Returning to the Gothic Ocean: Maritime, Marine and Aquatic Uncanny in Southern Waters Call For Papers: An Interdisciplinary Virtual Symposium on Maritime, Marine and Aquatic Gothic Culture and Research

deadline for submissions: 
November 16, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Melbourne
contact email: 


Call For Papers: An Interdisciplinary Virtual Symposium on Maritime, Marine and Aquatic Gothic Culture and Research to be held Friday 12 February 2021, 0930 – 1930 (AEST)

Deadline for abstracts: 5pm, Friday 2 October 2020


Returning to the Gothic Ocean is a one day interdisciplinary virtual symposium dedicated to

an exploration of the haunted waters stretching across Australia to the Pacific, Southern and

Indian Oceans as well as the Timor, Tasman, Arafura and Coral Seas. Australian Gothic

fictions are steeped in terrestrial lore of the land and landscape and the architectural forms

built upon it. It descends from the “weird melancholy” of the bush in colonial literature

(Clarke 2013/1893), surges in contemporary reflections on colonial trauma (Gildersleeve

2020), and represents a range of national regional identities – Northern Gothic (Carleton

2012), Tropical Gothic (Craven 2008/2016), Tasmanian Gothic (Stadler 2012), Hinterland

Gothic (Doolan 2019), Desert Gothic (Stadler 2019), and Coastal Gothic (Hawryluk 2020).

Yet, unlike the land, the watery sources and reaches of Gothic’s haunting fascination are less

explored. Elspeth Probyn’s (2018) ominous description of the otherness and toxic “return” of

the “mercurial” ocean inspires the symposium title and its fluid regional geographies of

‘Australia’ that stream into the realms of Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, the Asia-

Pacific, and Indo-Pacific.

This symposium will probe the uncanny, eerie, wondrous and dreaded dimensions of seas,

oceans and all variety of aquatic forms and waterways - creeks, lagoons, streams, billabongs,

estuaries, rivers, swimming pools, floods and tsunamis – to examine the gothic aesthetics and

hauntings that emanate from them. The Gothic includes the lifeless ports and tourist resorts in

the iconic global images of the pandemic. It looms in the waste-ridden oceans and waterways

that materially intensify human connectivity through the eco-toxicological horror of plastics

and pollutants circulating globally in ocean currents.

The dread and anxiety associated with the Gothic has manifested in Indigenous knowledge

and mythologies of the Yidinji people, describing the creator, Bhiral’s creation of The Great

Barrier Reef by throwing lava from the sky; the Djunkgao, sisters associated with floods and

currents; the bunyip of the Wemba-Wemba peoples that captured the colonial folkloric

imagination; and the Muldjewangk, a monster Ngarrindjeri child were warned lived in the

waters of the Murray river.

Maritime Gothic extends around and beyond the Australian coastline in numerous novels and

short stories, and in films of marine adventures and thrillers such as In the Wake of the

Bounty (Chauvel 1933), White Death (Bowen 1936), Dead Calm (Phillip Noyce 1989), The

Bounty (Roger Donaldson 1984), Sanctum (Grierson 2011), The Shallows (Collet-Sera 2016),

Uninhabited (Bennett 2010), The Reef (Trauki 2011), and Bait (Rendall 2012), and in the

underwater cinema of Valerie and John Taylor and Jacques Cousteau.

While Gothic is most associated with the dread, horror and uncertainty of human existence

(Turcotte 1998), it is sometimes ambivalent, or even celebratory and “happy” (Spooner 2017).

“Nautical and Maritime writing” can “transform the scope of the Gothic and its materiality”

(Alder 2017).


Papers can explore how the uncanny “landward” or terrestrial tropes enter maritime, marine

or aquatic spaces; or, as Punter and Packham (2017) suggest the “Gothic dimension to critical

frameworks” of Hester Blum’s paradigm of “oceanic studies” (see Blum 2013; 2015). If the

“submerged and hidden condition” of the “deep” ocean is “encountered foremost through its

power to haunt” (Packham and Punter 2017), it can also be discovered in the haunted

shallows and sunlit ripples; the uncanny plunges and splashes in rivers and pools; the dives on

reefs and wrecks; and the snorkels among buoyant flotsam and drowned jetsam. Delve into

the ways in which maritime, marine and aquatic uncanny emerge and submerge, and what

spectres and monsters breast the landed fringes – the shores and islands, sandbanks, seabeds,

coral reefs, or haunt the forms of maritime architecture and vessels – ports, bridges, piers,

rigs, ships, liners, dinghies and ferries.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers from across the Humanities, Blue Humanities, and Marine and Environmental sciences which consider the Gothic nature of the oceans, seas and waterways of the southern hemisphere, extending around and beyond Australian shores. The media of Gothic is unrestricted:

Chapters arising from the symposium will be invited for publication in an edited collection.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

Sea monsters and ghosts
Marine or aquatic undead
Haunted voyages
Shipwrecks and ghost ships
Indigenous creation stories and song lines
Bio-cultural knowledge of waters and sea country
Gothic oceans, seas and waterways in canonical literature Charting gothic maritime geographies and marine ecologies Haunted research, uncanny experiments in field and Reef studies Scuba gothic and horror

Underwater museums and antiquities
Naval gothic and horror
Haunted submariners
Video games about watery gothic horror
The role of the gothic in the contested histories of the Southern seas and oceans

literature, cinema, theatre, television, games, visual and

video art and digital media, experiments, surveys, field research or other forms are welcome.

Intersections of the Gothic and the Anthropocene in the Southern oceans, seas and waterways Folk horror in marine and aquatic settings
Eerie eco-critical approaches to the Southern seas, oceans and waterways
The horror of waste and plastics in Southern waters

Mechanised, virtual, digital or animated oceanic or watery Gothic Submechnaphobia
Polar extremities
Maritime archaeology

Ancient mega-fauna of Southern waters in scientific research, mythology and the imagination Gender and gothic oceans, seas and waterways
Symbiotic organisms or the uncanny or inexplicable marine ecologies of Southern waters Children’s literature and media featuring gothic oceans, seas or waterways

Sporting, yachting, boating horror and gothic
Creative writing around ports, rigs and shipwrecks, or any of the above Documentary, or creative non-fiction writing on any of the above

Please send an abstract of 300 words and a 50 word author bio to by 5pm, Friday 02 October 2020.

Allison Craven is an Associate Professor in Screen Studies and English at James Cook

University. She is currently Colin and Margaret Roderick Scholar in Comparative Literature

with a project entitled: The Properties of the Gothic: Haunts and Hauntings in Australian

Film and Literature. She is the author of two monographs: Fairy Tale Interrupted: Feminism,

Masculinities and Wonder Cinema (2017) and Finding Queensland in Australian Cinema:

Poetics and Screen Geographies (2016).

Diana Sandars is a Lecturer in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where she teaches courses in Screen, Gender, Digital Cultures, Social Justice and Cultural Studies. Diana has a research focus on the child in, and subject of, screen media. Diana is the author of What A Feeling: The Hollywood Musical After MTV (Intellect, forthcoming).

References and some preliminary recommended reading on maritime and marine Gothic, and Australian Gothic:

Alder, Emily. 2017. Through oceans darkly: Sea literature and the Nautical Gothic.” Gothic Studies 19(2), pp. 1-15.

Blum, Hester. 2013. Introduction: oceanic studies. Atlantic Studies 10(2), pp. 151-155.

___. 2015. Terraqueous planet: The case for oceanic studies. In The planetary turn: Relationality and geoaesthetics in the twenty-first century, edited by Amy J. Elias and Christian Moraru. (pp. 25-36). Northwestern University Press.

Clarke, Marcus. 2013/1893. Preface. In The Project Gutenberg EBook of Poems by Adam Lindsay Gordon. 1893 edition. h.htm#link2H_PREF

Constantini, Mariaconcetta. 2017. Reinterpreting Leviathan today: Monstrosity, ecocriticism and socio-political anxieties in two sea narratives. Gothic Studies 19(2), pp 98-111.

Craven, Allison. 2018. “Escape to the terraform tropics: Geography and gender in marine adventure films in Queensland.” Screening the Past 43
ht t p://w w w .screeningt hepast .com/2017/12/escape -t o-t he-t erraf orm-t ropics-geography-and - gend er-in-marine-ad vent ure-f ilms-f rom-queensland /

___. 2008. Tropical gothic: Radiance revisited. eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics 7.

Carleton, Stephen. 2012. Australian gothic theatre and the northern turn. Australian Literary Studies 27(2), pp. 51-67.

Doolan, Emma. 2019. Hinterland gothic: Subtropical excess in the literature of South East Queensland. eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics 18(1)

Gelder, Ken. 2007. Australian gothic. The Routledge companion to gothic, edited Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy. (pp. 115-23). London: Routledge.

Gildersleeve, Jessica. 2020. Contemporary Australian trauma. In The Palgrave handbook of contemporary gothic. Palgrave. Pp. 91-104.

Glade-Wright. 2019. “Plastic Gothic Frankenstein, Art and the Microplastic Monster,” eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics 18(2)
ht t p://d x.d ropic.18.2.2019.3707

Hawryluk, Linda. 2020. Exploring Australian Coastal Gothic: Poetry and Place. In Writing the Australian Beach, edited by Elizabeth Ellison and Donna Lee Brien. (pp. 91-107). Cham: Switz: Palgrave MacMillan.

Horden, Peregrine and Nicholas Purcell. 2006. The Mediterranean and ‘the New Thalassology’. The American Historical Review 111(3), pp 722-740.

Packham, Jimmy and David Punter. 2017. Oceanic studies and the gothic deep. Gothic Studies 19(2), pp 16-29.

Probyn, Elspeth. 2018. The ocean returns: Mapping a mercurial Anthropocean. Social Science Information 57(3), pp. 386-402.

Punter, David. 2016. The gothic condition: Terror, history and the psyche. University of Wales Press.

Spooner, Catherine. 2017. Post-millennial gothic: Comedy, romance and the rise of happy gothic. Bloomsbury.

Stadler, Jane. 2019. Atopian landscapes: Gothic tropes in Australian cinema. In A companion to Australian cinema, edited by Felicity Collins, Jane Landman and Susan Bye. (pp. 336- 354). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

___. 2012. Seeing with green eyes: Cinema and the ecological gaze. Senses of Cinema 65. ht t p://sensesof asmanian -and -t he-cinema/ seeing -w it h-green-ey es- tasmanian-land sacpe-cinema-and -the-ecological-gaze/

Turcotte, Gerry. 1998. Australian gothic. In The handbook to gothic literature, edited by Marie Mulvey-Roberts (pp. 10—19). NY: New York UP.