Film and Screen Studies staff slay at Whedon conference

An international conference that recently took place at Kingston University brought together academics and writers interested in the work of TV creator and screenwriter Joss Whedon (Avengers Assemble, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

The University of Northampton’s Dr Lorna Jowett and Dr Michael Starr were on the team that organised the seventh Slayage Conference (dubbed ‘Euroslayage’) where they also presented papers. The Slayage conference is the biennial international conference of the Whedon Studies Association (WSA), which publishes the online peer-reviewed academic journal Slayage: the Journal of Whedon Studies and the undergraduate journal Watcher Junior.

Lorna and Mike were joined at the conference by the University of Northampton’s Dr David Simmons, who presented during the Fandom and Audiences session, and Anthony Stepniak – a graduating MA English student – who gave a paper on vampire character Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This was the first time the biennial conference had been held outside of North America – previous locations include Nashville, Vancouver and Sacramento. The event was organised by Lorna and Mike alongside Dr Simon Brown (Kingston University), Dr Stacey Abbott (Roehampton University—Stacey has just retired as president of the WSA) and Dr Bronwen Calvert (Open University).

Left to right: Simon, Lorna, Stacey, Mike, Bronwen.
Left to right: Simon, Lorna, Stacey, Mike, Bronwen.

Mike, whose paper examined accelerationism in Whedon’s work, and Lorna, who performed a Good Cop, Bad Cop debate with Mary Ellen Iatropoulos about Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., joined conference delegates from around the world, with speakers coming from across the UK, as well as the USA, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and India. Keynote talks were given by Dr Rebecca Williams (University of South Wales) on Post-object Fandom, and Dr Marcus Recht (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt) on the visual gendering of Buffy‘s best known male vampires Angel and Spike. The conference dinner on Friday evening was followed by the presentation of the annual awards for Whedon scholarship (called the Mr Pointy Awards – who says academics don’t have a sense of humour) and the now traditional  ‘Once More With Feeling’ Buffy musical episode singalong.

Mike and Lorna have both been active in the WSA for some time: Mike has been one five Mr Pointy jurors for the last two years, while Lorna is a charter member of the association and is proud to have attended all seven Slayage conferences. The logo and poster for EuroSlayage were designed by Mike, though we couldn’t anticipate the result of the Brexit vote. “It’s great to see so many new people attending Slayage for the first time,” Lorna said. “This is why we worked so hard to hold it in Europe: we knew there were many people who really wanted to come but just couldn’t afford to travel to the US or Canada.” Anyone can join the WSA, and anyone can submit articles to Slayage and Watcher Junior. Attendees at EuroSlayage were academics, students, independent scholars, authors, and people working in TV and in other creative industries. 8 out of 10 delegates say that most academic conferences aren’t this much fun.

The EuroSlayage logo, designed by Northampton's Mike Starr
Logo designed by Northampton’s Mike Starr

‘The EuroSlayage Conference on the Whedonverses’ was held 7-10 July at the Knights Park campus of Kingston University. For further details click here. EuroSlayage was tweeted using #scw7. You can read a blog about the conference by a first-time Slayage attendee here.