Panel 1: Coming of Age Narratives and the Gothic


The Story of Coraline(s): A Gothic Coming of Age
J. Javier Torres Fernández (Universidad de Almería)

This presentation proposal deals with Coraline (2002), the novel by Neil Gaiman, and Coraline (2009), the animated adaptation directed by Henry Selick based on Gaiman’s book. While Gothic stories often emphasize and question human morality, children’s literature usually holds a moralizing value. Neil Gaiman’s Coraline presents a story within the genre of children’s literature that seems to be deeply rooted in the Gothic tradition. Some of the fundamental gothic elements in Coraline’s story are the presence of ghosts, grotesque beings, and the existence of a parallel and dark universe that serves as the setting for the story. Coraline deals with anxieties related with personal development, growing up, and the environments that surround her. In this presentation, the main objective is to present the main narrative differences between the book and the film to argue that the book delivers a better understanding of Coraline’s gothic coming-of-age while the movie presents less Gothic elements. Gothic content within both the book and the film contribute to the undermining of the idealization of Coraline’s family, her own process of growing up, and her coping with moving to a completely different place. Thus, this holds significant didactic purpose in young readers. Now, despite Selick’s film being a faithful and well-delivered adaptation of Gaiman’s novel, there are considerable differences that affect how the audience interprets Coraline as a character and her story. The creation of the gothic world is exploited in both works to represent Coraline’s coming-of-age experience and her conflict with her family. This gothic world is seen as alternative reality since there is nothing that hints that this parallel world is created through Coraline’s imagination. As Jagannathan states, “the darkness is an essential ingredient even though it leads to traumatic confrontations for the protagonists because in that catharsis, both the reader and the protagonist expand their imagination and creativity” (2017, 2). It will be through Coraline’s experience within this gothic world that readers and spectators will be introduced to her fears of loneliness and not fitting in, and how she overcomes these.


Coming of Age Experiences and the Creation of Gothic Worlds in Tim Burton’s Work
Carmen Sofía Díaz Sánchez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

It is widely acknowledged that Tim Burton has a unique narrative style that has become an identifiable brand, which remains cohesive and personal throughout his filmography. He creates a universe that mix a reinterpretation of the gothic atmosphere with peculiar or monstrous elements that, despite their weirdness, are embedded into normality. Hence, he constructs two kind of worlds: a ‘real world’ marked by a physical or psychological impoverishment that alienate the protagonists, and a whimsical “Other world” where the supernatural lives under its own rules. The spectators do not have any problems on identifying these worlds as they are portrayed with distinctive atmospheres, either more colourful or dark and quirky, helping the audience to follow the story. When adapting children and young adults’ novels, Burton focuses on the characters’ struggle on how to fit in or understand their world, which tries to impose a “normality” the characters cannot embrace without negative consequences for them. The alienation of the characters triggers their falling into this Other world, and thus, initiating a double journey: firstly, as a quest like in traditional tales as they have to complete a task that only they can accomplish in order to save the aforementioned world; and secondly, a journey towards maturity as they will use the knowledge they gained in the Other world to solve their problems and assert their own personality back in their Original world. Three of Burton’s film adaptations are selected to show the various approaches on portraying varying coming-of-age experiences at different stages of life. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child that has the opportunity to raise their family out of poverty while showing the importance of a supportive family and making amendments with the past; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as a teenager (Jacob Portman) has to cope with his grandfather’s death while completing a challenging task that has been passed upon him; and Alice in Wonderland as an updated revision of a classic novel in which a young adult woman learns how to overcome social conventions by being a role model for herself and others alike.


Becoming Gray: The Gothic of Morality as Told by Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Ian Downes (University at Buffalo – SUNY)

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, following the Baudelaire children as they are passed from one haunted location to the next, demands attention for its use of the Gothic as an understanding of morality through embodied knowledge. A Series of Unfortunate Events places a story of growing up as the painful understanding that the world is not always just, that people are not always good, and that things rarely can be seen as a simple good and evil. How might this series offer an ethical perspective to the performative “self” as it must navigate embodied performances of day-to-day actions? As a “coming of age” story rooted in the Gothic, Snicket offers an exploration of intention and action in the case of ethics. While I might speak at great length about the whole series, I am particularly interested in the third quarter: The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, and The Carnivorous Carnival, as these stories are when we begin to see the unraveling of a morality that was expressly given to us in the first half of the series. Our protagonists contend with the embodiment of morality as they move through these traditional horror settings of the lone village, the malpracticing hospital, and the “freakshow.” I bring attention to the idea of the embodied self in relationship to morality, a notion that dates back to even Aristotle and Confucius. Using Laurie Langbauer’s consideration of Snicket’s meta-fictional voice as a starting point, I drive attention towards the body–particularly the embodied actions of our protagonists–as a site of meaning-making and memory, as proposed by Elizabeth Grosz in her dive into embodiment through the lens of Merleau-Ponty and Nietzsche. As the strict moral nature of the first half of the series burns away around the Baudelaires, it is through their continued embodied actions and considerations of their actions that develops the critical eye for a morally-gray character. Considering the daily construction of the “self” through the lens of performance scholars, these actions become important to the consideration of character, and as the Baudelaires must themselves perform evil acts, as compared to Count Olaf’s actions in the series, they comprehend a form of morality that is questionably gray.