Monsters of the mind

A day of talks celebrating the real-life stories behind mythical creatures is being held at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square this coming Saturday, 23rd July.

What is it about the unicorn, the Yeti, the Loch Ness monster that grabs hold of our imaginations and makes us want to catch site of these creatures though the other side of our brain knows they never really existed?

From Blake’s monstrous vision in his ‘Ghost of a flea’ to the fauns, dryads and centaurs that make up the childhood landscape of Narnia, why is it that we need monsters to believe in and what are the real-life roots of each of these individual myths? How did these stories come to be so deeply embedded in our collective cultural narratives?

The Institution’s Beyond Beastly symposium is nearly here, and by examining these myths from a variety of different perspectives, using Gothic literature, natural history, philosophy and religion, to help, they hope to unite both sides of the brain in order to enjoy these tall tales with a deeper knowledge that makes them come alive. You might even want to bring the family with you.

The day of talks accompanies the Institution’s fantastic summer exhibition ‘Beyond Beastly’ and you can visit it at the same time. The exhibition is open between 10am and 4pm and you will find yourself inspired by just some of the artefacts which have acted as the inspiration for this day of talks including a Moa bone, some Megalodon teeth, and did someone mention a unicorn’s horn? The exhibition also features plentiful activities for children and the Institution will have some summer art activities over the holidays.

Speakers on the day include Matt Williams, Collections Manager, Professor Mike Benton from University of Bristol Earth Sciences Department, Dr Nicky Lloyd Senior English Lecturer from Bath Spa University and Andreas Wasmuht, Philosophy Convenor for Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. Each ticket includes tea and coffee, and space will be left at the end of each talk for questions. You can book via or by using the following link.

Schedule for Beyond Beastly Programme

10am “tis altogether different from what we fancied”

To open the symposium, Matt Williams explains the thinking behind the institutions’ ‘Beyond Beastly’ exhibition and explores some of the featured themes.
Matt Williams, Collections Manager at Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

12pm Dinosaurs: A New Vision

Dinosaurs are not what you thought they were. Or, at least, they didn’t look like you think they did. World-leading palaeontologist Michael J. Benton – working with illustrator Bob Nicholls – brings us a new visual guide to the world of the dinosaurs.

Prof. Mike Benton, Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology, University of Bristol
2pm Monstrosity in Nineteenth-Century Gothic Literature
Focusing on representations of the non-human in Gothic literature, this talk explores the nineteenth-century fascination with uncanny beasts and monsters. Dr Nicky Lloyd, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Bath Spa University. 4pm The Beast Within, the Beast Without

From mythology, religion, philosophy and psychology, beasts are everywhere and provide both an explanation of who we are and how the world is. Andreas Wasmuht, Philosophy & Psychology Convenor
Tickets for the full event: Members: £10; Non-members: £20

For tickets visit