CFP: Emblems and Enigma – April 2014

Emblems and Enigma: The Heraldic Imagination

An Interdisciplinary Symposium to be held at the Society of Antiquaries of London on Saturday 26th April 2014


In his 1844 short story ‘Earth’s Holocaust’, Nathaniel Hawthorne sees heraldic signs reaching ‘like lines of light’ into the past, but also as encrypted and obsolete. Proliferating and arcane, unique, ubiquitous, and inscrutable, the heraldic has been a major presence across the arts since medieval times; yet it remains, culturally and critically, enigmatic.

The organisers of this interdisciplinary symposium, Professor Fiona Robertson (English Literature, St Mary’s University College) and Dr Peter Lindfield (History of Art, University of St Andrews), invite proposals for twenty-minute papers on any aspect of the employment and perception of the heraldic in literature, history, art, architecture, design, fashion, and contemporary and historical practice.

The symposium will take place from 9.30 to 5 at the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London. The programme will include a keynote address by Professor Vaughan Hart (University of Bath); a special session on the heraldry of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill and William Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey; and papers on eighteenth-century antiquaries’ exploration of the heraldic, and on heraldry in nineteenth-century British and American literature.

Topics may include, but are not restricted to:

– the languages and grammar of heraldry

– armoiries parlantes, allusions and puns

– imaginary and fantastical heraldry

– decoration and display

– blazonry and identity: nations, groups, individuals

– mock- and sham-heraldics; parody and subversion

– practices of memory and memorialisation

– history, development, and modern practice

– blazon and the body

– heraldic revivalism; medievalism; romance

– enigma, error, and absence: the bar sinister and the blank shield

– individual designers, writers, and collectors

– gendered identity

– hierarchies of signs

– international and interdisciplinary perspectives

Proposals of 200 words should be sent to the organisers at by 10 January 2014.

Fiona Robertson and Peter Lindfield plan to edit a collection of essays arising from the symposium.

Further information will be available on the symposium website,