- 'Byron and Nature' 12th International Student Byron Conference Messolonghi, 19–24 May 2017
Friday 19 May 2017
Rosa Florou, President of the Greek Messolonghi Byron society, Christina Tsekoura, the center's librarian, and Professor Peter Graham, academic conference director, welcomed the participants to the 12th International Student Byron Conference at Messolonghi, Greece. The splendid series of events began in style with a visit to the gallery of 'Christos and Sophia Moschandreou' and several intriguing finds at the Center of Literature & Arts 'Diexodos' Museum. At the Municipal Museum of History and Art Municipal Gallery, the Deputy-Mayor of Messolonghi greeted participants on behalf of Mr. Nikos Karapanos, Mayor of Messolonghi.
Saturday 20 May 2017
On the first morning, David McClay (Byron Research Center's Consultant Librarian), began the academic proceedings with a talk on 'The Nature of Letters: Byron and the John Murray Archive', underscoring John Murray's intimate epistolary relationship with his authors. The first panel followed, chaired by Naji Ouejian (Notre Dame), featuring an eclectic mix of topics. Young-Ok An (St. Thomas) spoke on 'The Trauma of Unnatural Catastrophe in Byron's Cain', showing how Byron 'could not have anticipated the details of what we now call the Anthropocene epoch, but seems remarkably prescient' about them. Sharon Choe's (York) 'Dreams of Blindness and Losing the Self: Byron's Authority in "Darkness"', traced Byron's voice as the narrator of the poem, examining how Byron established his literary authority. Madison Chapman (University of Chicago) joined the recent debates about Byron and ecology in examining 'Byron and the Poetics of Decay'. She noted Byron's mobilisation of environmental, botanical and animal references in three poems.
The second panel of the day took the discussions of environmentalism further. Chaired by David McClay, it began with Dana Harb (Notre Dame) who spoke on the subject of 'Oriental Women and Mother Nature'. She applied British environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy's works to Byron's early narrative art. Next, Jana Nasr's (Notre Dame) 'Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and the Motherhood of Nature' demonstrated how Byron's relationship with his mother affected the poem, while Professor Naji Oueijan (Notre Dame) offered an environmental reading of 'Lord Byron's [End Page 174] "Prayer of Nature"', connecting Byron's ideas about religion and nature.
Lunch at Pelada Cafeteria-restaurant in the Port of Messolonghi was followed by a moving wreath-laying ceremony at the home where Byron breathed his last, preserved through donations organised by the Messolonghi Byron Society under Rosa Florou's direction. The group then visited the House-Museum of the prominent statesman, diplomat, and historiographer of the Greek Revolution of 1821, Spyridon Trikoupis. Participants subsequently visited the Garden of Heroes to view the famous statue of Lord Byron, underneath which lie his lungs.
Sunday 21 May 2017
Visits to Thermo and the 11th-century Byzantine Monastery of Panagia Myrtias were on the itinerary for Sunday. Archaeologist Ms. Katerina Leontariti lectured on the ruin of the Temple of Thermios Apollo, a sacred Greek archaeological site.
Monday 22 May 2017
Peter Graham (Virginia Tech) gave the first talk of the day on 'Byron, "Mazeppa", and Horses', arguing that that wild and domestic horses are the true heroes and athletes in the last of Byron's tales and that Byron's acknowledgment of the essential kindred of horses and humans, especially on the battlefield where 'all are fellows in their need', shows that his ethic of compassion is humane but not anthropometric. Next Matthew Denton-Edmundson (Virginia Tech) addressed 'The Fire-Ringed Scorpion in Byron's The Giaour'. Resourcefully blending close reading with attention to Byron's naturalist sources, Matthew assessed and contextualised Byron's famous animal simile. Professor Jonathan Gross (DePaul) then explored 'Nature's Spirits in Byron's Manfred', discussing Byron's masonic imagery in the revised act three. Finally, Jake Spangler's (DePaul) 'This Visible World: Byron's Avatar in Manfred' noted how Byron's play and John Martin's paintings present doubling images for their author in a complex form of self-projection.
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