This special issue of The Dark Arts Journal presents a range of critical and creative responses to the fiction and theory of acclaimed American horror writer, Thomas Ligotti. The issue publishes six academic papers, a specially commissioned interview with the author and a poetic response to Ligotti, which had all been presented at ‘Detecting Pessimism: Thomas Ligotti and The Weird in an Age of Post-Truth’ – An academic symposium hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University in June 2019.
The Symposium was the natural culmination of The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies’ long attraction and interest in the fiction, philosophy and artistry of Thomas Ligotti. Since copies of Teatro Grottesco (2008) and The Conspiracy against the Human Race (2010) began being passed around an in-house reading group a few years earlier, Ligotti’s ideas and images have since slowly burning away – haunting, even – the minds of academic staff and students aligned to the centre, challenging how we approach and appreciate weird fiction, pessimism and supernatural horror.
The symposium, organised by Xavier Aldana Reyes, Helen Darby and Rachid M’Rabty, coincided with an increased cultural and critical awareness of Ligotti’s works and provided an opportunity for academics, early-career researchers, creative practitioners and the wider public to come together and revel in the weird (and wonderful) fictions and the provocative and sometimes controversial philosophies of an author who, ironically, has always eschewed such attention. Underlying the symposium’s creative and research-driven activities was, at heart, a speculative attempt to follow in Ligotti’s footsteps: a concern with uncovering a means of rethinking about ourselves and the world around us, through a greater appreciation and awareness of our fundamental weirdness and horror.
Collected in this special issue of The Dark Arts Journal are short articles – or interventions – on Ligotti and topics such as: Suicide and anti-natalism in Ligotti (Xavier Aldana Reyes); Hyperconsciousness and the role of women in Ligotti (Leonie Rowland); Eco-Pessimism and Ligotti (Joe Howsin), Acid Communism and Socio-Political Possibility in Ligotti’s Weird Fiction (Jonathan Greenaway); and finally, the ‘Post-Hope’ Society in Ligotti’s fiction (Rachid M’Rabty).
These short critical interventions are preceded by Roger Luckhurst’s ‘Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Thomas Ligotti’s Supernatural Fiction’. In this piece, channeling his inner Ligotti, Professor Luckhurst presents four spectacular critical ‘interventions’, exploring Weird Fiction, Supernatural Horror, Anti-Philosophy and ‘Philo-Fiction’, and lastly, the ironies, controversies and importance of Thomas Ligotti.
Included in this issue is the transcript from a specially commissioned interview with Thomas Ligotti himself, conducted by Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes in June 2019. The issue is completed by Helen Darby’s Ligotti-inspired poem, Progenitor.
This special edition is produced with special thanks and gratitude to all of the issue’s contributors and editors, and we would also like to thank all those who in the wider Gothic community for continuing to support new and emerging voices in Gothic studies. A special thanks also to Thomas Ligotti – wherever you are and whoever you might be – for inspiring these works and for granting permission to reproduce the interview in this form.
About the authors:
Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes is Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Film and Manchester Metropolitan University and a founder member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. His books include Spanish Gothic (2017), Horror Film and Affect (2016) and Body Gothic (2014), and the edited collection Horror: A Literary History (2016). He has edited four anthologies of weird fiction for the British Library.
Helen Darby is Research Impact and Public Engagement Senior Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University. She was curator and organiser of the Gothic Manchester Festival 2014 – 2018 and is the instigator of the HAUNT Manchester network and website. Helen is a poet and a nihilist in her spare time.
Dr Jonathan Greenaway is Associate Lecturer in Film and Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research focuses on the Gothic, Marxism and theology. He is co-founder and editor of The Dark Arts Journal and the author of the forthcoming book Theology, Horror and Fiction: A Reading of the Gothic Nineteenth Century.
Joe Howsin is an MA student at Manchester Metropolitan undertaking the Gothic Studies route. He previously graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a BA in English Literature and is currently writing a dissertation on Mervyn Peake and the War Gothic. His research interests include Modernism, 20th Century Gothic, the Weird and science fiction.
Professor Roger Luckhurst is Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck University of London. He is author of numerous books including The Angel Between Two Walls: The Fiction of J. G. Ballard (1997), The Trauma Question (2008), Zombies: A Cultural History (2015), and the edited collection Science Fiction: A Literary History (2017).
Dr Rachid M’Rabty is Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. He completed his PhD in 2019 exploring the representations and philosophy of transgression and self-destruction in contemporary fiction. Rachid has published on topics ranging from the philosophy of Sade, to nihilism and suicide in Ligotti.
Leonie Rowland is an MA Student at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research interests include globalgothic, Asian gothic and J-Horror.