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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.

'Transforming Subjective Experience and Public Morality as Law in Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazzah Street' and 'Social Liminality as Artistic Exchange in Henry James’s Late Novels'

6th March 2019, 17:30 to 19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Lily Hulatt and Liza Tishchenko

The next Inventions of the Text seminar will see two postgraduate speakers talk about their research on the theme of Borders.

"‘This is a Theocracy’: Transforming Subjective Experience and Public Morality as Law in Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazzah Street," with Lily Hulatt

This paper will explore how far Mantel tests borders in genre, history, cultural boundaries, physical space, and spiritual presence in her 1988 novel Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. The novel’s central theme of entrapment and transformation best defines, tests, and subverts such borders. The main protagonist Frances Shore (a British expatriate) is locked into her home, Saudi Arabia, and trapped by her own authorial anxiety over her diary. Transformation is presented as a solution to overcome the borders she faces, and to the aesthetic problems encountered in EMOGS. Mantel claims that transformation (more specifically alchemy) is present in all her fictions due to her Catholic upbringing: ‘I think all of my books are really about a kind of alchemy, on a personal level […] Catholicism tells you at a very early age that the world is not what you see; that in fact beyond appearances there is another reality, and it is a far more important reality’ (A Change in Climate, 1994). Mantel sees transformation as liberation from fixed perceptions of the world, body, and identity. EMOGS also specifically crosses genre borders with the Irish fiction tradition of supernatural romance, Catholicism, and the transcendental. The novel, therefore, challenges the neoclassical view of genre as inflexible classifications in literature. Genre and Frances’ selfhood undergo a metamorphosisyet Frances’ transformation parallels Mantel’s personal experiences of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. EMOGS examines self-transformation, history as a social construction, and the breaking of genre boundaries to understand the subjective experience in entrapped spaces.

"'Coloured, labelled, mounted': Social Liminality as Artistic Exchange in Henry James’s Late Novels", with Liza Tishchenko

Readings of social experience and constructions of the self as a social being in the Jamesian canon have generally focused on several major areas, particularly the politics of the aesthetic and the narrative manoeuvrings consequent upon the tenuous dynamics of international contact. In this paper, I propose that consideration of James’s complex social dynamics may be complemented and furthered through the recognition that identity and social contact are revealed again and again in James’s writing to be tenuously positioned at the border between private narrative experience and an externally-accessible and inherently volatile sphere of artistic reception, betraying the limits inherent in the very idea of personality as a holistic entity. Narrative discourse, linguistic constructs, conceptions of textual formatting, and processes of critical response compose a system wherein individuals define, mediate, and engage with their experiential realities. The numerous borders implied in this experience of transposing and merging private and public narratives of the self are the foci of this paper, which explores not only boundaries such as those between artist and audience or creation and reception, but also borders as margins or reserves of narrative potentialities inherent in the diverse modes of display, advertisement, and response depicted in James’ novels. Ultimately, locating these traditional artistic concepts within the framework of social liminality allows for a more comprehensive contextualisation of the strains characterising the unstable definition of definition in the modernising fin-de-siècle world.

The seminar will be followed by drinks in The Victoria Inn and the option of dinner at Ristorante Capriccio. If you would like to join us for dinner, please contact us at

Contact for more information about this event.


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.


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