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The Thursday Post: Ian Hamilton Finlay Symposium

Next month, the University of Edinburgh stages the first dedicated symposium on Ian Hamilton Finlay. Eleven years after his death, Finlay continues to fascinate and inspire. A poet and visual artist, Finlay forged one of the most distinctive bodies of work in late-twentieth-century British art and literature, and his reputation in both critical and popular circles has grown steadily since his death.

Given how varied his creative output was, perhaps it’s not surprising that the full scope of Finlay’s practice is not always given the close consideration it deserves. While attention is rightly focused on Little Sparta, his extraordinary garden of ‘poem-objects’ in the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh, it stands for more than a peaceful garden retreat. As the hand-grenade-topped pilasters which mark the entrance to one section of the garden suggest, his garden, and his work in general, in many ways represents less of a retreat than an attack: Finlay never shied away from the most difficult and controversial aspects of the Western artistic and cultural heritage which informed his work.

On the 13th – 15th July 2017, the University of Edinburgh’s Department of English Literature, with support from the British Academy, the Little Sparta Trust and the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, will host a dedicated symposium on Ian Hamilton Finlay, the first. Over two days at the University of Edinburgh (13-14th July), and at Little Sparta itself (15th July), the symposium will stage a wide-ranging discussion about the literary, artistic, cultural and political connotations of Finlay’s oeuvre, from the political and polemical dimensions of his pastoral and ecological poetics to his complex engagement with the iconography of totalitarian politics.

Our keynote speakers include the poet, critic and translator Susan Stewart (Princeton University), Finlay’s long-time critical commentator Stephen Bann (University of Bristol), and poet and critic Drew Milne (University of Cambridge). We are also delighted to welcome Nancy Perloff, curator of modern and contemporary collections at the Getty Research Institute, who will discuss the creative relationship between Finlay and the Brazilian concrete poet Augusto de Campos, and Yves Abrioux, author of Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer (1985), who will be revisiting Finlay’s Third-Reich projects. At Little Sparta, poet and translator Peter Manson will perform work written in response to his recent residency at the garden.

For more information, and to register, visit the symposium’s website and registration portal. Tickets are priced at £10 for non-academic and non-tenured academic attendees (£20 tenured), with a further £10, including travel to and from Edinburgh, to join us at Little Sparta on the Saturday. 

Please contact with any queries.

Category: events