Panel 3.1 Tangible Boundaries


Hannah Boaden, Lancaster University, UK, “Dreadful Doorways: Anxious Explorations of Transitional Spaces in Visual Culture”

The production of Resident Evil (2002) as a development from the popular video game culminates in one of the most iconic action horror films in cinema. Beginning as a tool to disguise loading screens in the game, doors and doorways are transformed into a narrative device in the film.  The film explores the theme of confinement and intrusion, with doors providing a crucial reference for transition between boundaries. These are also intrinsic in the cinematography and editing structure of the film in order to maximise emotional engagement of the audience.

In this paper I will discuss specifically how doors are essential in wielding emotive power within the film. Bachelard’s attention to defining space and Heidegger’s consideration for transitions in terms of potentiality to actuality will form the foundations upon which I will base my discussion. My argument is that the doorway indicates the presence of concealed elements that may only be revealed by committing to the transition from one space to another. It is in consideration of these indeterminable factors that the spectator experiences trepidation.

Not all doorways are met with such anxiety, and thus the significant component to recognise is that the new space threatens to alter the protagonist’s current reality in a way that cannot yet be fully conceived. Resident Evil exemplifies this lack of control, establishing every scene with a doorway that could save, harm, deceive, surrender or resist at will, and therefore providing pivotal moments in the narrative. Perceiving the film in this way allows for a greater understanding of how our experience of space may evoke such emotions of dread and anxiety when no threat is yet apparent. This is important to regard before contemplating further complications from technological influences on our ability to observe environments.


Bionote: Hannah is currently on course to graduate this summer with a first-class degree in (BA) Fine Art at Lancaster University. Her study interests include: critical theory, visual culture, sound design, global cinema, digital arts, temporal perceptions of space, and understanding human experience through the arts.


Corinna Joerres, University of Oxford, UK /University of Bonn, Germany, “Reimaginings of Hadrian’s Wall in the worlds of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels and Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series”

Hadrian’s Wall is considered to be the best-known Roman monument in Great Britain and also one of its most enigmatic. What we see today are mainly ruins and while much research and rebuilding has been done, many details about it still lie in the dark.

It is not surprising then that at least two widely read authors have been inspired by this monument to pick up the image and concept of Hadrian’s Wall and incorporate it, changed and reimagined, into their own fantastic worlds: The first is George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, which began with the publication of A Game of Thrones in 1996 and has since won huge acclaim and fame, not least due to HBO’s highly popular TV adaptation. Martin’s Wall looms large as an ancient structure built out of ice and magic to protect the Seven Kingdoms as their northern frontier. The second is Garth Nix’s renowned Old Kingdom series, beginning with Sabriel (1995) where a pseudo-medieval, magic Wall separates the equally pseudo-medieval and fantastic Old Kingdom from a technology-ruled country resembling Edwardian Britain, with trenches and concertina wire on their side of this Wall.

Ancient walls, each infused with magic properties, form an important part of each setting as borders and boundaries emphasising the conflicts within the narratives. Considering that both series originated in the mid-1990s, the two examples show remarkable similarities, linking the two fantastic walls back to Hadrian’s Wall as a monument deeply steeped in the collective consciousness of Britain and beyond, but there are also highly interesting differences. This paper will consider how two different authors, one from the US, the other from Australia, reimagined this monument: What does it divide; how is it constructed within the narrative and outside of it through maps; who guards it and what does it guard against; and, most importantly, in what way can each wall be considered as fantastic location while bringing the magical aspects of its world into the focus of the narrative?


Bionote: Corinna Joerres currently works at the University of Oxford as Lektorin in German for The Queen’s, St John’s, St Catherine’s and Keble Colleges. After a B.A. in English Studies and French at Bonn University, Germany, Corinna received her M.Phil. in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin in 2013 and is now working on an M.A. thesis on World War I and the Fantastic.


Brian Baker, Lancaster University, UK, “The Cosmological Bedroom: The Voyage Out and Coming Home in SF Cinema”

This paper will investigate the use of domestic space in cosmological science fiction narratives, and in particular the space of the bedroom as the site of origin and return. In 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Bowman emerges from his Stargate experience into a fabricated bedroom which, through abrupt transitions in time an point-of-view, becomes the site of transformation into the Star Child, at the same time a symbolic return to a womb-like space (the Star Child is first seen in an embryonic sac hovering over the counterpane of the bed) and a transcendent moment of voyaging. In other sf films in the cosmological mode – here, I will focus on Contact (1997), Soderbergh’s Solaris (2002) and Interstellar (2014) – the bedroom is at once the point of contact with the cosmological ‘outside’/ Other and the site of trauma, which must be symbolically returned to in order to ‘heal’ the protagonist and thereby provide the impetus for further voyages out/ transformation.

Rather than proposing a binary opposition between these two spaces, the paper will suggest instead a mutual implication between ‘inner’ and ‘outer’, the domestic and the cosmological, which ultimately roots the narrative in human and emotional experience. The return to the bedroom is a return to a primal scene, a place of reproduction and (re-)birth. The location of cosmological sf is at once among the stars, and in the secure space of comfort, security and desire.


Bionote: Brian Baker is currently a Lecturer in English at Lancaster University, UK. He has published, along with articles and chapters on science fiction, film, Iain Sinclair, and science and literature, several books, including: Masculinities in Fiction and Film (Continuum, 2006), and its ‘sequel’, Contemporary Masculinities in Fiction, Film and Television (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). The Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism: Science Fiction was published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2014, and he is now working on Fuzzy Revolutions: Science Fiction in the 1960s for Liverpool UP.