Vernon Lee 2019: An Anniversary Conference, Florence, 30-31 May 2019


Dear Readers and Vernon Lee scholars,

we are just back from Florence, barely touching ground after the major Vernon Lee event of the year.

Generously housed at the British Institute and the Villa Il Palmerino, beautifully organised by Patricia Pulham, Serena Cenni, Stefano Evangelista and Sally Blackburn-Daniels, Vernon Lee 2019: an Anniversary Conference and with keynote speakers Carolyn Burdett and Christa Zorn, will be remembered as a milestone in the history of Vernon Lee scholarship.

On 29 May 2019, a study day and exhibition VERNON LEE AND THE THEATER OF PASSION: FLORENCE, ART, AND POLITICS took place at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Sala delle Adunanze – Palazzo dei Beccai, via Orsamichele 4, Firenze. This event inaugurated the Conference, with presentations of the most distinguished following speakers: Cristina Acidini, Serena Cenni , Elisa Bizzotto, Stefano Evangelista, Maria Alberti, Patricia Pulham, Angeliki Papoulia and Federica Parretti.

This was followed by a marvellous exhibition of unique original photographs, manuscrips, posters, and letters by Vernon Lee, Ethel Smyth and others. This Iconographic Exhibition was curated by the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino with the advisory support of Francesca Baldry (NYU Florence) and of Sally Blackburn-Daniels (U. of Liverpool), in collaboration with Atelier degli Artigianelli.

Many thanks to Promoters and Archival Loans:
Gabinetto Scientifico Vieusseux, Firenze; Collezione Acton, Villa La Pietra, New York University Florence; Collezione Dazzi – Cini, San Marcello Pistoiese ; Collezione Brewster Archive – San Francesco di Paola, Firenze; Syracuse University in Florence; Collezione Karl-Heinz Kles vicepresidente della Fondazione Frans Masereel Saarbrücken, Germany ; Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino Firenze; Noufflard Archive.

Particular thanks to Jean-Michel Rabotin (Noufflard Archive) for lending us an impressive cast of  Vernon Lee’s hand!

An exhibition of Vernon Lee’s marginalia offered all participants an insight into her reading experience. Many thanks to Alyson Price, of the British Institute, for this!

To crown it all, The Ballet of the Nations premiered at Villa Il Palmerino May 31 2019, a hundred years after Vernon Lee’s return home after WWI.



Please click here for the programme.  More details and some pictures in my next Post!

Day 1 (30 May 2019)


Day 1:

British Institute of Florence, Palazzo Lanfredini, Lungarno Guicciardini 9

Welcome & Keynote 1:

Christa Zorn, ‘Vernon Lee and Irene Forbes-Mosse: Cosmopolitan Friendship at the Dawn of a New Europe beyond Borders’

(Ferragamo Room; Chair: Patricia Pulham)

Panel 1a: Art and Aesthetics (Ferragamo Room)

Chair: Victoria Mills (Birkbeck)


 Panel 1b: Writing, Style and Philosophy (Small Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Alex Murray (Queens University)


  Kitty Gurnos-Davies (University of Oxford), ‘“[W]hat can, or cannot, or must, or must not, be done, said, or thought by women”: The cultivation of aesthetic reading practices in Vernon Lee’s criticism’


Ana Alicia Garza (Independent Scholar), ‘How should one read Vernon Lee?’


Kristin Mahoney (Michigan State University) & Francesca Baldry (Collection Manager, Villa La Pietra), ‘“Initiate Minds”: Vernon Lee, Harold Acton, and Decadent Affinity’


Helen Thaventhiran (Robinson College, Cambridge), ‘Adversaria: Vernon Lee at the margins of philosophy’
Liz Renes (University of York), ‘Redefining Leonardo’s Queen: Vernon Lee, John Singer Sargent and Aesthetic Whiteness’ Angelo Riccioni (Parthenope University, Naples), ‘“I feel I could write chapters about him”: Tracing Robert Louis Stevenson’s Influence on Vernon Lee’s Twentieth-Century Writings’


Panel 2a: Ecocriticism and the Genius Loci (Ferragamo Room)

Chair: Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan)


Panel 2b: History and Aesthetic Revivals (Small Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Shafquat Towheed (The Open University)

  Dennis Denisoff (University of Tulsa), ‘The Lizard of the Invisible Sunset: Eco-Collective Memory in Lee’s Tower of Mirrors’


Marco Canani (Università degli Studi di Milano), ‘The Ballet of the Nations: A Modern Morality, an intermedial Mosaic’ Dennis
  Sarah Barnette (Independent Scholar), ‘The Ethics of Travel Writing: The Genius Loci Post-1900’ Sally Blackburn (University of Liverpool), ‘From Crystal Palace to the Grand Guignol : Vernon Lee and the performance of War’.



  Mary Clai Jones (Chadron State College), ‘To see the Forest for the Trees: Vernon Lee’s Environmental Activism’ Daria Ricchi (Oxford Brookes University), ‘Kinesthetic Knowing. Italian Baroque Architectural Influence in Vernon Lee’s Aesthetic Theories’


Panel 3a: Place, War and WW1

(Ferragamo Room)

Chair: Kristin Mahoney (Michigan State University)


Panel 3b: Myth, Religion and the Supernatural

(Small Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Sally Blackburn-Daniels (University of Liverpool)

  Ana Parejo Vadillo (Birkbeck College, University of London), ‘“Cultivate Garlic”: The Handling of War’ Matthew Bradley (University of Liverpool), ‘A Warm, Familiar Acquiescence: Vernon Lee, William James and Religious Experience’


  Alex Murray (Queen’s University, Belfast), ‘Vernon Lee’s Britain’ Henry Bartholomew (University of Exeter), ‘“Face to Face with the Past”: Time, History, and the Ghost in Vernon Lee’s Hauntings: Fantastic Stories
  Katharina Herold (Brasenose College, Oxford), ‘“Teutonic Romance”: Vernon Lee’s aesthetic Germany during and after WW1’


Barbara Vrachnas (Edinburgh Napier), ‘Mythology and Female Power in Vernon Lee’s Hauntings



Plenary Panel: Vernon Lee and the Senses

(Ferragamo Room; Elisa Bizzotto)

  Catherine Maxwell (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘“Bringing the perfume out of everything”: Vernon Lee and Scent’

Michael Craske (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Vernon Lee, Music, and Hearing’

Fraser Riddell (Trinity College, University of Oxford), ‘“No Thought Beyond the Moment and the Body”:
Proprioception and Attention in Vernon Lee and Marion Milner’




Day 2: 31 May 2019

Villa Il Palmerino, Via del Palmerino, 10, 50137 Firenze FI, Italy



 Keynote 2: Carolyn Burdett, ‘Being Moved: Bodies, Lines, Minds’ (Associazione; Chair: Stefano Evangelista)


Panel 4a: Otherness, Pacifism, and Sympathy (Associazione)

Chair: Ana Parejo Vadillo (Birkbeck College)

Panel 4b: Dialogic Exchanges


Chair: Katharina Herold (Brasenose College)

  Rachel Baldacchino (University of Malta), ‘Otherness and the Essay in Vernon Lee’s Pacifist Work’



Claudia Tobin (University of Cambridge), ‘Inhaling Colour: Vernon Lee, Virginia Woolf and Chromatic Experience’
  Yurie Watanabe (Durham University), ‘Reaching ‘Beyond Here and Now in The Handling of Words: The Pacifism of Vernon Lee’s Sympathy’ Sole Alba Zollo (University of Napoli, Federico II), ‘Stance and Engagement in Vernon Lee’s “The Economic Dependence of Women”: The Writer-Reader Metaphorical Dialogue’



Plenary Session: Sophie Geoffroy, ‘Vernon Lee’s Letters and Notebooks in the Digital Age’ (Associazione; Chair: Sally Blackburn-Daniels)





Panel 5a: Travel Writing and Affect (Associazione)

Chair: Mary Clai Jones (Chadron State College)


Panel 5b: Violence and National Identity (Salon)

Chair: Matthew Bradley (University of Liverpool)

  Victoria Mills (Birkbeck, University of London), ‘Vernon Lee, ‘historic emotion’ and the aesthetics of ruins’ Shafquat Towheed (The Open University), ‘At the limits of Pacifism? Vernon Lee, Gandhi, and India, 1930’
  Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University), ‘The Rapture of Old Houses: Representations of Gothic Italy in Vernon Lee’s Supernatural Tales and Place Writing’ Leonie Wanitzek (University of Oxford), ‘The presence of that peace and goodwill’: Nostalgia, National Identity and the Genius Loci in Lee’s Pre-WWI Travel Writing’
  Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey), ‘Haunting Palmerino: Vernon Lee in the Neo-Victorian Imagination’  


Film Showing & Round Table: Vernon Lee in the 21stC (Associazione) with Stefano Evangelista (Chair), Christa Zorn, Carolyn Burdett, Dennis Denisoff, Kristin Mahoney, Patricia Pulham, and Sally Blackburn-Daniels


 Wine Reception & Special Performance: Ballet of the Nations

(Villa Il Palmerino)














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