Keynote speaker – Dr Helen Wheatley (University of Warwick)

Haunted landscapes: trauma and grief in the television ghost story

Maria del Pilar Blanco, writing about North American literature, proposes that to ‘ghost-watch implies a vigilant perception of the landscapes depicted within it’ (2012: 1) and suggests that ghosts are always ‘embedded in the story about a place’ (ibid: 8). This paper explores these suggestions in relation to recent television narratives of haunting (Marchlands (ITV1, 2011), The Secret of Crickley Hall (BBC1, 2012) Lightfields (ITV1, 2013), Remember Me (BBC1, 2014) and The Living and the Dead (BBC1, 2016)). I argue that in these ghost melodramas, landscape carries a great weight of signification, enabling an exploration of themes of grief, loss, trauma and the search for truth and reconciliation. This work on the ghost story is part of a broader project I am pursuing on television and death, that thinks about the centrality of the medium in working through our thoughts and feelings about death and dying.

Helen Wheatley holds a BA in American and English Literature from the University of East Anglia and an MA and PhD in Film and Television Studies from the University of Warwick. Helen has taught at the University of Warwick since 1998, with a brief sojourn to the University of Reading as Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the AHRB-funded project Cultures of British Television Drama, 1960-82 between 2003 and 2005. Helen was recently co-investigator on the AHRC-funded project A History of Television for Women in Britain, 1947-89. She also serves on the editorial boards of the following journals: Screen, Critical Studies in Television, Intensities, Revenant.

Her book Spectacular Television: Exploring Televisual Pleasure (IB Tauris, 2016) won the BAFTSS Award for Monograph of the Year in 2017.

Dr Helen Wheatley has published work on popular genres in television drama in the UK, US, including her monograph Gothic Television (2006). Helen has an ongoing interest in issues of television history and historiography, the topic of herHel edited collections Re-viewing Television History: Critical Issues in Television Historiography (IB Tauris, 2007) and Television for Women: New Directions (Routledge, 2016, with Rachel Moseley and Helen Wood).
Helen’s monograph Spectacular Television: Exploring Televisual Pleasure was published by IB Tauris; this combines research on the history of particular television technologies as spectacular, with analysis of the ways in which, for example, landscape, bodies (both human and animal), and action are rendered visually pleasurable or spectacular on the small screen. Dr Wheatley was recently Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project ‘A History of Television for Women in Britain, 1947-1989’, running between Warwick and De Montfort University, 2010-2014, with Rachel Moseley (Warwick) and Helen Wood (Leicester University). The project brought together archival and audience research methods in order to map this untold history and explore women viewers’ memories of the television that has been addressed to them. The project was awarded the 2012 Arts Impact Award for public engagement with its Pop-Up TV Pop Shop in Coventry City Centre.