Esther Clinton

Esther Clinton received her PhD in folklore from Indiana University in 2005. She has been employed in the Popular Culture department at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, since 2006. Her wide research interests include narrative theory, gothic literature, heavy metal music, and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.



"The Gothic Menace, Then and Now: Gothic Literature, Heavy Metal Music, and Moral Panics"

Early 19th-century Gothic literature and heavy metal music from the 1980s created moral panics. These genres share an aesthetic sense that includes a focus on the uncanny and supernatural (particularly supernatural beings like ghosts and the living dead), and a romantic, emotionally overwrought intensity. Both focus on an imagined Medieval past; scenery is more likely to include castles and ruined monasteries than houses or office buildings. Both include references to violence, often graphic violence. In both genres, it is usually a dark and stormy night. People who did not approve of gothic literature worried that these novels would lead fans to foolish romantic notions that denied the realities of life and relationships, to indulge their sexuality, and ultimately perhaps even turn to the supernatural and therefore away from God. In the moral panic against heavy metal music in the 1980s, people who did not approve of heavy metal music worried that these songs and albums would lead fans to foolish, antisocial notions, embrace their violent natures, and ultimately perhaps even turn to the supernatural in the form of Satanism. Yet these genres differ in terms of audience gender; gothic literary fans tend to be female and heavy metal music fans, male. This difference leads us to a number of interesting questions, including why the primary genres for representations of the uncanny, grotesque and horrid switched in this fashion. This paper compares the two genres and addresses the question of "gender reversal" in the history of this aesthetic.

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Saturday, March 24

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