Interpreting Gothic Strangeness and Tragedy at the Coast in Public Humanities Storytelling

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Contributor(s) Organisations

26 Jun 2021

Type(s) Oral presentation

Event details

Event TitleHaunted Shores
Duration22 Jun 202126 Jun 2021
LocationEdinburgh Napier University
CountryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


The Gothic clings to coasts and finds voice through strange stories of drowning, shipwreck, suicide and smuggling. Centuries of accumulated death and tragedy forms a dense web of sorrow with particularly prolific roots in the literature, songs, and stories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These traditions resonate within the longer history of lives and vessels lost in the Irish Sea, becoming part of what Gillian O’Brien has described as the “ring of sorrow” encircling Ireland—and the wider archipelago—“binding together communities who have suffered maritime tragedies like beads on a rosary”.
The Ports, Past and Present project is an initiative funded by the European European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme. It seeks, through its storytelling activities, to present a depth of narrative across five coastal communities—Dublin Port, Rosslare, Pembroke Dock, Fishguard and Holyhead—and to bring the past to life for visitors and residents alike. In the course of this task, the project has tuned in to a dark and tragic subset of coastal folklore and literature. In this paper, three project members will discuss some of the coastal Gothic resonances that cross the Irish Sea, and explore some of the conundrums of expressing this material through digital and stakeholder-based public history activities.