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Byron and Italy$
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Alan Rawes and Diego Saglia

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526100559

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526100559.001.0001

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‘Something I have seen or think it possible to see’: Byron and Italian art in Ravenna

‘Something I have seen or think it possible to see’: Byron and Italian art in Ravenna

(p.94) 5 ‘Something I have seen or think it possible to see’: Byron and Italian art in Ravenna
Byron and Italy

Jane Stabler

Manchester University Press

This chapter centres on the problematic theme of Byron’s relation to the visual arts and Italian art in particular. It offers possible keys for reading Byron’s response to the art of Italy by concentrating not so much on familiar Classical and Renaissance paintings and sculptures, but instead by focusing on the relationship between Byron’s Cain and the church art of Ravenna – its Byzantine mosaics. As there is no evidence that Byron actually saw any of these mosaics, the chapter takes an openly speculative approach to suggest a whole range of ways in which Ravennese visual art might have shaped Cain. In particular, as the chapter intimates, if ‘the form of Cain departs from all Byron’s previously stated aesthetic preferences’, it does not depart ‘from what he could see around him in Ravenna’s religious art’. Thus, the chapter’s speculative method raises some important and fundamental questions about Byron’s possible absorption of all sorts of Italian art works that he never mentions but certainly did see, the creative role of memory in Byron’s poetic responses to the art he encountered in Italy, and the poet’s more general fascination with different ways of seeing and knowing.

Keywords:   Cain, Byronic aesthetics, Italian art, Byzantine Mosaics, Cultural absorption, Religion, Memory, Knowledge/Epistemology

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