'Byron and Fiction' 13th International Student Byron Conference Messolonghi, 21–25 May 2018

By Crain, Sam | The Byron Journal, July 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

'Byron and Fiction' 13th International Student Byron Conference Messolonghi, 21–25 May 2018


Crain, Sam, The Byron Journal


The 13th International Student Byron Conference, with 'Byron and Fiction' as its theme, began on Monday 21 May in Messolonghi, Greece. The participants registered at the administrative office of the Messolonghi Byron Society and its International Byron Research Center located in the Byron House, situated nicely on the edge of the water. Participants were warmly welcomed with pastries and coffee by Rodanthi-Rosa Florou, President of the Messolonghi Byron Society, as well as Christina Tsekoura, the centre's librarian and other members of the MBS. Professor Peter Graham (Virginia Tech), Director of International Relations extended additional greetings and, along with Mrs. Rosa Florou, officially opened the conference. Following this initial meeting, participants of the conference paid several visits: first to the cathedral of Agios Spyridon, where Byron also had visited and where his lungs were kept in a silver box until 1881, at which time the box was placed under the foundation of his marble statue in the Garden of Heroes; then to the Centre of Literature & Arts 'Diexodos' Historic Museum, for a photo exhibition by Nikos Aliagas entitled 'Test of Time'; and then to the Municipal Museum of History and Art Gallery with a welcome ceremony by the Mayor of Messolonghi, Mr.Nikolaos Karapanos. Monday night ended with a seafood banquet at a local fish restaurant.

Tuesday began with a wreath-laying ceremony at Lord Byron's monument, newly renovated by the Messolonghi Byron Society, at the site where Byron breathed his last on 19 April 1824 and where the University of Athens dedicated a memorial column to Byron to commemorate the centennial of his death in 1924. The ceremony was followed with visits to Spyridon Trikoupis House-Museum, the home of a prominent statesman, diplomat, and historiographer of the Greek Revolution of 1821 who delivered Lord Byron's oration, and to the Garden of Heroes, a large memorial garden with many monuments dedicated to Greek fighters and to international Philhellenes who fought and fell during the siege and the Exodus (sortie). At the centre of the Garden of Heroes stand the grave of Markos Botzaris and a statue of Lord Byron, underneath which are buried the poet's lungs.

Immediately preceding the Academic Programme that began in the afternoon was a remembrance of Professor Byron Raizis, a former Joint International President of the IABS and for many years a pillar of the International Student Byron Conferences, including a heartfelt poem from Professor Naji Oueijan of Notre Dame University, Lebanon. Professor Oueijan also opened the first panel with his paper 'The Byron Myth', examining the idiosyncratic blending of fact and fiction in Byron's biography and Turkish Tales. Professor Peter Graham followed with 'Half-Real Heroes', a comparison of Byron's Dedication to Don Juan and American rapper Eminem's 'The Calm before the Storm' as satirical takedowns of powerful political figures.

Panel 2 opened with Emily Paterson-Morgan (Byron Society, London), whose '"How deceitful is the sagest part"' discussed the psychology of love in Don Juan, Canto I and its revision in Balzac. Professor John Spalding Gatton (Bellarmine) next gave '"Fiction taught to look like fact"', analysing Byron as the absent presence in Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. The panel prompted a lively Q&A that was followed by a panoramic lunch at 'Anatoli' restaurant in the beautiful mountainside village of Retsina, a meal graciously offered by the London Byron Society.

Wednesday morning found participants returning to the Byron House for a quartet of presentations examining Byron's effect on subsequent fiction-writers. Ghina Awdi (Notre Dame) opened with 'The Existential Byronic Hero in Cain: A Mystery and Sartre's The Flies', comparing Sartre's 'bad faith' with Byron's existential anguish. Next, Daniel Kennedy (Virginia Tech) explored 'The Byronic Hero in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian , reading The Kid as a particularly dark iteration of Byron's archetype. …

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