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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Venice Public Lecture - 'By the Lone Sea': Venice and visions of decay in Wordsworth, the Shelleys, and Thomas Mann

2nd November 2009, 18:15 to 19:15, Room 201, Elvet Riverside, Dr Mark Sandy (Durham University)

This is the second lecture in the 'Venice and Cultural Imagination' public lecture series.

With her topography of bright squares and gloomy streets, Venice is a city of sublime and cultural enlightenment as much as it is a place of clandestine plots and intrigues. Imaginative responses by Wordsworth and the Shelley circle to the alluring myth and darker reality of Venice speak across the intervening decades to Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Mann’s twentieth-century apocalyptic vision of Venice as a ‘city of water’ reflects, and refracts, those Romantic imaginings of Wordsworth, Byron, and the Shelleys about the fallen Venetian republic ‘by the lone sea’. For the Romantic and post-Romantic imagination, the shimmering eternal myth of Venice casts an even more intriguing shadowy anti-myth of ruin and decay.

Mark Sandy is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English Studies at Durham University and has particular research interests in Romantic poetry. He recently co-edited a critical collection of essays entitled 'Romantic Echoes in the Victorian Era' (2008) and is currently writing a book on 'Romanticism, Memory, and Mourning.'

"This Strange Dream Upon the Water"

As Charles Dickens's description reminds us, Venice has always allured the cultural imagination. Rising out of the sea, to which its symbolic marriage was signalled by the Doge's annual casting of a ring into the lagoon, it is like no other human settlement in its physical make-up. Even now funeral corteges and furniture removals travel down canals rather than roads; as visitors step in and out of vaporetti, they seem to be moving in and out of pictorial spaces. The city brings dwelling, history, aesthetics, and commerce into intimate connection with water.

This lecture series will focus on the city's representation in painting, music and literature since 1800.

The image above is of a painting called 'The Bucintoro Returning To The Molo' by Giovanni Antonio Canal (called Canaletto) which belongs to and is supplied courtesy of the Bowes Musuem in County Durham.


Contact m.s.o' for more information about this event.

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