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Institute of Advanced Study

The Recovery of Beauty

Professor Corinne Saunders (English Studies)

Professor Jane Macnaughton (Centre for Medical Humanities, School of Medicine and Health)

Professor Michael O'Neill (English Studies) 

The overarching aim of the 'The Recovery of Beauty' is to explore whether and in what way beauty can be reinstated as real and valuable, rather than seen as simply or solely constructed and variable.  The last decade has witnessed major changes in our understanding of what makes the human body beautiful: the traditional idea that beauty is subjective has been challenged, for example, by evolutionary psychologists. The project aims to uncover and rediscover the meanings and manifestations of beauty, exploring ways of moving beyond a sense of beauty as constructed; to explore how tensions frame and energise our experience of beauty; and to reflect on whether beauty can have a reparative or healing agency that underpins human flourishing.  

A key element of our activities is the encouragement of dialogue (and debate) concerning ideas and methods, both within and between strands.  Researchers are drawn from across three faculties: the Sciences (Mathematics, Physics), the Social Sciences and Health (Archaeology, Geography, Medicine) and the Arts and Humanities (English, Classics, History, Modern Languages and Cultures, Philosophy, Theology and Religion).  The Centre for Medical Humanities will play a central role in the project. The newly formed Centre for Poetry and Poetics (directed by Professor Stephen Regan) will also be closely involved.

The activities we propose are several-fold, but we propose that the workshops will each include a round up session to discuss connections and conclusions from each activity as the year progresses.  There will in addition be a half day of discussion at the end of Epiphany term to capture the progress of our ideas and look towards the final day conference in June.  It is intended that this conference will provide space to discuss the first draft of a major research proposal to the Wellcome Trust (for an Investigator Award) or to the Leverhulme Trust.  There will, of course, be outputs from each of the separate activities but we intend that the year's events will cohere and collect into a research proposal that will reflect the Durham strengths in interdisciplinary work across all three faculties. 

International Public Lecture Series: The Recovery of Beauty 

Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies Seminar Series: Beauty in the Middle Ages and Renaissance 

Romantic Dialogues and Legacies Lecture Series: The Persistence of Beauty: Tennyson to MacNeice

Workshop: Exploring Representations of Educated Women from the Blue-Stocking to the Present Day

'About Face' Exhibition and Associated Events

Research Day: Transfigurings - the Wonder of Beauty Symposium