevant, we seek to both pose and investigate important questions regarding McGrath’s place in the field of contemporary Gothic studies and assess his intricate – yet at times grotesque – stagings of asylums, psychopathology, and trauma.

We invite 20-minute papers from postgraduate, early-career and established scholars on any topic related to McGrath’s life, fiction and his contemporary context. Suggested topics include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Pathologies and madness in McGrath or the contemporary Gothic (for instance, in the novels of Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, Michel Faber, etc.)
  • The asylum as staged in McGrath’s fiction and non-fiction (e.g. the Broadmoor influence) or in the contemporary Gothic more widely
  • Theorizing and staging psychopathologies in the Gothic
  • The continuing import of McGrath’s edited collection The New Gothic (1991)
  • McGrath’s unreliable narrators and his narrative technique
  • Gothicized adultery
  • Trauma theory and the contemporary Gothic
  • The supposed turn from parody to realism in McGrath’s novels
  • Gothic metafiction
  • Archival research that investigates the production of the contemporary Gothic text
  • Adaptations of McGrath’s work
  • Notable influences – from Edgar Allan Poe to John Hawkes – upon McGrath’s aesthetic

As part of the day’s programme, we are delighted to invite speakers and attendees to view exhibits from the newly acquired McGrath archive at the University of Stirling’s library. Donated by the author himself, the wealth of materials in this emerging collection include novel drafts, notebooks, automatic writing, film scripts and a complete set of first editions of his work.

Proposals of around 250 words for 20-minute papers – or suggestions for three-person panels – should be submitted to Dr Matt Foley on by Friday 16th October 2015. Please also include a brief biography.


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