A new perspective on the Gothic novel: Calvin Fung pushes literary boundaries

A new perspective on the Gothic novel: Calvin Fung pushes literary boundaries

PhD student in The School of Literatures, Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, Calvin Fung was always interested in creative writing, initially taking a related unit to analyse gothic and romantic texts. But it was through this where he met his soon to be supervisor, Chandani Lokuge, who influenced and inspired him to pursue a future career in academia and creative writing.

Hailing from the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, Mr Fung started his university life at The Chinese University of Hong Kong where he studied psychology after his baccalaureate, and then embarked on a one year exchange at Monash where he found the creative writing program to be the most established in Australia.

“I think it was the fact that unlike some of the literature units I did back in Hong Kong, I discovered a thirst for knowledge that I wanted to pursue further and not just looking at the texts generally, but also engaging with scholarship,” Mr Fung said.

“Every week sometimes a guest lecturer [would come] in and you have different academics teaching a subject – it was just a lot deeper, so all the academics could offer their own expertise in the same unit.”

“I think I came into Monash not as a really good writer, but after taking the units, especially having the support and the feedback from my supervisor, I was able to write better and that was the main thing that helped me win the [Monash Undergraduate Prize for Creative Writing], was getting the feedback from my supervisor,” Mr Fung said.

A year after winning the 2017 Monash Undergraduate Prize for Creative writing, he says the win is partially responsible for his acceptance into the creative writing PhD program which sees him writing a novel and a critical commentary on the novel – gothic with a twist.

“I’m trying to do a gothic Hong Kong. Gothic literature has always been primarily European – Dracula, Frankenstein – and there have been Asian and post-colonial texts that look at gothic, but I wanted to expand that to Hong Kong which hasn’t really been done academically,” he said.

“I’m hoping to write this gothic novel set in Hong Kong about a young person who is under the stress of a politically charged Hong Kong, and I want to explore issues of gender identity.”

Mr Fung also does a lot of research in queer theory as well, and hopes to incorporate that and to develop this character whose gender identity becomes almost a gothic monstrosity in an Asian setting.

“Writing this novel, I really want it to be published and I hope it will help me to enter it into competitions, but I also enjoy doing research in literary studies and I like to look at narratives and study them and that perhaps I’d be interested in doing,” he said.

“I learned at Monash you can really do whatever you want, there’s an academic freedom, where coming from Hong Kong I didn’t really have. I felt that I could do any unit I wanted, there wasn’t a rigid structure that I had to follow when I was doing my units and I really liked that.”

Now Mr Fung is also editor of the Monash literary journal Verge, an annual collection that highlights the best creative writing from all writers, and is also editor-in-Chief for Monash's Colloquy: text, theory, critique.

As for his plans for the future, he says he is not too sure. “I’m thinking of pursuing a career in academia or the education sectors. But I also like to think that as a 22-year old I don’t want to set in stone what the future might hold for me!”

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