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Journal of the British Academy - Edward Lear's lines of flight

Edward Lear's lines of flight Matthew Bevis University of Oxford (matthew.bevis@ell.ox.ac.uk) DOI 10.5871/jba/001.031

• Matthew Bevis

Edward Lear's lines of flight
Matthew Bevis
University of Oxford (matthew.bevis@ell.ox.ac.uk)
DOI 10.5871/jba/001.031

Chatterton Lecture on Poetry  |  read 1 November 2012 (video recording available)

Abstract: ‘Verily I am an odd bird’, Edward Lear wrote in his diary in 1860. This article examines a range of odd encounters between birds and people in Lear’s paintings, illustrations, and poems. It considers how his interest in birds – an interest at once scientific and aesthetic – helped to shape his nonsense writings. I suggest that poetic and pictorial lines of flight became, for Lear, a means of exploring the claims that art might make on our attention.

Keywords: Edward Lear, poetry, painting, flight, birds, Charles Darwin, nonsense, evolution, Alfred Tennyson.

Lower resolution version (PDF file - 4.6 MB) 


Text printed 2014 in British Academy Lectures 2012-13

Version of article available in British Academy Scholarship Online (HTML)