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Beasts of the Sky: Strange Sightings in the Stratosphere

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Beasts of the Sky: Strange Sightings in the Stratosphere

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Location: St Mary's University, Twickenham

Taking place in the drawing room of Horace Walpole’s Gothic mansion in Strawberry Hill, this symposium will discuss the sky as space, as well as the creatures associated with it, whether monstrous or mundane, in popular culture. The sky is a privileged locale in popular genres, from science fiction, horror and dystopian film; in animation as well as live action; to natural history programming on television.

Sometimes the sky is linked to the archaic, in myth and with prehistoric airborne creatures; at other times it is the site for our projections of the future, extra-terrestrial or otherwise. In both cases, our representations invariably mediate social and cultural anxieties that are current, even if projected into the distant past or far future. In documentary and natural history, the earth’s flying creatures are seen to be imperilled by global warming and the anthropocene. In popular genres of cinema and in animation, airborne creatures provide opportunities for bravura displays of spectacle.

Provisional running order

9-9.30am: Coffee and registration
9.45–10am: Introduction
10–11am: Keynote lecture
Dr Chris Pallant

Dr Chris Pallant of Canterbury Christ Church University presents ‘Beyond Chernobog: Animated Skies and the Gothic Imagination.’

11am–12.45pm: Aerial Animations
Panel 1
  • Elisa Decka (Academy of Performing Arts, Prague), ‘Beasts of the Bedtime Sky: Flying Creatures within the Tradition of TV Bedtime Stories for Kids’
  • Sara Khalili (Tehran University of Art), ‘A Short Vision’s Reception and Perception: The Story of an Animation that Came Unnoticed, Uninvited’
  • Angel Alderson (Newcastle University), ‘Miyazaki Hayao’s Floating City: Laputa: Castle in the Sky as Ecomedia’
  • Francis M. Agnoli (University of East Anglia), ‘Where Does a Sky Bison Poop? The Magic and the Mundane in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra
12.45–1.30pm: Lunch
1.30–3.15pm: The Politics and Culture of Space
Panel 2
  • Richard Mills (St Mary’s University), ‘Performing the Alien: David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)’
  • Rachel Steward (Independent Researcher), ‘Ethereal Planet Earth: ‘an ever-present character’ in our Contemporary Skies’
  • James Williamson (Goldsmiths), ‘Archetype as History in Hollywood Science Fiction of the 1950s’
  • Marco Benoît Carbone (University College London), ‘Grey’s Anatomy: A Cultural Dissection of the 1995 Alien Autopsy Footage’
3.15–3.45pm: Coffee
3.45–5.15pm: Bestiary of the Sky
Panel 3
  • Damian O’Byrne (St Mary’s University), ‘“Fly you Fools!” Fans, Eagles and Protecting the Precious’
  • Chunning Guo (Renmin University of China), ‘From Ocean to Outer Space: Digital Creatures Surviving in Generative Animation and the Re-evolution of Games’
  • Siravich Khurat (University of Glasgow), ‘Angels and Avians: The Digital Monsterization and Monsterification of Winged Digimon’
5.15–5.45pm: Keynote Reading
Dr Russell Schechter
5.45–6.15pm: Beasts of the Deep: Sea Creatures and Popular Culture
Book Launch
  • Beasts of the Deep: Sea Creatures and Popular Culture (John Libbey, 2018)

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For more information about this event please contact beastsoftheplace@gmail.com.


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