The Dark Arts Research Group: Studies in Gothic, Horror and the Occult, 1750-Present

The primary focus of the Dark Arts Research Group is to explore long-standing cultural fascinations with gothic, horror and occultic topics. This ranges from historical studies of occultic practices such as séances in the late Victorian era to literary studies of famous short stories such as H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu (1928).

There has long been a cultural fascination with otherworldly entities and the macabre. From the publication of gothic and horror novels such as Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), to popular forms of entertainment such as phantasmagoria and stage magic. Themes such as death, monsters, and supernatural forces have regularly featured in art, literature, architecture, theatre, and even the sciences.

The nineteenth century also witnessed the emergence of the modern spiritualist movement and séances. As the sensation surrounding spirit and psychic phenomena blossomed, a new kind of belief in the supernatural spread across the globe. This new form of occultic belief intersected with other long-standing extraordinary beliefs, not only in Europe and North America, but also in places such as Asia and Africa. This research group will explore some of the ways people in different cultural contexts have engaged horror, gothic, and occultic topics since the mid 18th century.


  • Print culture, publishing, and gothic, horror and the occult
  • Gothic, horror and occult in art, architecture, and visual culture
  • Science, perception, and extraordinary belief
  • Gothic, horror, and occult novels/storytelling
  • Gothic, horror, and occult as a literary mode
  • Death, grief, mourning, trauma
  • The history of psychical research
  • Material studies of gothic, horror and the occult
  • Magic, illusion and deception
  • Technologies/objects and gothic, horror and the occult
  • Digital studies of gothic, horror and the occult
  • Gothic, horror and the occult in the media

Examples of research questions

  • Why has there been a long cultural fascination with the occult?
  • What is the historical relationship between science, medicine and extraordinary belief?
  • How do gothic, horror and occult stories respond to societal concerns?
  • What are the origins of gothic, horror and occultic stories?
  • What has been the role of illusion, deception and trickery in the history of occultic practice?
  • How has gothic, horror and occult been represented in art, architecture, and visual culture?
  • How have issues of trauma, death, grief, and mourning been portrayed/discussed in gothic, horror, and occultic studies?
  • What is the historical relationship between popular media and gothic, horror, and the occult.
  • How has the supernatural been represented in film and television?
  • How can we explore the history of gothic, horror, and occultic topics through objects and visual works?
  • How can new digital resources transform understandings of gothic, horror, and occultic studies?



The Rise of Popular Occulture in Europe
The project, funded by a small research grant from CEMES, aims is to explore the many ways that horror, gothic, and occultic topics have been communicated, presented, and packaged for broad audiences from the late eighteenth century to today. The project is especially interested in the ways different kinds of media technology, ranging from print and woodcut illustrations to photography and film have shaped conceptions of horror, gothic and the occult. The project is co-led by Efram Sera-Shriar and Robert Rix, with a planned conference to be hosted at Engerom in November 2023. See call for papers





Name Title Phone E-mail
Damkjær, Maria Associate Professor +4535330076 E-mail
Leese, Peter Associate Professor +4535328414 E-mail
Lock, Charles Professor +4535328622 E-mail
Lohmann, Katrine Wonge PhD Fellow +4535330169 E-mail
Lupton, Tina Jane Professor +4593509415 E-mail
Rix, Robert William Associate Professor - Promotion Programme +4535328170 E-mail
Sera-Shriar, Efram Teaching Associate Professor +4535329835 E-mail
Østermark-Johansen, Lene Professor +4535328583 E-mail