Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration, and the everyday.

Dr Peter Garratt on ‘Dickens and Over-hearing’

Public Lecture
Learning Centre, Palace Green Library
26 January 2017, from 5.30 – 7pm

Dickens’s universe is thronged by innumerable well-defined voices, and his fiction carefully renders the acoustics of individual human speech and utterance. But what does Dickens reveal about what it’s like to overhear others? In this lecture, Peter Garratt will suggest why overhearing can help us unlock Dickens’s writing and creativity.

Overhearing is a special form of listening: it implies being drawn into secretive, fragmentary and possibly unsolicited auditory contact with proximate voices. As a novelist, Dickens felt he overheard some of his characters in the act of inventing them, such as Mrs Gamp, the alcoholic nurse from Martin Chuzzlewit, who would whisper incessantly to the author around the time he was writing the novel–a jovial torment Dickens was unable to fight off. At another level, the narrative style of his novels positions the reader at times as an overhearer, while overhearing becomes a dramatic device of its own when voices travel and escape from context or cross boundaries in key scenes. And, related as it is to eavesdropping and spying, over-hearing divulges narrative secrets and misinformation. Most strikingly perhaps, Dickens’s most autobiographical fiction suggests that memory can take the form of overhearing oneself.

All are welcome to attend this public lecture, and places can be reserved in advance through Eventbrite.



‘Dickens and Over-hearing’ is part of the linked programme of events around Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday, a major exhibition on voice-hearing produced by Hearing the Voice and Palace Green Library.


About Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday
Hearing a voice in the absence of any speaker is one of the most unusual, complex, and mysterious aspects of human experience. Typically regarded, as a symptom of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia, voice-hearing is increasingly recognized as an important part of many people’s lives and experience, as well as a phenomenon that has had profound significance, not only for individuals, but across communities, cultures, and history.

From the revelatory and inspirational voices of medieval mystics to those of imaginary friends in childhood, and from the inner voices of writers as they craft their characters to the stories of people from the international Hearing Voices Movement, this exhibition will explore the complexity and diversity of the experience and interpretation of voice-hearing.

This exhibition draws on the work of Hearing the Voice, a large interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing based at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everday will be installed at Palace Green Library, Durham, UK from 5 November 2016 to 26 February 2017.

For more information please see the exhibition website: www.hearingvoicesdu.org

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