Abbie Garrington

Crossing Borders 2016 | 8 November, 7 - 8.30pm | Touch as Language / Language as Touch

In the early twentieth century, British authors were peculiarly attuned to the experience of touch. New inventions and experiences (motorcar travel; cinema-going; the X-ray) prompted questions about self, body and world. Many of these issues collided on the terrain of the human skin. Writers responded with vivid new experiments in vocabulary, style, and reader positioning, drawing us close to tactile experiences in a medium (writing) which seems at first a long way from the bodily. This talk will use the writing of authors including Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley to think about these experiments in language that make it possible to convey tactile experience. And, conversely, we’ll see what happens when we consider touch and gesture as themselves a kind of language. Identifying a set of tactile types, we’ll consider whether the written word and the danced idea have anything to ‘say’ to one another about touch.


Dr Abbie Garrington is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Durham University, where she specialises in the literary representation of the body and of sense experience in early twentieth-century writing. Her first book, Haptic Modernism (Edinburgh University Press, 2013) tackled just such topics, while her new project High Modernism: A Literary History of Mountaineering, 1890-1945 considers bodily experience on the mountainside. Abbie undertakes a lot of public engagement and exhibition projects connected to her academic work, and is otherwise busy trekking the mountains of the world. She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.