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  • Series: Studies in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, Vol. 7
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-907767-07-4
  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm


Life on Earth would not exist without the brilliant objects we see in it; we would not be here without the light and heat of the Sun, and the rhythmic, tidal, biologically-vital, influences of the Moon. From earliest recorded history and in all societies the stars and planets, indeed the entire sky, have been a source of meaning for human affairs. In many cultures the heavenly bodies speak to humanity and, often, humanity talks back. Sometimes the stars speak for themselves as divine entities. In much western art and literature they become metaphors, underpinning narratives – and discourses – which explore or dramatise the human condition, as in the epic narratives of modern, cinematic science fiction. And for millennia human beings have imagined a journey to the heavens. This dream finally became a reality on 12 April 1961 when Yuri Gagarin made his single, historic orbit of the Earth. This date inaugurated the period of human space travel, and has a claim to be one of the most significant moments of human history. 


The Heavenly Discourses conference was a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Gagarin’s achievement, held at the University of Bristol and sponsored by the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. This volume brings together selected papers from that conference and provides a valuable resource in the emerging discipline of Cultural Astronomy. 

Heavenly Discourses

Proceedings of the 2011 Conference Heavenly Discourses: Myth, Astronomy and Culture, Bristol, UK

Table of Contents

A Letter of Welcome:

Yuri Gagarin Russian State Scientific Research and  Experimental Cosmonaut Training Centre

Introduction: Discourse with the Heavens

On the Exhibition

Darrelyn Gunzburg

Part One: Heavenly Discourses

Into the Blue: Transcendental Access and Celestial Ascent
E. C. Krupp 

The Ancient Mithraeum as a Model Universe, Part 1
Roger Beck

Under a Star-Spangled Banner: Politics and Astral Religion in the Roman Empire
Shannon Grimes

Celestial Vaults in English Gothic Architecture
John Hendrix 

They Were Like Them: The Stars in Mesoamerican Imagery
Stanisław Iwaniszewski

Three Russian Cosmists: Fedorov, Tsiolkovsky, Chizhevsky
George M. Young

Part Two: Discourses in Words

Man, Mystery, Myth and Metaphor: Poetry and The Heavens
Gillian Clarke

The Stars’ Earthly Mirror: Heavenly Inversions in the Oresteia of Aeschylus
Ben Pestell

Travelling the Cosmos: Celestial Journeys in the Japanese Stories of ‘Urashima Taro’ and ‘Night of the Milky Way Railroad’
Steven L. Renshaw

Space for Uncertainty: The Movement of Celestial Bodies in the Exeter Book Riddles
Jennifer Neville 

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy as Reference Point for Federici Zuccari’s Later Oeuvre (1575-1607)
Simone Westermann

Celestial Bodies in the Writings of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499)
Valery Rees

The Heavens and King Lear
Nick Davis

Spiritual Symbolism in W. B. Yeats’s ‘The Phases of the Moon’
Faisal A. W. Hayder Al-Doori

Septentrion: Ursa Major in the Fin de Siècle
Leon Burnett

To the Stars and Back: The Influence of Manned Space Flight on Soviet Science Fiction
Natalia Karakulina

Interstellar Messaging: An Embodied Perspective
Carrie Paterson

Fictional Explorations of Astronomy: How to Reach the Parts Other Narratives Miss
Pippa Goldschmidt

Part Three: Discourses in Sound

Heavenly Discourses: Myth, Astronomy and Culture
June Boyce-Tillman

Astrosonic Edutainment: Or, Tales from a Dark Sky Park
Chris Dooks

Part Four: Discourses in Images

Seeing Earth: Transformational Representations of the Universe in the Stars
Jürgen Heinrichs

Astronomy and Cosmology in Byzantine Art: Bringing Byzantine Art into the Twenty-First Century
Valerie Shrimplin

Giorgio Vasari’s ‘Sala Degli Elementi’ in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence: The Symbolism of Saturn as Heavenly Air
Liana De Girolami Cheney

Holbein’s Horizons: The Cosmos of a German Artist in the Age of the Reformation
Jennifer A. Morris

Lost World: Images of Mars Before the Space Age
Clive Davenhall

Cosmic Stutters: Anselm Kiefer’s Search for Redemption in the Stars
John G. Hatch

Melancholy and Beauty in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun
Ruth McPhee

Illustrated Sky: Contemporary Depictions of the Classical Constellations
Melanie Schlossberg

The Cosmos from Outside: Views of the World and Cognitive Cobwebs
Michael Hoepfel

Ethical Implications of Astrophotography and Stargazing
Dietmar Hager

Revealing a Universe of Colour
David Malin

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