From a Cornish Window: Individual, Landscape, Community

What it means to be human: a festival of ideas in Cornwall

The Cornish landscapes and sea provide inspiration for a festival using the arts to explore the way people live and relate to in their local environments and communities. From the 17 to the 20 November a series of free lunch time talks and activities at the Royal Cornwall Museum and venues around Truro will explore ideas about the way individuals relate to space, place and community.

‘From a Cornish Window: Individual, Landscape, Community’ is a mini-festival taking place as part of a networked series of humanities festivals across the UK, under the overall festival title, ‘Being Human: A Festival of Humanities’.  Academics from the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus are organising the activities and leading the lunchtime talks in collaboration with the Royal Cornwall Museum. Sir Walter Raleigh and Piracy start the series of weekday talks at 1pm on Monday 17 November. Focusing on how Raleigh represents the relationship between marine activity and political action in his poem Ocean to Cynthia and how those living in coastal communities imagine their relationship with the sea. 

English lecturer, Dr Kate Hext said:“This is a very exciting opportunity for us to bring our research to life. We are doing this by using the perspectives of the creative arts, humanities and literature in order to explore and rethink the way that individuals exist within localities and environments. This is being supported by our partnership with the Royal Cornwall Museum. During the festival we will be giving talks, curating an exhibition trail and visiting local schools to explore - through literature, local history, and art - how personal identity is shaped through the places we live in."

Drawing on archival material the talk on the 18 November will see how Cornwall is represented and popularised in the Romantic landscape poetry of the 18th and 19th centuries and whether there is anything uniquely Cornish about the texts.

Portrait paintings and their use in other visual and literary forms are given a platform in the lunch time talk on the 19 November. The discussion will range through John Opie’s portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft ‘Cornish Wonder’, which haunted Mary Shelly throughout her childhood to the portrait in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, used to torment the novel’s unnamed narrator.

The final talk explores the way urbanisation, faster transportation and mass communication systems fundamentally changed how people related to the world around them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This illustrated talk incorporates some of the most important literary works and paintings from this period, from Oscar Wilde to Elizabeth Bowen and Walter Sickert to C.R.W. Nevinson. 

Throughout the week the Cornwall Royal Museum will incorporate a special exhibition trail which complements the subject matter of the free, lunchtime talks.

Ian Wall, Director of the Royal Cornwall Museum said:“I want people to know the Museum as a cultural and creative hub, which explores Cornwall’s history and its place in the world. These sorts of events help us to do just that, reaching new audiences and exploring new ideas.”

Currently in its first year, Being Human is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in participation with the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy with the participation of arts and cultural organisations and universities across the UK.

Date: 7 November 2014

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