Projects per year
Sam George is Associate Professor in Research and the Convenor of the popular Open Graves, Open Minds Project at the University of Hertfordshire. Inspired by the eighteenth-century botanist Tournefort, who voyaged in search of plants and found instead a plague of vampires on the island of Mykonos (1702), Sam George’s research has taken a gothic turn. Following the publication of Botany, Sexuality and Women’s Writing (2007), her contribution to New York Botanical Garden’s Poetic Botany exhibition and the co-editorship of Women and Botany (2011); she founded with Dr Bill Hughes the gothic research group Open Graves, Open Minds. She now researches botany alongside the gothic, unearthing depictions of the vampire and the undead in literature, art, and other media, embracing werewolves (and representations of wolves and wild children), dark fairies, and other supernatural beings and their worlds.
Following OGOM’s international conference on vampires in 2010, Sam developed the first postgraduate module on vampire studies in the UK, exciting the interest of the national and international press. She is now a leading spokesperson for the literary vampire. Her interviews have appeared in newspapers from The Guardian and The Independent to the Sydney Morning Herald, The South China Post, and the Wall Street Journal. She’s a regular contributor to The Conversation, amassing 261,802 reads for her lively and unusual articles on vampires, werewolves and fairies.
Her work with OGOM has led to a number of co-edited publications with Dr Bill Hughes: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (2012); In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children (2020); The Legacy of John William Polidori: The Romantic Vampire and its Progeny (2022) and the forthcoming collection ‘Ill met by moonlight’: Gothic Encounters with Enchantment and the Faerie Realm in Literature and Culture (forthcoming). Sam also co-edited the first ever issue of Gothic Studies on ‘Vampires’ with Bill Hughes in 2013 (15.1) and ‘Werewolves’ in 2019 (21.1).
Sam is currently researching America’s first Black Vampyre, in an anti-slavery text written in 1819, and writing up her research on Polidori and the vampire theatre. Having written on British werewolves in the journal of Gothic Studies and Japanese mermaids in the Critical Quarterly(the journal’s most downloaded article), she is focussing her new research on the intersection between folklore and the gothic. She is completing a monograph on Shadows and a book on Gothic Fairies: A History for Bloomsbury.
Elsewhere she is leading an impact case study on ethical gothic. Shifting away from horror, the ethical gothic seeks to cultivate a sense of moral agency, employing gothic narratives to create empathy for the marginalised, monstrous or othered, including the natural world. She has increased public awareness of how Gothic narratives can challenge perceptions of otherness and difference, helping to combat prejudice and hate crime through her work with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and used her research into folklore and myth to promote ecological conservation, working with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust to help inform public perceptions of wolves.
She recently recorded an obituary of Gothic writer Anne Rice for BBC Radio 4’s The Last Word and was a guest on In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 with Melvyn Bragg (on John Polidori’s Vampyre).
Following the phenomenal success of OGOM’S international vampire conference in 2010, there followed the UK’s first ever 3-day werewolf conference in 2015 (plus symposia on Stoker and Polidori) and a 4-day international conference on Gothic Fairies in 2021, OGOM hosted Nosferatu at 100: The Vampire as Contagion and Monstrous Outsider in March of this year and Sam gave a keynote ‘Demonised Outsiders: Pied Piper and Dracula myths in Nosferatu – the rat as vampiric totem animal’.
OGOM has also hosted 2 events for the Being Human Festival; ‘Redeeming the Wolf’ and ‘Gothic Visions of New Worlds’ and a 2-day conference on The Urban Weird with the Supernatural Cities Project at University of Portsmouth.
Commercial and public engagement
Impact Case Study REF 2020: Open Graves, Open Minds: Promoting empathy and interrogating difference through public engagement with Gothic narratives
My research, developing directly out of the Open Graves, Open Minds research project, has focused on the ‘ethical Gothic’ – the contribution Gothic narratives can make to ethical causes. Through extensive public engagement, pedagogical innovation and educational outreach activities, I have i) increased public awareness of how Gothic narratives can challenge public perceptions of otherness and difference, helping to combat prejudice and hate crime through her work with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation ; ii) used my research into folklore and myth to promote ecological conservation, working with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust to help inform public perceptions of wolves; iii) worked with and inspired the creative writing of the novelist Marcus Sedgwick.
Research Project: The Open Graves Open Minds website, www.opengravesopenmind.com, has enjoyed a large readership, with 126,833 hits to date. It is being preserved by the British Library Web Archive, which documents resources of scholarly and cultural importance. My profile has been heightened by my radio broadcasts, TV appearances and newspaper interviews (BBC News, BBC World Service, ITV This Morning, The Guardian, Times, THES, Wall Street Journal, etc.).
Interview highlights have included:
- ‘Blood, Sweat and Fears’, interviewed by Lucy Tobin, The Guardian, 6 April 2010
- ‘Vampires make it into Academia’, video footage, The Wall Street Journal, 5 June 2010
- ‘Counting on Dracula’, interviewed by Simon Midgley, The Times, 16 March 2011
- ‘Seven of the More Unusual Areas of University Research’, interviewed by Laurence Cawley at the BBC, 26 November 2013
- ‘University to Host International Werewolf Conference’, interviewed by Laurence Cawley, BBC News, 22 August 2015
- Werewolf conference billed as first for UK Academy’, interviewed in the Times Higher Education, 31 August 2015
I have published widely in the press. My total overall reads for The Conversation alone are 67,044. I am in the top 3% of academics on academia.edu. I am active on social media and have a large following on Twitter (over 9, 300 followers for @DrSamGeorge1 and 6,000 for @OGOMProject).
- ‘Older Than Dracula: In Search of the English Vampire’, The Conversation, 25 October 2018 (16, 336 reads; 384 Tweets, 2963 Facebook shares)
- ‘How Long Have We Believed in Vampires?’, The Conversation, 27 October 2017 (30, 195 reads; 131 Tweet; 231 Facebook shares)
Public appearances have included, but are not limited to: a Film 4 and BAFTA Panel, BBC World Service broadcast, Book Show, Sky Arts, The Edinburgh Festival, Warner Brothers Documentary, Being Human Festival, Battle of Ideas, Living Frankenstein, ITV This Morning, The Manchester Gothic Festival.
Highlights (2017‒19 only):
- ‘Dracula’, with Dacre Stoker, The Forum, BBC World Service, 20 September 2017.
- ‘Redeeming the Wolf’, talks/screening/public debate in collaboration with UK Wolf Conservation Trust for the Being Human Festival, 18 November 2017.
- ‘Books of Blood: Objects Lost and Found’, a ‘Show and Tell’ Workshop for Being Human Festival, at the Old Operating Theatre, London, 23 November 2017.
- Panel and Q & A on Frankenstein for 12 sixth forms at The Abbey Theatre, St Albans, 3 March 2018.
- Collaboration with Sarah Churchwell for ‘Living Frankenstein’, an immersive theatre event at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, later touring to Bath Literary Festival, 20- 23 May 2018.
- Appearance at the Edinburgh Festival in ‘Battle of the Books: Dracula v Frankenstein’ with the prize-winning writer Marcus Sedgwick. Coverage: The Edinburgh News, The Edinburgh Reporter, The Scotsman, The Skinny, 20 August 2018.
- Part two of Battle of the Books at Conway Hall, London, 4 September 2018.
- OGOM Gothic Tour of St Albans exploring the city’s magical and supernatural history; blanket coverage in Hertfordshire and St Albans press and a sell-out attendance. 31 October 2018, 2019.
- 'Old Stinker and Other UK Werewolves’, The Haunted Landscape: Magic and Monsters of the British Isles; Conway Hall, London. 23 November 2019. Attendees 450, plus live streaming on social media.
I teach Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Period literature together with Gothic Studies. I have developed modules on the literary representation of the child or adolescent ('Romantic Origins and Gothic Afterlives' (level 4) ‘Generation Dead: Young Adult Fiction and the Gothic’ (level 6). I am Programme Leader for the MA in Literature and Culture; I have developed postgraduate studies in 'Reading the Vampire'. I module lead Research Methods at MA level and the MA Dissertation module.
I have supervised the successful progression and completion of 4 PhD students: Most recently, Kaja Franck on ‘Literary Werewolves’; Jillian Wingfield on ‘Twentieth-Century American Vampires’; Matt Beresford on ‘The Byron/Polidori Relationship and the Legacy of the Romantic Vampire’. I am currently supervising projects on Botanical Gothic and The Mummy. I also supervise eighteenth-century/Romantic projects (e.g. MA by research 'The Representation of Maternity and the Breast in Eighteenth-Century-Literature’).
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OGOM: Open Graves, Open MInds: Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture
1/04/10 → …
In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild ChildrenGeorge, S. (ed.) & Hughes, B. (ed.), Jan 2020, Manchester University Press. 304 p.
Research output: Book/Report › Anthology
When wolves cry: wolf-children, storytelling, and the state of natureGeorge, S., Jan 2020, In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children. George, S. & Hughes, B. (eds.). Manchester University Press, p. 48-69 29 p.
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed) › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile28 Downloads (Pure)
Vampires, Demons and the Disappearing Shadow in Folkloric Fictions of the Long Nineteenth CenturyGeorge, S., Nov 2019, In: Gothic Studies. 21.3, 12 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-review
Wolves in the Wolds: Late Capitalism, the English Eerie, and the Wyrd Case of ‘Old Stinker’ the Hull WerewolfGeorge, S., May 2019, In: Gothic Studies. 21, 1, p. 68-84 17 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile1 Citation (Scopus)81 Downloads (Pure)
‘Wolves in the Wolds: Late Capitalism, the English Eerie, and the Weird Case of ‘Old Stinker’ the Hull Werewolf’George, S., Feb 2019, (Submitted) Gothic Studies, 21, 1 25 p.
Research output: Contribution to specialist publication › Article