Light and the Poetics of Ambivalence (Symposium, 23 November, Durham University)


A One-Day Symposium organised by the Romantic Dialogues and Legacies Research Group will focus on imaginative representations of light in English literature, c.1790-1950.

Over the centuries writers have sought to depict the various possibilities of “light”: an idea crucial to Western literature’s conceptions of meaning, illumination, revelation, and perfection. As such, it is a topic of interest to many cognate areas of cultural enquiry: philosophy, theology, art history, among them. This one-day symposium is especially interested in light as a focus for ambivalence: about the value of enlightenment (and the Enlightenment); about the nature of beauty and truth; about the significance of artistic representation; about the process of perception.

The symposium will take place on Saturday, 23rd November 2013, in Lecture Room 20, Pemberton Lecture Theatre, Palace Green, Durham University.

9:50-10:00: Welcome

10:00-11:15: Victorians Panel

  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Organisation of Light – Dr Anna Barton (Sheffield)
  • ‘…craving alms of the sun’: Emily Brontë’s Dark Tales – Dr Sarah Wootton (Durham)
  • ‘Impalpable and imponderable ether’: Ruskin and the Physics of Light – Dr Peter Garratt (Durham)

11:45-1:00: Moderns Panel

  • Unbearable Lightness: Some Modern Instances (Auden, Stevens, Eliot) – Dr Tony Sharpe (Lancaster)
  • Door into the Light: The Later Poems of Seamus Heaney – Professor Stephen Regan (Durham)
  • ‘The Changed Measures of Light’: Geoffrey Hill’s Difficult Revelations – Professor Michael O’Neill (Durham)

2:15-3:15: Plenary Lecture

Electric Lanternlight: Some Reflections on Larkin, Heaney, and Keats – Professor Nicholas Roe (St. Andrews)

3:45-5:00: Romantics Panel

  • Coleridge and the Divine Light – Dr Chris Murray (Durham)
  • ‘Magical Variety Diffuse’: Light and the Poetics of Transformation in Byron and Shelley – Dr Mark Sandy (Durham)
  • ‘In endless morn of light’: Parry, Milton and the Pindaric Ode – Professor Jeremy Dibble (Durham)

All are welcome; attendees are asked to register by 20 November with the Institute of Advanced Study via Mrs Audrey Bowron.

For further details, please contact the organisers: Professor Michael O’NeillDr Mark SandyDr Sarah Wootton.

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