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Cognitive Visions: Poetic Image-Making and the Mind

11-01-2016 - 12-01-2016


Ancient poetry provokes mental imagining on a vast scale. Throughout Greek and Latin literature, the audience is frequently invited to read imaginatively, either through formal tropes, such as ekphrasis, or through the usual narratorial description. The connections between vision and imagination, as well as the mental processes involved in both, have been extensively investigated in psychology, neuroscience and the other cognitive sciences, and are the subject of continued lively debate. The purpose of this conference is to explore the uses and limitations of the body of research for the study of ancient poetry.





Felix Budelmann (Oxford), ‘Visualising the Lyric Present’

Douglas Cairns (Edinburgh), ‘Vision, Visualization, and Emotional Contagion: Some Conceptual and Methodological Issues’

Katharine Earnshaw (Oxford), ‘Bodies of Knowledge and Embodied Corpora’

Roy Gibson (Manchester), 'Selective Visual Attention in Roman Love Elegy'

Thomas Habinek (USC), ‘Images of Cremation in Classical Latin Poetry’

Luuk Huitink (Heidelberg), 'Internal Audiences in Homer: Psychonarration or Visuality?’

Daryn Lehoux (Queen’s University), ‘Knowledge of the Heavenly Causes and the Heavenly Causes of Knowledge in Manilius’

Nick Lowe (RHUL), ‘The Dreaming Eye’

Verity Platt (Cornell), 'Cheiropoetics: Embodied Cognition and the Ekphrastic Work of the Hand'.

Laura Swift (Open University), ‘Visualising Performance in Partheneia’

Barney Taylor (Oxford), 'Visualising Colour in Simile'



In addition to the papers on classical texts, there will be a talk by Dr Mark Stokes (Psychology, Oxford), a neuroscientist specialising in attention and perception; a paper by Professor Terence Cave on his recent Balzan and St. John's College funded project 'Literature as an Object of Knowledge'; and a talk by Dr. Emily Troscianko (Modern Languages, Oxford) on her work on visual perception and cognitive humanities.







A full programme with timings will be published here and on the conference website in due course.

Fee and registration:

The conference will begin at 10am on 11 January, and finish by 5.30pm on 12 January. The cost for delegates will be £35, which will include tea and coffee, and a sandwich lunch on both days. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide accommodation. Please note that places may have to be limited due to restrictions on space. To register a place, please visit the booking page here.

For any further information, please contact Katharine Earnshaw ( and Felix Budelmann ( We would be grateful if you could copy us both in to any enquiry.

The organisers would like to thank the generosity of the Fell Fund, the Craven Fund, and St. John’s College, Oxford, for making this conference possible.

Images taken from Tome 2, Part 1 of Robert Fludd's  'Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam diuisa', Oppenheim (1617-1621). Reproduced by permission of the President and Fellows of St John's College, Oxford.

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