38th Annual International Byron Society Conference: 'Lord Byron and Genre' Notre Dame University-Louaize, Lebanon 1-6 July 2012

By Bhattacharji, Shobhana | The Byron Journal, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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38th Annual International Byron Society Conference: 'Lord Byron and Genre' Notre Dame University-Louaize, Lebanon 1-6 July 2012


Bhattacharji, Shobhana, The Byron Journal


Day 1, Session 1

Inauguration took place at the beautiful NDU campus, in the brand-new building, Fares Hall. Delegates and helpers began to trickle in. When did you arrive? How long did it take? were the usual questions, although they didn't prompt the usual answers. Most of us were in Lebanon for the first time. A smaller conference than many, with lots of new faces. Naji Oueijan (Notre Dame, Louaize) thanked those who had made the conference possible, including the sponsors, Byblos Bank and ENJM. John Clubbe expressed pleasure that a Lebanon conference was finally in place. Peter Myrian (Greek Byron Society) announced that Byron Raizis had decided to step down as Joint President of the IBS: unfortunately Byron was unwell and couldn't be there himself. Replicas of a Phoenician man were gifted to the Joint Presidents of IBS by the President of Notre Dame University, which was followed by a dance by students of NDU, refreshments, and then an evening at a local pub to sample Lebanon's excellent Almaza beer. Most delegates were staying at the NDU guest house; the rest took taxis to their hotel. Beirut's public transport system is largely taxis.

Day 2, Session 2: Keynote talk by John Clubbe (Joint President, IBS), 'Byron: A Poet sans Frontiers'

John's personal choice of representative figures for the study of Romanticism were Beethoven, Napoleon, Goya, Goethe and Byron, for Romanticism, he said, was a multilingual, multinational, international movement, more European than British. This was Elma Dangerfield's vision, said John in the course of his brief history of the IBS since the 1970s, which was a part of his keynote address. All the academic sessions at NDU were held in the Abou Khater Hall of the library complex.

Day 2, Session 3: Byron and History

The variety of papers in the first session anticipated the tone of the rest of the conference. In her comparative study of siege culture, Nora Liassis (European University, Cyprus) suggested that Byron's Siege of Corinth may have been the inspiration for Robert Hugman's The Siege of Nicosia, or the Fall of Mustapha (1833), which has not been written about so far. Andreas Makridis's (Athens News Agency) absorbing multimedia account of Byron's image during the Greek civil conflict (1944-49), gathered from newspapers and films, focused on the story of the Lord Byron Company of Students, a left-wing resistance group that fought against the Nazis and was targeted by the British when the war was over. Once the group seemed to have been quelled, in a move to keep Greece in the Western block, the British too invoked Byron's name to 'prove' the long history of England's interest in Greek independence. What happened to the Lord Byron Company of Students? Some of them - for example Mikos Theodorakis - became famous. Others either stayed on in Greece or emigrated to communist countries. Peter Myrian mentioned the Byron district in Athens where leftists used to live. A poor district, it was also home to refugees. Due to an unfortunate and rare glitch in the sound system, Andreas couldn't finish his talk but he promised to upload the Byron song on YouTube.

Following Andreas was Emily Rohrbach (Northwestern University, USA), at her first International Byron Conference. She spoke about 'Byron and the Genres of History', a rich paper about the Romantics' concern with how the present was to be remembered. The past can be represented in limited ways, a teeming present is impossible to narrate linearly, but not knowing what lies ahead, future history is rife with dormant potential narratives. In the last session of the conference, David McClay (National Library of Scotland) dealt with the issue from another perspective, namely that Byron used, intervened in, and altered biography by controlling how he would be remembered. To this end, he created an archive - of letters, a long memoir, diaries, notices, and even Mrs Byron's household accounts - depositing them with various people to ensure their safety.

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