Memory, Identity, and New Fantasy Cultures
|Date:||09 October 2010|
|Location:||Kingston University, Penrhyn Road campus, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 2EE|
- Professor Fred Botting
- Professor Matthew Pateman
Fantasies about parallel worlds, inhabited by vampires, shapeshifters, cylons, or simply humans with extraordinary abilities, have an ever growing popularity on television and film. As we leave the first decade of the 21st century, it seems more and more prime time slots are being allocated to fantasy worlds, catering for a diverse range of audience. Viewers vary from science fiction fans, to adult viewers of vampire fiction, to those indulging in postmodern romcom. The popularisation of this once-cliquey and geeky genre suggests this new fantasy expresses something of the zeitgeist of contemporary Western culture. We believe such mainstream fantasy television shows, in differing ways, express contemporary concerns with time, death and memory. In Western culture, we are continuously made to believe that we can choose, mix and match, improve or discard different identities and destinies at will. Celebrities hold back the aging process through plastic surgery or computerised image manipulation; our nostalgic fascination with retro and revival continues to celebrate a selective or deliberately mis-remembered past; domestic technologies allow the capturing and storage of video libraries of childhood memories, ceremonies, family dramas; while society’s most traumatic experiences seem embodied in endlessly reproduced still photographs, or endlessly looped sequence of TV footage. As is the tradition of the genre, recent fantasy texts reflect the anxieties and impulses of contemporary culture, and engage with the increasingly problematic relationships between our own history and its inevitable, albeit yet ceaselessly deferred, end.
Within fantasy television and cinema cyborgs treasure photographs as substitutes for a past remembered prior to their manufacture. Science fiction heroines and heroes are blank slates onto which memory and personality are imprinted. Whole futuristic societies retreat into ideal synthetic versions of themselves, while a century-old vampire sits in his girlfriend’s grandmother’s parlour discussing first hand experiences of the American civil war. How such texts reflect upon contemporary notions of identity, corporeality, time, technology, history and the self, will be the focus of this lively and timely symposium. We also welcome studies of fan and audience, or discussions of production that seek to understand and examine the current popularity of these texts.
- Ewan Kirkland
- Aybige Yilmaz