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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Visual Evidence (Ghosts - the Evidence of Spirits) Public Lecture series : The Open Door: towards an ethics of the literary ghost

24th November 2015, 18:15, Room ER140, Elvet Riverside Building, Dr Luke Thurston (University of Aberystwyth)

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.




The project consists of three separate, but complementary strands: a lecture series, an exhibition on ‘Ghost Stories’ held in October 2015 at the Durham World Heritage Site Visitor Centre; and a one-day workshop to take place at the IAS on 23 February 2016. Lectures will be held fortnightly on commencing 13 October at 6:15pm in Elvet Riverside 140. Lectures and the exhibition are open to all, though attendees at the opening event of the exhibition will need to register in advance.

For more information on this series of events, please click on this link.


This lecture is free and open to all.

Map - Elvet Riverside is denoted as building No. 25

Contact for more information about this event.