Academic journal article The Byron Journal

'Byron and the Mediterranean' 10th International Student Byron Conference Messolonghi, 22-27 May 2015

Academic journal article The Byron Journal

'Byron and the Mediterranean' 10th International Student Byron Conference Messolonghi, 22-27 May 2015

Article excerpt

The Tenth International Student Byron Conference, held from 22-27 May 2015 in Messolonghi, Greece, appropriately acknowledged the tenth anniversary of such an ambitious and successful conference by choosing the broad theme 'Byron and the Mediterranean'. As in the past, the conference-which as always was flawlessly organised and managed by the President of the Messolonghi Byron Society. Mrs. Rosa Florou- drew participants from around the world for nearly a week of insightful scholarship regarding Byron's life and works, travel spanning the region, and intellectual companionship. This year's participants were undergraduate and graduate students, professors and local enthusiasts. They traveled from such places as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Lebanon, and Greece.

Because the conference officially began with registration at four o'clock on 22 May, that first Friday was an opportunity for many participants to explore parts of Athens (where most travellers first arrived from their home countries), the beautiful coastline and mountains that separate Athens and Messolonghi and that include such famous sites as the Corinth Canal, or the charming town of Messolonghi itself. Once everyone arrived and checked in at the Theoxenia Hotel, participants boarded a coach for the Byron House containing the administrative office of the Messolonghi Byron Society and the library of the Byron Research Center. There they were greeted by delicious homemade desserts and coffee and had an opportunity to mingle before being welcomed by the conference directors Mrs. Rosa Florou, Professor Peter Graham, Director of International Relations for the Messolonghi Byron center, and the Joint President of the International Association of Byron Societies, Professor Naji Oueijan. After refreshments, the group was treated to a tour of a variety of significant sites in Messolonghi, including the Cathedral of Agios Spyridon, which Byron visited during his time living in the 'sacred city', and the Gallery of Christos and Sophia Moschandreou to see an exhibition of modern paintings relating to Byron and to the local area. Both were beautiful experiences that built nicely towards the final sightseeing opportunity at the Municipal Museum of History and Art Municipal Gallery, which provided useful historical background information of the area. After perusing the art in the Municipal Gallery, participants were welcomed by the Mayor of Messolonghi, Mr. Nikos Karapanos, who gave a warm and passionate speech in Greek, translated into English by several lively impromptu translators. The evening concluded with a welcoming dinner at the nearby Archontiko restaurant, followed by (for many of those jet lagged) an early bedtime or else (for those more rested) a night of dancing and socialising in the heart of Messolonghi.

The academic portion of the conference began on Saturday 23 May, at the Regional building. There, Rosa Florou, Peter Graham, Jonathan Gross, Naji Oueijan, and Peter Myrian greeted participants but also, more significantly, reflected on the life and scholarship of the recently deceased English Byron scholar Peter Cochran. Following a moment of silence, the first session, chaired by Peter Myrian, began. The first paper, given by Stephen Minta (York), revisited Stephen Cheeke's Byron and Place: History, Translation, and Nostalgia and paid particular attention to Byron's complicated relationship with the Greece of the past and of his present day using Childe Harold's Pilgrimage as a foundation for his argument. Perhaps even more interestingly, Minta addressed questions regarding the 'authenticity of the traveller's engagement with what Byron calls "the truth of history [...] and of place."' Elli Karampela (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) gave the next paper, which made use of Benedict Anderson's theoretical framework 'imagined communities' to examine Byron's own complex relationship with the place of England versus the place of Greece. …

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