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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.

Ghosts in the City: from Baudelaire to Lydie Salvayre and Hilary

1st March 2016, 18:15 to 19:15, Elvet Riverside 140, Professor Chris Lloyd

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

This lecture examines the evolution of the urban and suburban fictional ghost from the mid-nineteenth to early twenty-first century, focusing on three literary authors whose works show that the genre is not necessarily doomed to recycling antiquarian stereotypes and nameless horrors, but can on the contrary offer a probing account of the paradoxes of modernity. Baudelaire’s ‘Tableaux parisiens’ (the sequence of poems added to the second edition ofLes Fleurs du mal, 1861) energetically celebrates both the sordid grandeur of Second-Empire Paris and the spectral presences which haunt it, in a constant exchange between self and other, past and present, material presence and symbolic absence. Romantic spectres and allegories are inventively updated and relocated in thought-provoking and highly readable novels by Lydie Salvayre (La Compagnie des spectres, 1997) and Hilary Mantel (Beyond Black, 2005), which are set respectively in the outer suburbs and dormitory towns of contemporary Paris and London.

Both authors juxtapose sharply observed satire of contemporary post-industrial French and British society with moving accounts of its misfits and exiles, whose solipsistic alienation and possession by malevolent ghosts offer all too convincing evidence that spirits remain an integral part of humanity’s history and psyche.

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