ACLAR: Virtual Macbeth and the Uncanny



Yay! I have had my two abstracts accepted for the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research (ACLAR) Conference. The first one is a revisiting the creative work/research project Virtual Macbeth, using a new analytical approach. (I’ll publish more on the second abstract in another post). See the abstract below:

Abstract Title: Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters: On constructing the uncanny in a virtual treatment of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Virtual Macbeth (Thomas, Richards & Ely-Harper, 2008), an island in Second Life (Linden Research Inc., 2003), was designed to demonstrate how we might best use the affordances of virtual environments to explore literary works. In the virtual, the abstract can be made concrete, and complex abstractions of Shakespeare’s language can become embodied, visceral, and affective. The poetic use of metaphor, image and symbol that permeate Shakespeare’s language is brought to 3D life using the online world as a discursive design space where visitors experience the motivations and emotional journey of character, and explore and make personal sense of the universal themes of Shakespeare.

One of the particular design briefs was to construct a space to effectively immerse the visitor in a sense of the grotesque (Bahktin, 2009), eeriness and abject (Kristeva, 1982). This paper will demonstrate how notions of the uncanny (Freud, 2003; Todorov, 1975; Bahktin, 2009; Eckhard, 2011) were carefully constructed and designed within the 3D world, taking into account intersecting theorisations of the uncanny cyborg (Mori, 1970), uncanny architecture (Vidler, 1994), uncanny aesthetics in art and film (Oursler, 1997; Wiene, Mayer & Janowitz, 1984), intermodal divergence as it constructs moments of deep affect (Thomas, 2014), and notions of cyberspace subjectivity (Thomas, 2007). The paper will trace the virtual treatment of Macbeth from design to production and will draw on reports that describe the emotional effects of the space as experienced by those interacting with the work.


  • Bakhtin, M. (2009). Rabelais and his world. (H. Iswolsky, Trans.). Indiana: Indiana University Press. (Original work published in 1965).
  • Eckhard. P. (2011). Chronotopes of the uncanny: Time and space in postmodern New York novels. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Freud, S. (2003). Uncanny. (D. McLintock, Trans.). Penguin Classics. (Original work published in 1919).
  • Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of horror: An essay on abjection. (L. S. Roudiez, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. (Original work published in 1980).
  • Linden Research Inc. (2003 – present). Second Life. [3D Virtual World]. Retrieved from
  • Mori, M. (1970). The uncanny valley. (K. F. MacDorman & T. Minato, Trans.). Energy. 7, 33–35. Retrieved from
  • Oursler, T. (1997). Man She She. [Art Installation]. Retrieved from,%201997&subSection=Installations&allTextFlg=true&title=Man%20She%20She.
  • Thomas, A. (2007). Youth online: identity and literacy in the digital age. Peter Lang: New York.
  • Thomas, A. (2014). Intermodal complementarity and social critical literacy in children’s multimodal texts. In: E. Djonov & S. Zhao [Eds.] Critical multimodal studies of popular culture. London: Routledge.
  • Thomas, A., Richards, K. & Ely-Harper, K. (2008). Virtual Macbeth. [Island in the virtual world of Second Life]. Retrieved from
  • Todorov T. (1975). The fantastic: A structural approach to a literary genre. (R. Howard, Trans.). Ithica: New York: Cornell University Press.
  • Vidler, A. (1994). The architectural uncanny. Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  • Wiene, R., Mayer, C. & Janowitz, H. (1984) The cabinet of Dr. Caligari: A film (revised edition, translated from German by R. V. Adkinson). London: Lorimer.

The featured image is a montage of design notes for Lady Macbeth’s wunderkammer (Kate Richards) and the 3D realisation (Beth Sachtjen aka Stella Costello for the New Media Consortium).

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