Thinking Through Ghosts and Contaminations: The Cases of Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock (Public lecture, 10th May)


Join us at the final (yes, really this time) talk in the extended series Ghosts: The Evidence of Spirits. Dr Michael Mack considers how the ghostly works of Alfred Hitchcock and Henry James teach our frantic digital culture about the importance of perceiving and thinking about the world at a slower pace. All welcome to this free public lecture at Elvet Riverside 140, 18.15 on 10th May. 

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.

Podcasts from previous lectures in the series are available now.

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