Visions of ruin: Volney’s Les ruines and Mary Shelley’s Rome

WEDNESDAY 20 FEBRUARY 18.00–19.30

Catharine Edwards (Birkbeck)

Volney’s hugely influential work Les Ruines (1791) had a profound effect on responses to ruins, not just those of exotic Palmyra (with which Volney’s treatise opens) but also the more familiar ruins of Rome.  Les Ruines plays a small but crucial role in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Her later writing, especially works composed in or about Rome (her fragmentary story ‘Valerius: the reanimated Roman’ and her novel The last man), deploys the remains of ancient Rome to explore complex temporalities, alert to the politics of ruins and inflected by a distinctively Volneyan aesthetic.

 

Catharine Edwards is Professor of Classics & Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London. She was president of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies 2015-18.  Her recent publications include essays on representations of the city of Rome in Gibbon’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire and in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun.


BSR–INSTITUTE OF CLASSICAL STUDIES ROME–LONDON LECTURE