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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.

The Open Door: towards an ethics of the literary ghost

24th November 2015, 18:15 to 19:15, Elvet Riverside 140, Dr Luke Thurston (University of Aberystwyth)

Part of the Institute of Advanced Study's 'Evidence of Spirits' lecture series.

Ethics, for Levinas, entails an impossible moment of access to a pure, unreadable exteriority, an otherness beyond the ontological enclosure of the ego’s signifying reality. In this paper Dr Thurston argues that the Victorian ghost story, though often weighed down by generic convention and cliché, occasionally stumbles up against an instance of radical otherness that gravely jeopardises the ontological security and consistency of representable reality. Through a close reading of Margaret Oliphant’s story ‘The Open Door’ (1885), Dr Thurston shows how the literary ghost can bring into the supposedly inert and sterile landscape of Victorian fiction an overwhelming moment of absorption in and concern for the being of the other. In its other-centredness, its terrifying opening onto the face of the other, ‘The Open Door’ outstrips the narcissistic experimentalism of much avant garde literature and foretells the modernist endgame of a Beckett or a Celan.

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