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  • 'Byron's Voices:Cultural and Textual Interactions' A Byron International Symposium University of Thessaloniki 11 November 2017
  • Argyros Protopapas

This Byron International Symposium organised by the School of English of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Laboratory of Narrative Research and the Hellenic Association for the Study of English, took place at the auditorium of the Museum of Byzantine Culture in the capital of the Greek north, on Saturday 11 November, 2017. The conference aimed to explore the dynamic confluence of Byron's voices—narrative, inter-textual, biographical, political—that his works elicit.

On the eve of the event, Maria Schoina, the organiser, was there personally at the airport to receive those speakers who arrived with late evening flights and help them make their way to their city accommodation. Timothy Webb (Bristol), who had to cancel his flight shortly before the Symposium, thoughtfully sent the full text of his paper to be read in absentia. Early next morning, Maria, assisted by her ten-strong 'Team Byron', her students in Romanticism, was at the venue entrance to welcome everybody, helping with information and practicalities. After the initial addresses by the University officials and the Head of School, Professor Michalis Milapides, the reading of the papers started in the really spacious auditorium nearly full to capacity.

In Webb's, 'Byron's Notes: An Unacknowledged Voice' (read by Argyros Protopapas) it was argued that the poet's letters and journals are widely acknowledged as an indispensable part of his achievement and one of the pinnacles of intimate English prose. Yet his annotations have usually been ignored or dismissed as of minor significance. Sometimes, especially in early poems such as English Bards and Scotch Reviewers and Hints from Horace, the notes gave utterance to a more liberated voice and constituted an indispensable part of the argument. For instance, the relative reticence of the poetry in the second canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is counterpointed by the balance of notes extending sometimes to the length of essays and often more obviously personal and outspokenly Philhellenic. Here and elsewhere, the full effect of Byron's text can only be experienced through a reading which includes both kinds of voice; in that sense, the effect can be described as 'polyvocalic' or even 'stereophonic'. Later poems, such as Don Juan, incorporate many of these alternative voices into the texture of the verse. [End Page 73]

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Timothy Webb's honorary plaque is symbolically offered in absentia to the first in seniority graduate student of the School of English, University of Thessaloniki.

In 'The Dashes in Manfred', Jane Stabler (St. Andrews) examined the ways in which one aspect of Byron's manuscripts has been translated by his editors. The dash is one of the most distinctive and controversial features of Byron's writing and is the vehicle for the silent part of his voice. With the help of slides of Byron's holograph manuscripts and first editions, she looked at the cultural associations of the dash, its translation from manuscript into print in Byron's particular case, and the different versions of Manfred that come into sight (and hearing) if we use Byron's manuscripts as a musical score.

In 'Byron's "Hellenic" Voices: "Wherever I travel Greece wounds me"', Ekaterini Douka-Kabitoglou (Thessaloniki) borrowed the line of the Greek poet Giorgos Seferis in order to record the feelings of anger and frustration often expressed in Byron's work as a result of his interactions with Greece. She mainly focused on what Greece did to Byron while he was alive. Byron's traumatic encounters with and in Greece may, to some extent, be attributed to his own preconceptions and illusions about the country and its inhabitants. However, Byron's 'Hellenic' experience could be described as a process of disenchantment that 'saddens', 'hurts', and finally 'kills' him. The major 'wounds' may be defined as Ruins, Greeks, Suliotes, Leaders, and Loukas. Byron's 'early' voice resounds from his Grand Tour, his 'middle' voice is heard from his exile in Italy, and his 'late' voice, yelling from revolutionary Greece, is tragically transformed into 'body language': 'it were better to die doing something than nothing'.

In 'Strange...


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