Stories on the Wing: British Birds in Literature

19 May to 21 September 2017
Free admission
This special display explores the relationship between British birds and storytelling through the ages. Combining books and specimens, it shows how ornithologists have turned their observations of birds into stories and how birds have sparked our imaginations over time through myths, folk tales and creative writing.

The display includes specimens of well-known British birds and explains how they have been used in literature, mythology and culture. Examples include the robin, whose red breast was imagined as a stain from the blood of Christ, seagulls, which turn into terrifying killing machines in Daphne Du Maurier’s story ‘The Birds’ (the basis for Hitchcock’s film of the same name), the magpie, often depicted in literature as a thief, and the blackbird, which has frequently been seen as a symbol of evil or even the Devil in disguise.

Texts on display will include Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Randolph Caldecott’s Babes in the Wood.

The display forms part of an AHRC-funded project involving collaborators from the Universities of Sussex, Leeds and St Andrews, that investigates the history of British nature writing. It will ultimately be accompanied by a book tracing how writers have depicted the natural world, from Gilbert White in the eighteenth century to modern authors like Helen Macdonald in her recent prize-winning book H is for Hawk.

 

The display is accompanied by a series of free public talks, tickets available from eventbrite.co.uk:

Thursday 15 June, 7.30-9pm

Birds in the Victorian Imagination
The evening will explore how birds have been imagined in British literature from the Victorian age to the present.  Will Abberley, lecturer in English at the University of Sussex, will give a talk on how Victorian ornithologists like Edward Booth used techniques of storytelling to document bird behaviour, and what their anecdotes of hunting and watching birds tell us about how people imagined the relationship between humans and the natural world in the past.  Nicholas Royle, Professor of English at the University of Sussex, will then read from his new novel An English Guide to Birdwatching.

Tickets from eventbright

 

Thursday 13 July, 7.30-9pm

Messengers and Metaphors: Birds in Art and Literature
In this special, free public talk Mark Cocker, author of the popular books Crow Country and Birds Britannica, will explore how birds have acted as symbols and metaphors in the human imagination in literatures and cultures across the world. This event is part of the exhibition ‘Stories on the Wing: British Birds in Literature’ at the Booth Museum from May to September and funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Tickets from eventbright

 

Thursday 10 August, 7.30-9pm

Romantic Writers and the Mystery of Birds
In this special, free public talk, David Higgins, Associate Professor of English at the University of Leeds, will discuss how poets in the Romantic era found inspiration in birds. This event is part of the exhibition ‘Stories on the Wing: British Birds in Literature’ at the Booth Museum from May to September and funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Tickets from eventbright