International Symposium

Byron’s Voices: Cultural and Textual Interactions

11 November 2017

Museum of Byzantine Culture of Thessaloniki  
Amphitheatre "Stefanos Dragoumis"


Timothy Webb
“An Unacknowledged Voice: Byron’s Notes and Prefaces”

Byron’s letters and journals are widely acknowledged as an indispensable part of his achievement and one of the pinnacles of intimate English prose. Yet, for whatever reason, the prefaces to his poems and particularly his often revealing annotations have usually been ignored or dismissed as of minor significance. During this period, it was common for poems (and sometimes even novels), especially those which introduced the reader to cultures considered exotically unfamiliar, to be buttressed by substantial annotation (see, for example, Southey, Moore, Walter Scott); yet Byron’s annotation was often a great deal more than conventional or scholarly or dependent on learned sources or merely informative. Sometimes, especially in his earlier poems, the notes constituted a significant part of the argument. Consider, for example, the often elaborate notes to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers or to Hints from Horace, Byron’s version of Horace’s De Arte Poetica. Or consider the relative reticence of the poetry in the Second Canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage which is weighted by the balance of notes extending sometimes to the length of essays and often more obviously personal and outspokenly Philhellenic. Here and elsewhere, the full effect of Byron’s text can only be experienced by a reading which includes both kinds of voice; in that sense, the poem can be described as polyvocal or even stereophonic. At a later stage in Byron’s poetic career, he dispenses with this heavy dependence on annotation. The poetic text of Don Juan, in particular, is much more polyvocalic in itself since it incorporates many of these arguments and alternative voices into the texture of the verse.

Jane Stabler
“Translating the Linear Conjunctions in Manfred

This paper looks at the ways in which one aspect of Byron’s manuscripts has been translated by his editors. The dash is one of the most distinctive and controversial features of Byron’s writing and is the vehicle for the silent part of his voice. In this paper I will look at the cultural associations of the dash, its translation from manuscript into print, and the different versions of Manfred that come into sight (and hearing) if we use Byron’s manuscripts as a musical score. (Powerpoint will provide visual images of the manuscript material).

Ekaterini Douka-Kabitoglou
“Byron’s ‘Hellenic’ Voices: Wherever I travel Greece wounds me

“Wherever I travel Greece wounds me”. Of course, Byron never “voiced” the above statement. It is perhaps the most famous line of the Greek poet Giorgos Seferis, written in 1936, a few years after the Asia Minor Disaster, referring to a tour around the Greek islands and archaeological sites, and lamenting for the distance between the glorious past and the miserable present. The poem, entitled “In the Manner of G. S.”, unfolds a dark vision of Greece as a ship sailing without a competent captain, expressing feelings of embarrassment, insecurity and wretchedness, with the spirit of agony pervading everything. Byron’s poetry and prose often express a similar anxiety, anger, frustration, and helplessness, as a result of his interactions with Greece.
This paper, bypassing the obvious questions of what Byron did for Greece during his life and with his death, or what Greece did for Byron after his death, will focus on the less investigated issue of what Greece did to Byron while he was alive. Byron’s traumatic experiences with and in Greece may to some extent be attributed to his own preconceptions and illusions about the country and its inhabitants, the ideological blinders set by the idea of Greece and Greeks (ancient and modern) in the European imagination. However, Byron’s “hellenic” experience could be described as a process of disenchantment that “saddens”, “hurts”, and finally “kills” him: “I was a fool to come here but being here I must see what is to be done”.
The major “wounds” may be described in his own words as follows: a) Ruins: “Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!” / “The last poor plunder from a bleeding land”; b) Greeks: “they suffer all the moral and physical ills that can afflict humanity” / “My own mind is not very well made up as to the Greeks” / “and whether of the Greeks or to the Greeks, let the truth be spoken”; c) Suliotes: “Men to die with” (the dancing Suliotes in Albania) / “I am going over to ‘electrify’ the Suliotes” / “I will have nothing more to do with the Suliotes”; d) Leaders: “Who now shall lead thy scattered children forth?” / “I did not come here to join a faction but a nation” / “will take advantage of circumstances to serve the Cause, if the patriots will permit me”; e) Loukas: “Yet though I cannot be beloved / Still let me love!”/ “To strongly – wrongly – vainly – love thee still.–” / “Such is this maddening fascination grown”.
Byron’s “early” voice resounds from his Grand Tour, his “middle” voice is heard from his exile in Italy, and his “late” voice, yelling from revolutionary Greece, is tragically transformed into “body language”: “it were better to die doing something than nothing”.

Argyros I. Protopapas
“Strange Fits of Passionate Voices in the Poetry of Byron and Shelley: Composition Anxiety, Dread and Daring at the Extremities of the Conscious Self”

The aim of this paper is to identify passionate physical voices expressive of composition anxiety in Byron and Shelley surfacing in their verse and traced through a brief, yet detailed, comparative approach to typical such cases emerging in two passages from Lara and The Wandering Jew correspondingly. Despite their differences regarding treatment of voiced anxiety and composition period in the corpus of their oeuvre, an informed reading can reveal distinct initial patterns of similarity, which make this comparison all the more fascinating. The anxious voice of the composing subject attempting to keep its overseeing authority through the filters of fixed genre boundaries and an often egotistical control over a poem is, in such instances, brought to a critical tension in the self-conscious poem of those second-generation Romantic poets. Caught between the crushing jaws of a double-headed hydra of conflicting opposites, namely, showing that they are well aware of established genres and conventions traditionally safeguarded by past models which, however, they wish to overcome; and, on the other hand, attempting to juxtapose the formality and detached decorum of the old poets to the mirroring of overwhelming feelings in their own verse; they can be, in effect, passionately entangled with more than one narrating voices, to the point of daring their own consciousness. Byron and Shelley can resort, therefore, to painful and, at the same time, pleasurable and relieving yells and shrieks of anxiety, albeit in markedly different ways. Facing such virtual impasses in poetry composition constitutes a core issue for the vanguard of High Romanticism and a feature boldly reflected in their verse. The different kinds of voices, musical strains and exclamations along with the psychophysical rhythms underpinning those aural, profound bursts; and, also, the specific, often ordered and methodical, ways each of the two poets chooses to deal with those voice-provoking, bursting impasses, are the main objectives of this brief undertaking.

Maria Schoina
“Proliferating Voices: Byron’s Translations”

Byron’s translations come from a wide range of foreign literature, ancient and modern, and feature variously as school exercises in Hours of Idleness (e.g. a translation from the Medea of Euripides), as appendix pieces to the first edition of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Cantos I & II (1812) and as his key contribution to The Liberal (1823, the first canto of Pulci’s Morgante Maggiore). Byron’s rising interest in the art and effect of translation makes us rethink of the role of translation in the development of his poetic “voice” and political career. This essay will consider the textual and extra-textual situation of a number of Byron’s translations and address the following questions: In what spirit does Byron read the original? How alert is he to the narrative and lyrical possibilities of the foreign language and how does he develop the possibilities which he observes in the original? In what way do the main interests of the foreign texts coincide with the concerns of the poet himself? Eventually, in an era of nation-building and national identity formation, how does Byron treat the issue of sources and literary/cultural models?