Antiquity, Taste, and the Self: Revisiting the Discoveries of the Grand Tour 

On campus and online

Spring term
Tuesday 9 January – Tuesday 12 March, 19:00
On campus
Wednesday 17 January – Wednesday 20 March, 20:00 [London time]

Booking has now closed for this lecture series; however, we are accepting bookings for our summer term, please see details here

The Grand Tour was one of the most significant rites of passage in early modern history.  Its influence reverberates in key novels of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and arguably still colours our experience of European travel today. Our focus will be on Italy, the culmination of that extensive Continental journey, on the Grand Tour’s heyday in the long eighteenth century, and on its most numerous cohort, the British.

Guided by some of our lecturers, we shall revisit the four main destinations within the journey’s well-established itinerary: Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice.  Our first aim is to rediscover the canonical antiquities, monuments, art works and natural sights sought out by eighteenth-century travellers.  At the same time, we shall try to reconstruct what it was like to travel at the time, and to understand something of the tourists’ encounters with the alien urban milieux, of the expectations they brought with them and of the important ideas arising during this formative experience.

In its origin, as the period’s ultimate ‘finishing school’, The Grand Tour had a defined pedagogic aim and ideological function: to shape the tastes and forge the characters of young, male, aristocratic travellers at a crucial stage in their development, and thereby to prepare them for leadership at home.  ‘Away’ and ‘home’ were thus closely interlinked.  At the aesthetic level, the impressions received during the tour informed the collecting habits, the domestic architecture and interior decoration sponsored by returning travellers and influenced the rise of classical and Italianate art forms in Britain, notably in landscape painting. Our series coincides with the long-awaited revised edition of Francis Haskell’s and Nicholas Penny’s ground-breaking Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture (1981); its co-editor Dr Adriano Aymonino will contribute four of the ten lectures in our term.

Other important current scholarship we aim to share has focused on investigating the connections between the encounter with the foreign and the formation of travellers’ identities.  Both in analogy to, and in distinction from, the ‘alien other’ that was Italy, the Grand Tour helped define contemporary notions of Britishness, and of the culturally British – or indeed the liberated, un-British – self.  In that context, it will be interesting to discover whether and in what ways the Grand Tour’s underlying ethos changed as its audience diversified over the course of the long eighteenth century, increasingly including women, children and families, and the ‘middling’ ranks of society.

Our speakers: Dr Adriano Aymonino, Dr Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings, Professor Viccy Coltman, Dr Michael Douglas-Scott, Dr Kate Grandjouan, Professor Roey Sweet, Dr Sarah Goldsmith.

Moderator: Dr Anne Puetz


Course delivery details

This programme is delivered both on campus and online.

On-campus course delivery: lectures are at our Vernon Square campus at 19:00, followed by discussion and drinks, pre-course and further reading, and handout materials on our Virtual Learning Environment.

Online course delivery: this online lecture series consists of pre-recorded lectures, released weekly over 10 weeks, and each lecture viewable for a fortnight; pre-course and further reading, handout materials and a discussion forum on our Virtual Learning Environment; live Q&As for each lecture, delivered via Zoom on Wednesdays at 20:00 [London time].