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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.

Thinking Through Ghosts and Contaminations: The Cases of Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock

10th May 2016, 18:15 to 19:30, Elvet Riverside 140, Dr Michael Mack (English Studies, Durham University)

Added due to popular demand, this further lecture forms part of the Institute of Advanced Study's 'Ghosts: The Evidence of Spirits' series. This lecture is free and open to all.

Does the ghostly slow things down? How is James’s and Hitchcock’s respective questioning of acceleration pertinent to a better understanding of our contemporary digital culture? This culture places a premium on actions, on doing. Acceleration has been ever increasing since the industrial revolution. Speed elevated doing: the sheer quantity of actions. James and Hitchcock in different yet related ways show how actions without the perceptive work of understanding can have deleterious consequences. Here perception is no longer removed from the world of action as has traditionally been the case in standard oppositions between the contemplative and the active life of politics. Anticipating the neuroscientific exploration of mirror neurons, the 1908 preface to The Portrait of a Lady makes a strong case for the discovery action within perception. Crucial here are Isabel Archer's quasi-ghostly visitation in chapter 42. In a similar way, Hitchcock’s films make us see how behind what we take to be innocent dwells a more sinister, ghostly world which we perceive when the speed of our perception slows down.

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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.

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