The Matter of the Elgin Marbles: Romantic Materiality

deadline for submissions: 
January 25, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR Conference 2019)
contact email: 

Chair and Organizer: Dewey W. Hall (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)


The Parthenon Sculptures have long been a source of disparagement and fascination, especially since their arrival in London as early as 1803. Prior to that year, Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin, procured a collection now housed in the British Museum as the Elgin Marbles, intensifying a transformation in which materiality of the marbles has been infused with seemingly vital force through an after-life of aesthetic representation. Whether through drawings, paintings, or poetry, the Elgin Marbles as objects have animated their subjects—pensive in gaze—to motivate, in effect, proliferation through aesthetic production.


This special session invites papers delving into the matter of the Elgin Marbles, focusing on interpretive commentary about the materiality of the marbles (as informed by new materialist theorists like Karen Barad, Jane Bennett, and Stacy Alaimo among others) and other relevant approaches. As vibrant materials sculpted from Pentelican marble by Phidias, the Elgin Marbles have elicited multi-faceted responses—verbal and visual—over the years, enacting an assemblage consisting of a motley group: Edward Dodwell’s Removal of Sculptures from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin’s Men (after 1801); Benjamin Robert Haydon’s “Head of the Horse of Selene” (1809) and “On the Judgement of Connoisseurs being preferred to the of Professional Men—The Elgin Marbles, etc.” (1816); George Gordon Byron’s Curse of Medusa (1811) and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto 2 (1812); Felicia Heman’s “Modern Greece: A Poem” (1817); John Keats’s “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles” (1817), Endymion: A Romance (1818) and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1820); William Hazlitt’s On the Elgin Marbles (1820); Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s Pheidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon (1868–69) among other instances. Though the reception of the Elgin Marbles by these poets and artists is quite different, the end result is that the sculptures have become vibrant objects, inspiring subjects to promulgate their presence as the objects circulate through verbal and visual representation. How, as aestheticized objects, do the Elgin Marbles constitute an integral part of our understanding of Romantic elements? What was the significance of the Elgin Marbles to those interested in antiquity (i.e., prior to, during the Regency period [1811–20], and beyond) whether in England as well as Scotland and Continental Europe?


For consideration, please submit a 300-word abstract and a c.v. to Dewey W. Hall via email as attachments to by January 4, 2019 (Friday). Papers for accepted proposals should last between 15-20 minutes.