‘Putting Poets in their Place: Landscape in Poet Biopics’

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper




ConferenceScreen Studies Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Conference date(s)27/06/1429/06/14

Publication details

DateUnpublished - 2014
Original languageEnglish


The popularity and ongoing cultural presence of the Romantic poets make them rather obvious candidates for film and television biography. However, the intermedial encounter between the poets’ works and cinema storytelling is a complex and uneasy one. The key objection here, as Christopher Ricks (2009) argues is that ‘a film that proceeds to furnish competing pictures of its own will render pointless the previous acts of imagination that it purports to respect or to honor’[sic]. In representations of the landscapes with which these poets are particularly associated, this problem finds its centre: can the film medium replicate the poet’s contemplative gaze at their surroundings? Ricks (and others) has suggested that to do so is an aesthetic redundancy. Yet within poet biopics, landscape frequently plays a key narrative and aesthetic role, by situating their subjects in geographical, political, cultural and emotional contexts.

Taking into account the issues of adapting poetry and life stories to screen, this paper will explore landscape in poet biopics, focusing particularly on Pandaemonium (Julien Temple, 2000), Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009) and Byron (BBC, 2003). It will consider the tension between the contemporary ‘interpretive gaze’ of the camera, and the transformative gaze of the poem when trained on the romantic landscapes of these poets’ lives.

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