Dark Fantasies. Aesthetics of the Nightmare from the 20th Century to the Present

Dark Fantasies. Aesthetics of the Nightmare from the 20th Century to the Present

College of Arts School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Date: Thursday 11 May 2023 - Wednesday 24 May 2023
Venue: Goethe Institut Glasgow
Category: Conferences, Exhibitions

Nightmares make up only a small part of human dream life. What distinguishes the nightmare from the plethora of ‘bad’ dreams, that is, dreams determined by negative emotions, is its specific dimension of existential threat. In the nightmare, the dreaming subject experiences a threat to their individual existence and sometimes, beyond that, to their entire world.

In the history of dream theories, surprisingly, the nightmare plays a rather marginal role. The question of its function seems even more difficult to answer than is the case with the ordinary dream. In literature and the visual arts, on the other hand, we often find scenarios that refer or seem to refer to nightmares. Since the 20th century, many different genres and art movements with a special interest in the nightmare have emerged – most obviously fantasy and horror, surrealism and fantastic realism – but there has also been a boom in dystopian and apocalyptic themes in the most diverse cultural contexts.

The conference is intended as a contribution to a cultural history of the nightmare, a "nightmarology" (Dina Khapaeva) in the broadest sense, and, accordingly, its orientation is interdisciplinary. The historical framework of the conference is the 20th century to the present, with contributions on the theory of nightmares, on transcriptions of nightmares in diaries and autobiographical writings, but above all on representations of nightmares in literature, film and visual art, as well as in the new art forms of the 20th and 21st centuries such as comics, graphic novels, video clips and computer games.

An exhibition of nightmare aesthetics in comic and graphic art will accompany the conference. On display will be works by Glaswegian comic artist Frank Quitely (b. 1968) and by Casper Walter Rauh (1912-1983), a graphic artist from Upper Franconia who worked in the tradition of Fantastic Realism and Surrealism.

Conference and Exhibition Organisers:
Professor Sheila Dickson, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Glasgow
Professor Hans-Walter Schmidt-Hannisa, University of Galway

The conference and the exhibition are sponsored by the University of Glasgow, the University of Galway and the Goethe Institut, Glasgow.

For more information please contact sheila.dickson@glasgow.ac.uk.

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