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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

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.

Can Literature Still Be Dangerous in the Western World?

13th November 2014, 19:00 to 20:00, Scarborough Lecture Theatre CG93 (Chemistry building), Professor Stephen Regan (Durham), Dr Sam Thomas (Durham), and Professor Peter McDonald (Oxford, St Hugh's)

A panel discussion, hosted by Durham University English Society.

“The victory of Ulysses helped create a culture in which literature lacks urgency”, says Stephen Kellman. Can literature still be dangerous? To celebrate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, the English Society is hosting a conversation on literary censorship and the socio-political space of literary production, media freedom of expression, and transition to new mediums.

As communication and media transition to new digital mediums, has literature become peripheral to the common culture? For example, a 'tweet' may provoke a firestorm while a sentence in a novel goes unnoticed. Might the victory for freedom of literary expression marked by Ulysses be a pyrrhic victory in which the impact of literature that might in another time be controversial, considered radical, oppressed, is marginalised? Do readers and we as a society take freedom of expression for granted? Does literature become a mere commercial commodity once the battles for literary freedom, which so affirmed the power of words, die down? Conversely, I suppose, is it opposition – oppression, violent prohibition – that empowers literature, or is that an innate quality? How does this apply in those parts of the world where literature still carries stiff sentences of imprisonment and censure? Should we, free to write and publish, "check our privilege" in asking these questions?

Confirmed panelists include Professor Stephen Regan (Durham), Dr Sam Thomas (Durham), and Professor Peter McDonald (Oxford, St Hugh's). 

£2 admission for non-members. As always, you can become a member at and attend all our events for free.

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