Events Diary

The World Heritage Site is a hive of activity, with many concerts, plays, talks and other events. What will you find of interest?

The events shown are taking place on or around Durham World Heritage Site. If you are organising an event, please tell us about it.

Future Memory and Circular Time in Dickens' 'The Signal-Man'

  • 11 Wednesday 11th September 2019 at 5.30pm Location: Alington House Tickets Free; reserve via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/read-research-english-at-durham-17315244160

    More information from www.dur.ac.uk/english.studies/events/lsls/

Charles Dickens' short story 'The Signal-Man' is hauntingly terrifying and intellectually complex. Claire Ashworth explains how Dickens' vision of time predicts the psychology of Freud, in the fourth Late Summer Lecture from the Department of English Studies. Free and open to all, from students and schools to members of the public.

About this Lecture

The concept of ‘Time’ in many of Dickens’ novels is a fluid, circular concept that was ahead of its era in many respects. In A Christmas Carol (1843), for example, the narrative begins in the present but then follows a strange linear-defying structure as Scrooge visits places in the past, alternate present, alternate future and back to the present. This strange temporality is augmented by the fact that, once Scrooge is restored to his ‘own time and place’, his terrifying visions of the future become memories of a future that did not and will not happen since he becomes a reformed man. By changing his ways and becoming a better person, Scrooge does not die in the way he foresaw and is thus able to avoid his fate.

The idea of ‘future memory’, as exemplified by Scrooge, is a concept which fascinated Dickens and many of his contemporaries including George Eliot, The Lifted Veil (1859) and Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860). In The Lifted Veil, for instance, the protagonist also foresees his own death but, unlike Scrooge, he is powerless to prevent it. Dickens takes this concept to another level in his most intellectually complex ghost story, ‘The Signal-Man’ (1866) in which he explores the effects of shock on the mind and the ability of the past to encroach on the present; an exploration which anticipated Freud in many respects.

About Claire Ashworth

Claire Ashworth is an English tutor and currently teaches at both Loughborough and Lincoln University. She recently completed her PhD on ‘Dickens and Memory’ and is in the process of writing an article on Dickens’ second, and lesser well-known, Christmas book, The Chimes. Claire previously presented a paper entitled Dickens’ Ghosts: An Altered Perspective at the Durham Late Summer Lecture series in 2017; this previous lecture is available to listen to here: https://readdurhamenglish.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/new-podcast-dickenss-ghosts-and-altered-perspectives/

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