Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that gray vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.
– Derek Walcott, ‘The Sea is History’
This symposium aims to provide a forum for an interdisciplinary exchange on the theme of ‘sea narratives’, looking at how the sea has figured as an important site in different cultural and geographical contexts. We are interested in how humans have interacted with the sea through trade, labour, migration, leisure and exploration; how it has figured in national contexts as a site of geopolitical control; and how it has featured in the cultural imagination as a space of danger and the unknown, but also as a source of inspiration. Derek Walcott constantly returns to the sea in his poetry, linking it powerfully with a colonial history and struggles with the difficulty of retrieving the stories it holds. The artist Paul Morstad uses old maps for his canvases, on which fantastic creatures hover over geographic boundaries, raising questions about mapping the water world. This symposium takes these varied, contested and provocative ways in which the sea has been chronicled as its beginning and invites its speakers to present their own critical perspectives.
Jon Anderson (Cardiff) ‘Exploring the space between words and meaning: knowing the relational sensibility of surf spaces’
Will Wright (Sheffield) ‘Encountering the tsunami: the sea, memory and communities of practice in south-eastern Sri Lanka’
Emma Spence (Cardiff) ‘“You can’t be on a boat and not explode when you get to land”. A study of maritime mobility in the South of France’
Michael Harrigan (Warwick) ‘Narrating the early modern French sea voyage to Asia: trajectory and text’
Elodie Duché (Warwick) ‘“A Sea of Stories”: Narratives of Capture at Sea During the Napoleonic Wars’
Barbara Franchi (Kent, ‘Travelling across Worlds and Texts in A. S. Byatt’s Sea Narratives’
The symposium will be held at the University of Warwick on Friday 24th January, at the Institute of Advanced Study. See the event webpage for full details and registration (free, including lunch, but please fill in the online form for our records).