Maddalena De Leo writes:
The Brontë Society Conference was held this year at Homerton College, Cambridge from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 August. Its theme was the Bible and its formative effect on the language and religion of the Brontë family. This was particularly appropriate as 2011 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the promulgation of the King James Bible, the book which above all others the young Brontës would have known by heart.
The talks were opened on Friday afternoon by two famous Brontë scholars - Tom Winnifrith and Christine Alexander - and concerned Patrick Brontë and his daughters before they began to write their novels. On Saturday morning there was a delightful Jane Eyre panel with no break for questions until the discussion period and then lunchtime talks on The Professor and Villette, finishing with Anne Brontë. The highlight was Dr. Marianne Thormahlen’s talk on Anne and her Bible.
On Sunday Emily Brontë was the subject of Michael O’Neill’s brilliant lecture: he concluded the conference speaking about her ‘visionary religion’. Unfortunately another important Brontë scholar, Dr Brian Wilkes, was not present among us due to serious health problems. In addition to the well-known speakers from all over the world, this year for the first time the Brontë Society included some young PhD students, who lectured on the chosen topic with competence and skill.
The conference venue, carefully chosen by our organizer Sarah Fermi, was the beautiful campus of Homerton College with its amenities and easy access to the centre of Cambridge. Two special treats were also arranged by her for the more than one hundred delegates present. On Friday evening Professor Donald Burrows, the renowed Hándel expert, talked about the Bible and Hándel’s Messiah also playing some short extracts on the piano. The other treat took place after the grand silver-service dinner in the magnificent Great Hall of Homerton College on Saturday when special guest Patrick Wildgust, the Curator of Lawrence Sterne’s Shandy Hall, compared the sermons of Sterne with the two known published ones of Patrick Brontë.
During the conference I took many photographs and made many videos, which will appear on Youtube in the near future. I also will compile a DVD of the whole Conference which I’ll donate to the Brontë Society. In conclusion I can say that this great Brontë religious and cultural weekend in Cambridge was for me another important occasion to meet old and new Society friends with whom to share once again a wonderful Brontë-related experience.
Below: Conference Delegates, Maddalena De Leo with Brontë Society Chair Sally McDonald, Christine Alexander: