Proceedings for 14th International Student Byron Conference

Witten by Samantha Crain

The 14th International Student Byron Conference ‘Byron and Revolution’ began on Monday 20 May with a welcome by the President of the Messolonghi Byron Society Mrs. Rodanthi-Rosa Florou and officers of the Board at the Messolonghi Byron Research Center in the Byron House, where participants met and other members of the Messolonghi Byron Society and began getting acquainted with each other. An early-evening visit to the Cathedral of Agios Spyridon and Tourlida were followed by a tour of the Municipal Museum of History and Art Gallery. Participants were formally welcomed by the Deputy Mayor Mr. Tasos Skarmoutsos.

On Tuesday, after edifying visits to the Trikoupis House-Museum, to the Garden of the Heroes, to the chapel of Panayia Finikias (the Virgin of the Palms) to historic Aetoliko, and to the Vasso Katraki Museum, the Academic Programme began with Professor Andrew Stauffer’s insightful Keynote Address on ‘Byron at Waterloo’, a Hegelian reading of Byron’s treatment of Waterloo and the reception of the Waterloo stanzas of Childe Harold III. Professor Stauffer (Virginia) was introduced by Professor Peter Graham (Virginia Tech).

Professor John Gatton (Bellarmine) presented ‘Battlefields as Byronic Performance’, a look at how Byron dramatises the Battle of Marathon in Childe Harold II and the not altogether consistent accounts of visiting and then dramatising Waterloo. Professor Stephen Minta (York) finished the session with ‘Byron and Napoleon’, tracing Byron’s shifting attitudes toward Napoleon and political action. The panel was followed by a visit to the Diexodos -Historic Museum and dinner at the fish tavern at Tourlida.

Tuesday, Maria Sfeir (Notre Dame, Lebanon) opened the second session with ‘The Orient Fights Back’, a postcolonial reading of The Corsair that subverts Orientalist tropes to argue Conrad is defeated by resisting his feminine unconscious; whereas, Gulnare triumphs by embracing her masculine unconscious. Amelia Dirks (Vanderbilt) presented a provocative enumeration of the doublings and fragmentations of Lady Caroline Lamb and Byron in Glenarvon, showing the novel’s strengths and shortcomings as an instrument of critique of Byron’s behaviour. Hou Kaiwen (King’s) closed the session with ‘Doubt and Murder: Cain’s Humanistic Liberation’, evaluating Cain and Milton’s Satan as potential revolutionaries.

Wednesday, session three opened with Katie Smith’s (York) ‘Revolutions Abroad’ was a cogent exploration of the Rousseau stanzas of Childe Harold III, in which Byron uses Rousseau as a thought experiment to understand revolution and passion, giving him—and us—a useful lens to cope with Byron’s own uncertainties about revolutionary action. Next, Professor Naji Oueijan (Notre Dame, Lebanon)’s ‘Lord Byron, America, and Americans’ explored the sources in which Byron expressed his fondness for America and its people, lining this positive feeling to Byron’s sincere republicanism. Jack Furth (Virginia Tech) rounded off the panel with an account of Jonathan P. Miller, American Philhellene and abolitionist who, though quite different from Byron, shared a common strain of liberalism. In the evening, Professor Roderick Beaton (King’s) gave his keynote address in Greek, ‘Lord Byron and the Greek Revolution: From Legend to Political Reality’, at the Chamber of the City Council.

Following Professor Beaton’s Greek keynote, participants joined in a gala celebration, including music and traditional dancing, at the Restaurant of the Radio Station.

Thursday morning, session four opened with Samantha Crain (Minnesota)’s ‘Poetic Experimentation and Political Exile’, a comparative analysis of Byron’s and Shelley’s respective uses of terza rima in 1819 to explore political themes. Then Michael Damyanovich (Trinity) presented ‘The Historicity of Byron’s Marino Faliero in Risorgimento Venice’, a thoroughly contextualized examination of how Byron adapts the historical Faliero to serve his own purposes while still insisting on his own factual accuracy. Professor Beaton finished the panel with ‘From Italy to Greece’, a deft explanation of how Byron’s earlier political considerations—including his experiences in the House of Lords—informed his 1823 decision to commit to the Greek cause.

Eleonora Colli (King’s) opened the final academic session with ‘Unity and Fragmentation in “The Isles of Greece”’, a cogent survey of how Byron, George Seferis, and Demetrius Capetanakis negotiate the tense relationship between ancient and modern Greece. Professor William Davis (Colorado)’s ‘Loveliness in Death’ provides an examination of the Orientalist trope ‘Athena in Chains’ and how it plays out in Childe Harold III and is undermined in the novel Ida of Athens. Rita Farah (Notre Dame, Lebanon) gives a psychological account of Byron’s expatriation as integral to his personal and poetical development in ‘Liberation of the Self’. Lara Ballout (Notre Dame, Lebanon) closed the session with ‘In Greece and for Greece’, a comprehensive overview of Byron’s relationship to Greece, in the ways the country provided sanctuary and how he assisted in its revolution.

After the day’s academic work, conference goers participated in the wreath-laying ceremony at Byron’s memorial, which was followed by a Byron event featuring local students of the 1st High School and international students performing Byron’s poems in traditional Greek dress.

On Friday, participants visited the Roman Baths near Messolonghi and after the town of Nafpaktos (Lepanto), which Byron wanted to liberate, with visits to the Botzaris Museum, to the Castle and the Venetian Port. On their way back to Messolonghi  participants enjoyed a sumptuous lunch—and stunning views—in the seaside village of Krioneri.

Saturday saw the end of a particularly stimulating conference, in which thoughts raised by earlier presenters were absorbed by and inspired authors of later papers, prompting intellectually fruitful conversations.