The Department of English runs a wide variety of lectures every year for a public and academic audience. Listen again to some of our previous lecture series. Alternatively, you can browse by the literary period they cover.
The theme for 2018’s series was ‘Beginnings and Endings’, and sees us move from medieval snake-women to death in Victorian literature – with topics such as early sound film and the burning of Shakespeare’s Globe along the way.
From Brexit to climate change, we live in turbulent times – but a look at literature through the ages reminds that ‘change’ has been a permanent feature of society. Late Summer Lectures 2017 was organised around the theme of ‘change’, and took listeners on a journey from the birth of Britain to the future that awaits us.
From the legends of the Holy Grail to science fiction apocalypse, Late Summer Lectures 2016 explored a host of topics in literature and culture. Lectures were given by postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers from around the UK.
We live in a world populated by ghosts. Although the rationality which governs our lives urges us to conceal their presence, ghosts dwell throughout fictional or possible worlds in literature, in film, in art. We resist belief in ghosts and yet we feel them everywhere. Why? This Institute of Advanced Study lecture series investigated the evidence and reasons behind the ongoing existence of ghosts in our culture.
Did you know that a man-eating dragon once visited Durham City? Or that the oldest work of drama in Britain may have been written in the North East? Or that Lord Neville of Raby claimed the right to enter Durham cathedral once a year and make an offering of a recently killed stag on the altar in Durham Cathedral? The North East region is rich in a history of now forgotten folk traditions, performances, plays and rituals that were explored in this series.
From the ways in which Vikings have inspired writers through the ages, to a literary history of chocolate, Late Summer Lectures 2015 showcased some of the cutting-edge research performed by postgraduate researchers throughout the Northeast.
How do we define ourselves as human beings? This was the theme underpinning a day of lectures given by our postgraduate researchers. From the emphasis that medieval romances place on heraldry and group identity, to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s socialite Jay Gatsby, to fictional encounters with the ostracised werewolf, literature often tells a story about people who struggle to define themselves in relation to society around them.
During the twentieth century, secret state agencies affected literary culture across the world. State agencies banned books, censored theatre and film, maintained dossiers on authors, and blacklisted performers. A conference on Modern Literature, Culture, and the Archives of the Secret State brought together an international array of scholars to discuss the ways in which modern literature and culture interacted with the secret state.
From the uncanny films of Wes Anderson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, to the flimflamming con artists of Oscar Wilde, Late Summer Lectures returns in 2014 with an eclectic and fascinating mix of topics. Late Summer Lectures introduces the cutting edge research of our postgraduate students to a wide audience.
What happened when George Orwell tried to shoot an elephant? How did a Greek farming manual influence the style of Western literature? Can we ever read a novel in isolation from all the other works of literature that we have read? These were some of the questions explored by postgraduate researchers at our annual Easter Lectures Day.
Vampires and poltergeists; eternal children and cyborgs – this series of short lectures explored how literature depicts the fantastic. Recorded at Palace Green Library on 14th March 2014, the lectures tied in with the science-fiction exhibition, Robot.
1960s counter-culture in Newcastle, vampires, HP Lovecraft, and mediaeval monkeys. These are amongst the topics covered by PhD students from Durham’s Department of English Studies in the fourth annual Late Summer Lecture Series in English Literature.
A 2012 exhibition of avant-garde magazines in Durham’s Palace Green Library explored magazine culture from Charles Dickens to Oscar Wilde and into the early 20th century. Defying tradition and convention, these publications flaunted their modernity and sought to reinvent the magazine as a celebration of decadent art, unafraid to shock the public. A series of talks was held to mark the exhibition.
Late Summer Lectures 2012 featured talks by PhD researchers from all departments within the Arts and Humanities. Podcasts cover topics such as Nabokov’s Lolita, the meaning of beauty, and folk music libraries.
The Persistence of Beauty focused on British, Irish, and American authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The series reflected on the ways that the Romantic and Post-Romantic imagination aspired towards an idealised notion of the beautiful as a harmonious, often transcendent, perfection only to discover that such an ideal conception of beauty is ironically unattainable. An aspiration towards the beautiful confronts us with some of the most difficult and unbeautiful truths about the limitations of our existence and art. This is something Post-Romantic writers took up, and beauty remained central, and was perhaps even renewed and intensified, for later nineteenth- and twentieth- century writers.
The Recovery of Beauty aimed to ask whether and how beauty can be reinstated as real and valuable. The last decade has witnessed major changes in our understanding of what makes the human body beautiful: the traditional idea that beauty is subjective has been challenged, for example, by evolutionary psychologists. The lecture series rediscovered the meanings and manifestations of beauty.