Faces of the Infinite (British Academy)

Faces of the Infinite: Neoplatonism and Poetics at the Confluence of Africa, Asia and Europe. A Three-Day Conference, Thursday 9 & Friday 10 November at the British Academy, Saturday 11 November at SOAS

What links Dante, Rumi, the Golden Age poetry of Spain, Ottoman panegyrics, Hebrew devotional verse and the musings of Muhammad Matar, one of the finest poets of modern Egypt? Very little, one would have thought. And yet these works carry the imprint of a common heritage which, through a range of intermediaries, can be traced back to Neoplatonism and its founding father Plotinus.

The Conference Faces of the Infinite represents a unique opportunity to get to know how the system of thought Plotinus devised merged with the literary traditions of Europe and the Middle East and came to be woven into texts which are acknowledged to this day as foundational and integral to their identities. Proceedings begin with a keynote address by Prof. Richard Taylor which explains the tenets of Neoplatonism and the decisive influence they have had on mysticism and the arts in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is followed by some 20 papers given by international experts on classical and modern poetry in Arabic, Greek, English, Hebrew, Italian, Persian, Spanish and Turkish. Each paper introduces the authors and texts to be discussed for the benefit of a non-specialist audience.

In seeking to bring this great literary panorama together for the first time, the Conference aims to explore to what extent these very different traditions are interconnected by a shared spiritual legacy. What does it mean for us today? Does it continue to carry to a message for an age of migration in which different cultures intermingle and are called upon to co-exist in the face of increasing challenges? Taken together, the conference papers will provide ample scope for reflection and debate on this most crucial of issues.

More information, including how to buy tickets, can be found here.