This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.
Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.
The Poisoned Gift of Forgiveness in Jane Eyre
In the mid-19th century the new materialist “physio-psychology” of Alexander Bain, Herbert Spencer, and G. H. Lewes, which reduced “mind” and “soul” to movements of “nerve energy,” held sway. Under its influence, the Brontës and George Eliot developed a radical new form of novelistic moral psychology, one that was no longer bound by the idealizing presuppositions of traditional Christian moral ideology, and which is closely related to Nietzsche’s physiological theory of will to power (itself directly influenced by Spencer). This lecture explains how, through the figure of St. John Rivers, Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre investigated the “free gift” of forgiveness in terms of the physio-psychology of vengeance—a paradigm case of the poisoning of the aggressive instincts when they are repressed by a moral ideology that ignores their physiological hydraulics, forcing them to find covert expression.
Henry Staten's work has always explored the boundaries between literature, philosophy, and psychology. His lecture at Durham, which continues this exploration, is drawn from his recently completed book, Spirit Becomes Matter: the Brontes, George Eliot, Nietzsche, which argues that these three English novelists are involved, like Flaubert, Baudelaire, and Nietzsche, in the modernist turn toward a moral psychology that is strictly naturalistic, therefore non-moral or post-moral. His earlier books are Wittgenstein and Derrida (1984), Nietzsche's Voice (1990), and Eros in Mourning: Homer to Lacan (1995). He is currently Lockwood Professor in the Humanities at the University of Washington in Seattle.
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Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies
We host a large number of conferences, lectures and seminars each year, many of them open to the public. Find out more on our Events page.
Many of our public lectures, seminars and conferences are recorded, and can be listened to as podcasts.
- 20th January 2021
- Sensory Experiments in Nineteenth-Century Literature
- Online (Zoom)
- Dr Erica Fretwell (University of Albany) and Dr Shannon Draucker (Siena College)