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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Visual Evidence (Ghosts - the Evidence of Spirits) Public Lecture series: Professor Chris Lloyd 'Ghosts in the City: from Baudelaire to Lydie Salvayre and Hilary Mantel'

1st March 2016, 18:15, ER140, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University

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 of Les 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.

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.

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