New Podcasts: The Recovery of Beauty


MicrophoneThree lectures on the theme of the “Recovery of Beauty” are now available to download as podcasts.

The Recovery of Beauty was a series of twelve lectures run between the Department of English Studies and the Centre for Medical Humanities, sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Study as part of its thematic year on Futures II.

The Recovery of Beauty aimed to ask whether and how beauty can be reinstated as real and valuable. The last decade has witnessed major changes in our understanding of what makes the human body beautiful: the traditional idea that beauty is subjective has been challenged, for example, by evolutionary psychologists. The lecture series rediscovered the meanings and manifestations of beauty.

Three lectures in the series were given by members of the Department of English Studies, and can now be listened to as podcasts.

In Mindful Beauty: Ideas and Ideals in Medieval Literature, Professor Corinne Saunders looks at conflicting understandings of female beauty in medieval romance. In writers such as Chaucer and Malory, female beauty is an imperative, inspiring chivalric perfection but also dangerous and destructive.

Moving from the Renaissance onwards, Professor David Fuller explores Beauty, Pain and Violence: Through Lessing to King Lear. In tragedy, beauty, pain and violence go together; this can be seen in a variety of works, including Shakespeare’s King Lear, G.E. Lessing’s Laocoőn, Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, Richard Strauss’s opera Elektra, and Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet Mayerling.

Finally, turning towards the modern period, Professor Patricia Waugh examines how the Bloomsbury group construed beauty in Bloomsbury, Beauty and After: Idealist Aesthetics in Materialist Times. In particular, Virginia Woolf set out to rewrite the soul and to rethink thinking, in the terms of the modern, and through the resources of fiction. Woolf saw modern fiction as most able to articulate a new soul for a world in which everything is “part ugliness, part beauty.”

The full series of lectures explored the Recovery of Beauty from a number of disciplinary angles within and beyond literature, from the history of posture to the beauty of medicine. All the lectures are available to download now from the IAS website.

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