The Holberg Symposium 2015: Myth, Homelessness, and the "Country of Words”

Publisert 14.04.2015
Tuesday, June 9, 2015 - 09:00 to 13:30
Auditorium 1, The Student Centre, Bergen
Practical information: 
Free admittance.
The symposium is held in honour of Holberg Laureate 2015, Marina Warner. International scholars, authors and critics meet to explore myths, images, modernity, legends, and perspectives related to national identity and cultural reconstruction.
9.00-9.10: Welcome

Opening remarks
Professor Sigmund Grønmo, Chair, The Holberg Prize Board

9.10-10.40  Panel 1: Myths, Images, and Modernity

Myth, Reason, and Rationality:  The Tale of the Clever Wife
Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago

Despite numerous versions of myths that challenge the illogicalities of certain recurrent plot motifs, these motifs persist because the rationality of myths, which demands the inclusion of such themes, outweighs considerations of reason.  Her examples include variants of the widespread myth of the clever wife, whose husband defies her to bear him a son, though he refuses to consummate their marriage.

Myths, Stories, Legends and Irish National Identity
Roy Foster, Carroll Professor of Irish History, University of Oxford.

W.B.Yeats famously referred to the rebel leader Patrick Pearse ‘summoning Cuchulain [the legendary Irish hero] to his side’ as a fellow-soldier in the 1916 ‘Rising’ that began the Irish revolution. The mediating power of myth and legend in Irish history was focused by the Irish Revival at the turn of the century, when, as elsewhere in Europe, ancient tradition and autochthonous folk culture were invoked as part of a revived national identity—paradoxically connected to a literary movement which would later be seen as influential in the development of  Irish modernism. 

Stories of Stone: Self-made Images in Mosques and Modernism
Finbarr Barry Flood, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the Humanities, Institute of Fine Arts and Department of Art History, New York University.

The architecture of modernism is often seen to break with past precedents. It may therefore seem surprising to suggest a relationship between modernist buildings and medieval mosques. Yet, in both, the cutting and arrangement of marble veneers produced pictorial effects not generally associated with either mosques or modernism. These analogous uses of marble reflect a common (if unacknowledged) debt to the art of late antiquity, and a shared interest in exploiting the visual ambiguities of stone in order to disavow or displace artistic agency. This authorized a role for 'self-generating' images within architectural cultures ostensibly suspicious of ornament and representation, if for quite different reasons.

Moderator: Christine Jacobsen, Director of Center for Women's and Gender Studies and Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen

10.40-11.00:  Coffee break
11.00-12.00: Panel 2: Cultural Reconstruction and the Rule of Poetry

Remembering al-Andalus
Wen-chin Ouyang, Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature, SOAS, University of London

Al-Andalus is one of the historical backdrops of Palestinian exile in Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry. The loss of al-Andalus to the Reconquista in the 15th  century, the Crusades between the 11th  and 13th, and the Mongols invasion in the 13th  century are both realms of memory, where history is re-enacted, and sites of remembrance, where the past is performed to commemorate the present. The Jewish and Muslim exodus from al-Andalus resonates particularly with contemporary Arab writers and artists, providing a blueprint for Palestinian exile in the twentieth century but at the same time separating Palestinian destiny from that of the Jews. In remembering al-Andalus, Darwish contemplates the vicissitudes of history and considers the exilic mode of human destiny, asking: ‘what is home’?

The Rule of Poetry, the Beautiful, and the Lethal: Imagination, Revolution and War
Tamim al-Barghouti, Palestinian Egyptian poet, columnist, and political scientist; Special Assistant, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

How is the imagery of the 12th and 13th century crusades relevant to the revolutions and civil wars of 2011? How is memory weaponized, not just to fuel mass sentiment, but also to organize and lead individual action on an everyday level?  In the case of utter devastation, how do ideas, narratives, and poems replace states, parties, and armies in controlling human behavior?—affecting how people act in peace and how they wage war. How does an imagined world force itself on reality and, as it materializes, morph into its opposite? How does the longing for imagined justice lead to the most unimaginable injustices? How do choices of attire, language, even which foot to use to step into one's home, relate to millennial conflicts and transcontinental wars? How does the poem dry up like an old tree turned into a tent post in a military outpost, yet bring epic beauty as well as epic viciousness? Where is poetry taking this war? And where is this war taking our understanding of ourselves and our poetry? 

ModeratorKjersti Gravelsæter Berg, University Lecturer at the Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion at the University of Bergen.

12.00-12.15:  Short break
12.15-13.45: The Holberg Lecture:
Losing Home, Finding Words: Transformations of Story

Marina Warner, Holberg Prize Laureate 2015, Fellow of All Souls and Professor of English and Creative Writing, Birkbeck College, University of London

Respondant: Lorraine Daston, Director, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and Visiting Professor, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

Moderator and Discussant: Mariët Westermann, Vice President, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Final remarks
Professor Ivar Bleiklie, Director of the Holberg Prize secretariat