Conference, Myth, Culture
Nicholas Campion, Celestial, Astronomy, Astrology

Heavenly Discourses

Myth, Astronomy and Culture

Edited by Nicholas Campion
ISBN: 978-1-907767-07-4
6 Sept 2016
£26.99 – £39.99
Paperback, ebook; 410 pages

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.


Table of Contents

  • Contents
  • Images
  • Acknowledgements
  • A Letter of Welcome:
    Yuri Gagarin Russian State Scientific Research and Experimental Cosmonaut Training Centre
  • Introduction: Discourse with the Heavens
    ~ Nicholas Campion
  • On the Exhibition
    ~ Darrelyn Gunzburg
  • Exhibition Catalogue
    About the Sophia Centre

Part One: Heavenly Discourses

  • Into the Blue: Transcendantal 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 of Riddles
    ~ Jennifer Neville
  • Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy as a Refernce 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’sSearch 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
  • Index


Dr Nicholas Campion is Principal Lecturer, Institute of Education and Humanities, and Associate Professor in Cosmology and Culture. He is the director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, the only academic Centre in the world to deal with cultural relationships with the sky and the cosmos. He is responsible for taking forward the Centre’s research and teaching activities, through supervising PhD students, sponsoring research projects, organising conferences and other events, and publishing research via the peer-reviewed journal Culture and Cosmos. He also serves as Programme Director of the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.

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