Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Ian Hamilton Finlay: Little Fields, Long Horizons

This two-day symposium will explore new critical and interdisciplinary perspectives on the Scottish poet, artist and avant-gardener Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006).

As Finlay’s reputation worldwide continues to grow a decade after his death, we wish to ask searching questions about the boundaries of his practice, its philosophical, political and cultural dimensions, and its legacies and affinities across a range of media, disciplines and geographical boundaries. A number of attendees will also have the chance to visit Finlay’s poet’s garden at Little Sparta in the Pentland Hills for an event in its new workshop space.

Keynote speakers

  • Susan Stewart, Avalon Foundation University Professor of the Humanities, Princeton University
  • Stephen Bann, Emeritus Professor of History of Art, University of Bristol
  • Drew Milne, Judith E Wilson Lecturer in Drama and Poetry, University of Cambridge

Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to:

  • Finlay and late modernism(s)
  • Little Sparta and ecology
  • Finlay and poetics, including objectivist/concrete/visual/new-media poetics
  • Finlay and visual/conceptual art
  • Finlay in context: encompassing movements/milieus/cultures; associated figures
  • Finlay and the political, including Finlay as revolutionary/counter-revolutionary, Finlay and the French Revolution, Finlay and the Third Reich
  • “Flytings” and “Battles” as aspects of avant-garde practice
  • Finlay as collaborator/Finlay’s collaborators
  • Finlay and European romanticism
  • Finlay and the (nuclear) sublime
  • Neo-classical and pre-Socratic re-armaments
  • Finlay and (inter)nationalism
  • Finlay and Northern Renaissances
  • Wild Hawthorn Press and small-press publishing as creative practice
  • Finlay and landscape architecture/garden design
  • Ongoing and contemporary creative responses to Finlay’s work

Check your accommodation options

Find out about places of interest in and around Edinburgh

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Thursday 13 July

50 George Square, University of Edinburgh, EH8 9LH

Time Title Speaker
9am-9.30am Registration  
9.45am-10am Welcoming Remarks  
10am-11.30am Panel 1 - Avant Cottage Gardener: Finlay, Concrete Poetry and the 1960s  
Ian Hamilton Finlay and Augusto de Campos: Two Concrete Trajectories Nancy Perloff
‘auf dem land’: Space, Place and Nation in Ian Hamilton Finlay and Ernst Jandl Nicola Thomas
A New Cohesive Element: Ian Hamilton Finlay, Dom Sylvester Houédard and Abstract Art Natalie Ferris
11.30am-12noon Coffee break  
12noon-1.30pm Panel 2a - From Line to Constellation: The Early Work, its Contexts and Legacies  

From Stonypath to Little Sparta: Compass of the Non-Secular

Calum Rodger

Mansie Considered

Alistair Peebles
Ian Hamilton Finlay, Edwin Morgan and Brazil: Virtual and Concrete Exchanges

Viviane Carvalho da Annunciação

Panel 2b - From Concrete to Landscape: New Materials and Media for Poetry in the 1970s and Beyond  

Poetry in the Public Space: Ian Hamilton Finlay

Fiona Becket

A Concrete Coalition of Language Environments

Camilla Nelson

Word-Things in Space-Time

Charlie Jarvis
1.30pm-2.30pm Lunch  
2.30pm-4pm Panel 3 - Battles, Flytings, Revolution  

Walled Gardens: Little Sparta and Spandau

Greg Thomas
Revisiting the Third Reich: Affects, Ethics, Poetics (extended slot) Yves Abrioux
4pm-4.30pm Coffee break  
4.30pm-5.45pm Keynote - Finlay’s Battles: A Cultural and Historical Context Stephen Bann

Friday 14 July

50 George Square, University of Edinburgh, EH8 9LH

Time Title Speaker
10am-11.15am Keynote - Symbiotic Poetics: Ian Hamilton Finlay and the Politics of Nature Drew Milne
11.15am-11.30am Break  
11.30am-1pm Panel 4 - The Political Pastoral  
Little Sparta: A Voyage Home From Modernism to Myth Adrian Evans
Gates and Stiles: Reading Finlay’s Boundary Poetics through the Long Eighteenth Century M.C. Hyland
Et in Arcadia Ego: Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Complex Pastoral Stewart Smith
1pm-2pm Lunch  
2pm-3.30pm Panel 5a - Long Horizons: Creative Responses to Finlay’s Work  
“Ecology is Nature-Philosophy secularized” Ecologies of Form in the Garden-works of Thomas A. Clark & Ian Hamilton Finlay. Alice Tarbuck
“Detached Sentences on Gardening”: Ian Hamilton Finlay and Alice Oswald Jack Thacker
IHF: Man of Letters Nick-E Melville
Panel 5b - Models of Order: Finlay, the Visual Arts and Craft  

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Subtle Poiesis

Diana Leca


Kendra Sullivan

The Stitching of Her Wake: The Collaboration of Pamela Campion and Ian Hamilton Finlay

Lila Matsumoto
3.30pm-4pm Coffee break  
4pm-5.15pm Panel 6 - Imaginary Portraits: Recollections and Reminiscences  

Circumnavigation: Ian Hamilton Finlay at Little Sparta and Rousay

Malcolm Fraser

Music, Time and the Suspension of Disbelief – Collaborating with IHF (with time to listen to John Purser’s Carrier Strike music)

John Purser
5.15pm-5.30pm Break  
5.30pm-6.45pm Keynote - Between Spoils and Gifts Susan Stewart

15th July

Day trip to Little Sparta

Time Title Speaker
9.30-10am Registration at 50 George Square  
10-11am Travel to Little Sparta  
11.15-12noon Talks in seminar room  
Welcoming remarks Andrew Patrizio, Little Sparta Trust and Alexia Holt, Sharing Little Sparta

Behind the Scenes: Curating a Concrete Poetry Exhibition at the Getty Research Institute

Nancy Perloff
12-1pm Time to explore the garden  
1-1.30pm Lunch served in seminar room  
1.45-2.30pm Readings and works in response to Little Sparta residences, seminar room  

Peter Manson


Sarah Rose

2.30-4pm Time to explore the garden  
4-5pm Travel to 50 George Square  

This event is supported by the British Academy.

The garden of the concrete poet Ian Hamilton Finlay in the Scottish Borders

Ian Hamilton Finlay: Little Fields, Long Horizons

This two-day symposium will explore new critical and interdisciplinary perspectives on the Scottish poet, artist and avant-gardener Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006).

The University of Edinburgh