More than 70 scholars and students of Romantic poet Lord Byron convened at Northeastern this week for the 36th International Byron Conference—an opportunity, said English professor Stuart Peterfreund, to reconnect with colleagues and friends and analyze the current state of Byron studies.
Among those presenting at the conference was Peter W. Graham, president of the Byron Society of America and the Cutchins Professor of English at Virginia Tech, who addressed Byron’s continued relevancy in a distinctly non-Romantic age.
Graham noted that Byron’s unfinished poem, “Don Juan,” would continue to draw the interest of future generations.
The epic poem is widely considered Byron’s greatest achievement, and Graham said it sets Bryon apart from other Romantics by elevating him above the category. The satirical work is “always and honestly a human poem” that is topical as well as transcendent, he said.
Graham also mentioned that the heightened accessibility of Byron’s works through the Internet and other digital sources would expose the poet to a wider audience.
Other panel topics included Byron’s influences, his effect on later poets, and comparisons between his work and the Bible.
Northeastern and the Houghton Library at Harvard University co-hosted the conference, in collaboration with the sponsor, the Byron Society of America. Titled “Byron and the Book,” the conference drew participants from around the world, ranging from graduate students in literature to world-renowned Byron scholars.
This year marked only the third time the conference was hosted in the United States, and the first time since 2001.
Mary Loeffelholz, Northeastern’s vice provost for academic affairs, offered welcoming remarks at the Alumni Center. She noted that an environment alive with “archives, museums, performance bases, scholarly colleagues, and artistic collaborators,” combined with Northeastern’s approach to the humanities and arts, which stresses local and global partnerships, would lend power to the conference.
Peterfreund, an organizer of the event, recognized English Department chair and associate professor Laura Green, Georges Van Den Abbeele, founding dean of the new College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and Bruce Ronkin, interim dean of the former College of Arts and Sciences, for their work in helping Northeastern co-host the conference.