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Many-coloured glass, aerial images and the work of the lens: Romantic poetry and optical culture

Warton Lecture on English Poetry, delivered by Professor Isobel Armstrong FBA, on 11 May 2011 (venue: The British Academy), as part of the British Academy's 2011 Literature Week.

Isobel Armstrong focuses on the Romantic poets’ fascination with the lens-made and projected images that the modern world has come to think of as the virtual image. From the rainbow colours of the spectrum; to the starry universe of the telescope; to the ghosts, phantasms and spectres of the phantasmagoria - this was a moment when ‘high’ science and popular spectacle met. This meeting found its way deep into the imaginations of poets. Their questioning of the simulacra around them and their daring experiments with a language of reflection and refraction is the theme of the lecture.

About the speaker
Isobel Armstrong held the Established Chair of Nineteenth-Century Studies in Birkbeck's Department of English and Humanities from 1989 to 2002, and is now Emeritus Professor and a Fellow of the College. The College oration describes her as 'one of the most powerful, dynamic and inspirational figugres in literary and cultural studies over the last three decades'. She has lectured and taught in England, on the continent, and in the USA. She has written widely on nineteenth-century poetry and on literary theory, and is the editor of the highly influential Writers and Their Work series and Women: A Cultural Journal. Her book Victorian Glassworlds was awarded the MLA's 2009 James Russell Lowell Prize.

More about the Warton Lectures on Poetry