Exploring Spectral Visions

Spectral Visions is more than just a society and conference. To the English students of the University of Sunderland, it is an experience and a way of life. On this page, we’ve asked our wonderful students and staff what Spectral Visions means to them. If you have a thought, opinion or question, get in touch on our Facebook page, our Twitter or Tumblr.

Spectral Visions is probably the best place to see the Gothic talent of the future in the vital process of its formation. The whole interchange of papers, questions, and answers is conducted with openness and equality, and the enthusiasm of all those concerned is infectious and energising. The future of Gothic– as a critical field, as a creative force and as a distinctive part of academic study– is safe.

— Professor William Hughes, professor of Gothic Studies at Bath Spa University, president of the International Gothic Association, editor of Gothic Studies.

Spectral Visions is quite simply special. It is a rare combination of students and staff working together; internationally rated staff, undergraduate students and doctoral researchers join forces to enjoy and understand an eclectic mix of literature based on the gothic. There is no hierarchy here – the link is the genre and the contribution each person makes is based on their interest and enjoyment. But they don’t stay in the University, they take their delight of the field to schools and the community too, lifting them to new heights of enjoyment and appreciation of the literature. Special is maybe not the right word, exceptional and extraordinary are maybe better.

— Professor Ian Neal, Associate Dean and Head of Faculty Research

It’s very difficult to define exactly what Spectral Visions is. It’s like Heraclitus’s river: constantly moving and changing so that it’s never the same thing twice. It’s a celebration of the spectral: that is the liminal, the in-between, that which lies between death and life, being and nothingness, the ghostly and the gothic. In short, it’s an ever-changing Gothic phantasmagoria which allows us to research and discuss questions that continue to preoccupy us, such as ‘why do we need monsters’? Why are we fascinated by ghosts and serial killers? The fact that it is central to the A’ level curriculum suggests that these questions continue to fascinate at all levels. It isn’t just a conference, or a symposium, it’s a real collaboration between staff and students which allows us to showcase the excellent work our students are doing, and engage with these knotty questions that underpin Gothic texts. It’s research-led, of course; our research and, also student research. As you know, you visionaries have been doing great things. We have bloggers and writers, (such as you and Chloe) taking the Gothic flame out into the world beyond the university. It’s a kind of magic (if you’ll pardon the cliché). We want bring that magic to take delegates at Spectral Visions – to take them into the heart of darkness and help to illuminate the enigmas that lie at its core. Most importantly we want people to enjoy their trip and to come out of the other side of it edified and inspired to learn more. In sum it’s a mirror of the Gothic itself: excessive, theatrical celebration of ‘Otherness’ which is designed to delight and teach.

Dr Alison Younger, lecturer

Spectral Visions is a vibrant experience which attracts students, staff and people external to the University alike due to the enthusiasm, collegiality and welcoming approach of those already involved.

Colin Younger, lecturer

Spectral Visions represents what is best about studying at Sunderland. It is the epitome of a participatory pedagogy where students have a genuine voice in what happens. It is rare to see such dedication and commitment in a forum where staff and students work together to further the study of the Gothic and share their passion with the wider world through conferences, blogs, press releases, and publications. Spectral Visions shows just what can be achieved when students have agency over their studies – a community of practice

Steve Watts, Head of Department

Spectral Visions, to me, isn’t just a conference, it’s a community. The conference itself is a chance to hear and speak to world experts on Gothic talk about subjects they love, and that love is so infectious. And it’s also a chance to get published too.

Michelle McCabe, 2nd year English and Creative Writing

It is a community and you can share your interests with like minded people and again also the publishing and other opportunities are limitless.

–Nicola Rooks, 2nd year English and Creative Writing

Taking the fabulousness as a given, then it’s inclusion. As a mature student with children it’s not easy to be involved in societies. Spectral Visions isn’t just about the conference it’s like a society that shares literature, ideas and an abundance of enthusiasm throughout the year. It makes me feel like a ‘real’ student who’s horizons are being broadened.

— Fiona Menham, 3rd year English Literature and Language

Spectral Visions is an amazing experience. It grants us a fantastic view into the world of the gothic, but that is only a small piece of it! It also allows students to explore their creative side, to meet new people with the same interests, to feel welcomed and involved and at the same time, to gain independence. It makes the conference day an achievement to all involved and we leave it having learned so many invaluable skills.

— Karen Clarkson, 3rd English and Creative Writing

It’s becoming something of a cliche to say that the more you put into your degree, the more you get out of it. Well Spectral Visions proves that it’s more than just a cliche. Spectral Visions gives us chance to prove that we are partners in our education. Involved at every stage, from inception to conclusion, we all play our part. It unites students and staff. Spectral Visions is the chance for students to pay something forward to future students. The gothic guerrillas that are the Visionaries embody what it is to be truly Gothic. It makes me proud to wear my University of Sunderland hoodie.

— Lee Mitchell, 3rd year English and Creative Writing

To me, Spectral Visions means acceptance, celebration, passion and family. I am new to the Spectral Visions community, but in the few months I’ve been involved, I have experienced an immense amount of support, guidance and kindness. There is no such thing as an Outsider at Spectral Visions, non-conformity is praised and creativity is encouraged and nurtured! My time at Spectral Visions has been the most enjoyable part of my social experience at the University of Sunderland. Additionally, the Spectral Visions blog & Stephanie Gallon provided me with a unique, creative platform, which has meant I now have the amazing opportunity to speak about the Gothic stateside at a conference next month – All of which would not have been possible without the gorgeously gothic Spectral Visions clan!

— Chloé Campbell, 3rd year English and American Studies

Spectral Visions is, at its heart, about passion. Passion in not only literature and university, but in community. It had to be Gothic that we celebrated, because Gothic celebrates the revolutionary side of us, the side of us that feels othered, and the side that screams for change. We all have our passions here, whether it’s creative, dramatic or academic, and there is no wrong way for us to express ourselves. It’s encouraged. It’s somewhere safe and fun for us to explore our own abilities. In this community, I feel like I’m allowed to have a student experience that I want. It’s like having a Spectral Visions family, who I know I count on, and who will encourage me.
So, thank you. To everyone.

— Stephanie Gallon, 3rd year English and Creative Writing, blog admin

What does Spectral Visions mean to me? That’s a tricky question. To me Spectral Visions is about community. It is not just people who are working together to get a degree. The people who take part in Spectral Visions, both lecturers and students, do it because they love it. They make sacrifices and put in effort simply to inform others and give them better insight into an area of literature they enjoy. Passion, drive, camaraderie and community; these are the words I associate with Spectral Visions.

— Robert Murray, MA English

Spectral visions breathes life back into the Gothic. With some of the most interesting lecturers, the amazing fun of those who help towards it, it gives you a day where you learn some really fantastic interesting things, without feeling like you’re just stuck sitting around trying to get down lecture notes. I’m proud to say I’ve been a part of helping out with this year and last year, and privileged and humbled that I’m still asked to help out.

— Ashleigh Hallimond, MA English

Spectral Visions; who doesn’t like a bit of Gothic.
To me at its core; Spectral Visions has been an opening and welcoming society, of like-minded individuals with a passion for academic debate and pursuits with a rather unique flair.
Spectral Visions allows us to delve deep into the world of Gothic.
Peering through the miasma you will have the opportunity to examine texts and other sources, enabling you to open your mind to the wonderful and creative opportunities that Spectral visions has to offer at Sunderland University.

— James Hogg, Sunderland graduate

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