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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 Novelists Predict the Future?

26th July 2017, 13:00 to 14:00, PG 21 Pemberton Building, Andrew Crumey (Northumbria University)

A free talk to accompany the exhibition, Time Machines, in which novelist Andrew Crumey explores the phenomenon of literary precognition.

Sometimes novels make predictions about the future that turn out to be true. Are they lucky guesses, shrewd insight, or a sign that creative imagination can be prophetic? Drawing on his own experience as a novelist and physicist, Andrew Crumey explores the phenomenon of literary precognition.

Some predictions are strikingly precise: in Gulliver's Travels we read that Mars has two moons, though they would not be discovered until a century and a half later. Others are more like self-fulfilling prophecies: cyberspace existed in fiction before it became fact.

Yet prophecy need not only refer to the future: the prophet is one who interprets and transmits divine will, and it was this aspect that, for example, E.M. Forster emphasised in his consideration of the "prophetic" quality of fiction. Even if the novelist is not divinely inspired, he or she may be able to interpret the present and past in such a way as to point towards the future.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw profound mediations on the nature of time from Einstein and Proust. Before either of them, H.G. Wells was considering the possibility of time travel. What do today's novelists prophesise?"

Andrew Crumey is a novelist and critic whose work reflects his academic background in theoretical physics and his interest in the history of ideas.

This talk will be free of charge. Booking is not required for lunch time talks but seating will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Staff at Palace Green Library will be able to provide directions to the Pemberton Building if necessary.

Enquiries regarding talks should be made to Palace Green Library on 0191 334 2976.

Contact for more information about this event.


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