Improvisation, Freestyling, and Political Attack: A Comparative Juxtaposition of Byron and Eminem

Byron Society Lecture, Senate House, 12th June

6.30 – 8.00pm

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This is a public event, free to all.

Members, students and non-members are all welcome.

There will be a wine reception at Senate House afterwards, and dinner at a restaurant nearby.



Professor Peter Graham, of Virginia Tech, USA, will give a lecture at Senate House comparing the improvisational styles and political attacks found in Byron’s Don Juan and Eminem’s foul-mouthed but eloquent freestyle takedown of Donald Trump in 2017, The Storm

The perhaps unexpected resemblances between these two works and their respective artists involve style, substance, sensibility and the formal features of subtle, seemingly improvisational genres brilliantly deployed by the two artists. This lecture’s goal will be to articulate and explain some of these resemblances.

Peter Graham will spend some time on the technical features of Byron’s borrowed Italian form and Eminem’s mastery of a chiefly African American rap mode. Like Byron, Eminem seems to “rattle on” spontaneously, apparent (but not always actual) improvisation being a key feature of freestyling. Like Byron, Eminem makes no concessions as far as his political assertions go: he takes down the man in power as fiercely as, if far more crudely than, Byron does Castlereagh in the Dedication of Don Juan or Wellington later in the poem. Like Byron, Eminem artfully presents political diatribe as spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling but in fact offers a calculated, rehearsed performance—in the two works we see fascinating case studies of how preparation, impulse, and serendipity felicitously interact in improvisation. And like Byron in Don Juan Eminem finds himself called by the urgency of the political moment to burn bridges in “The Storm” as he forthrightly confronts his fan base.




Montague Room

Senate House

Malet St, Bloomsbury

London WC1E 7HU

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12th June 2018


The lecture and a Q&A session will be followed by a wine reception.

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Public event, free to all.

Dinner: £22-£25 per head



Imagery: Still image from official Eminem music video, 'The Storm' (2017); 'Portrait of Lord Byron, British poet (1788–1824)' by Thomas Phillips