Search Results

Series:

Elsa Cavalié

A Month in the Country (1980) – J.L. Carr’s best known work – retraces the memories of Tom Birkin, a Great War veteran, as he spends a blissful summer in Oxgodby, Yorkshire, in order to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the village church. The novella then follows Birkin’s artistic progress, his friendship with fellow veteran Charles Moon, and the bonds he develops with the local community. Situated somewhere between L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953) and Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy (1991), A Month in the Country is a curiously hybrid work, still imbued by nostalgia for the comforts of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’, but also borrowing the staple elements of postmodernist novels. Through the meticulous restoring of the hidden 14th century mural and the frequent walks in the English countryside, Birkin tries to get in touch with a part of his identity that was buried under the fields of the Somme. Indeed, the novella emphasizes the fact that the First World War made the soldiers foreigners in their own country and probes into the ways in which personal and national identity may be restored, and trauma ‘worked through

Land & Identity

Theory, Memory, and Practice

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Edited by Christine Berberich, Neil Campbell and Robert Hudson

This collection of essays aims to investigate the complex issues surrounding contemporary cultural discourses on land and identity – their production, construction, and reconstruction across a range of different texts and materials. The chapters offer disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches opening up discussion and new routes for research in a number of interrelated areas such as Countryside vs. City, Diaspora, Landscapes of Memory and Trauma, Migrational Spaces, and Ecology. They represent a number of innovative contemporary responses to how concepts of land intersect and dialogue with notions of identity across and between regions, nations, races, and cultures. Through employing interdisciplinary methods and theories drawn from diverse sources, such as cultural studies, spatial theory, philosophy and literary theory, the chapters chart varied and complex themes of identity formation in relation to spatiality.

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Betty Nigianni

Abstract

This article looks at the representation of an Athenian avenue as it appears in a contemporary Greek short story, in an attempt to trace the profile of the place as an ultimately modern space called into question, however, by transgressions. The story ‘I Think That Syngrou Avenue Looks Like Me’ by Manos Kontoleon describes the unique relationship developed between the writer and the high-speed avenue that connects the centre of Athens with its coastline: initiated by and experienced via an embodied approach to space, this relationship allows the writer to identify himself with a particular part of the city. The discussion of Kontoleon’s portrayal of Syngrou Avenue focuses on the relationship between space and subjective experience, a relationship that has been a subject of investigation in modern European art and architectural theory over the past century. The paper specifically draws on psychoanalytic and phenomenological theories, which reflect this particular sensibility towards modern space, aiming in this way to contribute further to the discussion of European cityscapes and urban mindscapes.

Topodynamics of Arrival

Essays on Self and Pilgrimage

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Edited by Gert Hofmann and Snježana Zorić

Travelling is the art of motion, motion results in moments of human encountering, and such moments manifest themselves in unsettling linguistic repercussions and crises of meaning. Places of arrival also function as inscriptions of such meaningful repercussions, inscriptions of the past crossing the present, of the other crossing the self. The contributions in this book explore places, rituals, texts and scriptures as religious or secular inscriptions – “topographies” – of such “arrivals.”
Each arrival happens, and its very place manifests itself only as a momentous component of the process itself. Arrival is an event of conclusion as well as of urgency for subsequent explorations of new meanings to be read from the topography of the place, mirroring thus a signifying dynamic for the metamorphosis of the traveller’s self: “ topodynamic” of arrival. In this vein this book investigates for the first time the dynamic of cultural formations of space, an aspect of spatiality which since the “spatial turn” in cultural discourse has mostly been neglected.

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Hugh O’Donnell

Abstract

This article is based on an analysis of television coverage of seven very high-profile recent royal events across Western Europe: six weddings (in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark) as well as the funeral of Princess Diana. Using the concepts of mega-event, media event and liminal event, it examines how official narratives attempt to transform the city into a magical space characterised by a fusion of past and present, a process accompanied by the often highly filmic presentation of ‘ancient’ buildings (cathedrals, town halls, palaces etc.) and the careful avoidance of inappropriate localities and symbols. It also examines the increasing trend towards marketing such cities televisually as desirable tourist locations. The article finishes by arguing that, alongside this official narrative of the city as a site of material and symbolic authority, the crowd present at such events often transforms them in turn into a site of carnival, thereby raising questions as to the ideological efficacy of that narrative.

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Barbara Montefalcone

This paper will discuss the American poet Robert Creeley’s treatment of the concept of landscape in relation to his collaborative activity. Writing after observing his collaborators’ works Creeley deals with many artistic landscapes: on the one hand we will explore the very notion of “artistic landscape”; on the other hand we will analyze Creeley’s verbal response to the visual representations produced by his collaborators.

Robert Creeley and Alex Katz’s collaboration, Edges (1999), will be closely studied. In this particular case Creeley deals with both a natural landscape and someone else’s (Katz’s) representation of this same landscape. Inclusion and exclusion, present and past, abstraction and concreteness therefore alternate in his poem. Moreover, Creeley’s role as spectator will enable us to emphasize the distinction between seeing a landscape and seeing a representation of landscape. We will show how the difference dwells in the very notion of spectatorship.

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Jude Bloomfield

Abstract

Place, locality and urban resistance have been neglected in studies of globalisation. Urban imaginaries are the symbolic sphere in which space and places are contested. They project unconscious social desires and construct imaginary social alternatives which form part of a long utopian tradition. Even though the visual and virtual predominates in modern media, the assertion of bodily practices in contemporary art underlies the continuing importance of face-to-face experience in the public sphere. Memory plays an important role in framing urban imaginaries, because it is constructed in the present. Consequently, struggles around memorials, museums and the built environment embook-body different visions of the meaning, history and identity of a place. Cities should draw on the diversity of social perspectives through research on citizens’ narratives to forge a more democratic, pluralist and inclusive urban imaginary.

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Stuart Price

Abstract

This chapter identifies the ways in which the Athenian polis is conceptualised as both a cultural site and as the origin of democratic practices. The Acropolis and its environs is often presented as the embodiment of an ‘ideal’ city-state, a tradition which persists in museum guides, photographic studies, archaeological reports and European ‘mediascapes’ in general. The dominant notion of a cultured demokratia, inseparable from the physical site of the Parthenon and other monuments, has its origins in ancient literary sources. Adherence to this tradition tends, therefore, to obscure other aspects of Athenian history, including the imperial character of its fifth century dominance, the political and military symbolism of its building programme, and the fact that a polis did not necessarily have to be linked to a particular physical domain. The major part of the enquiry is focussed, however, on those modern interpretations which draw attention to the cultural significance of the Acropolis as both a physical site and an urban ‘imaginary’.

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Fran Speed

The term nature remains an ambiguous, contentious concept which continues to prove a stumbling block in environmental theory and practice, for example in conservation. While various definitions of nature abound, it is most commonly defined as that which is independent of human agency. According to this definition, human beings and their artefacts are separate from what is considered a wholly independent nature. As a result, it has created a prevalent culture/nature dualism that inhibits both practical land management and the formulation of a viable environmental ethic. In seeking to establish a cohesive understanding upon which we can collectively draw I present an understanding of nature qua identity. The account of nature that I propose not only resonates with the intuitions from which the expression springs, but overcomes the nature/culture divide. In the account I present nature is inclusive of human beings, since it describes a collective dimension of the identity that we hold in common with all evolved entities. To speak of nature, from this perspective, is not to speak of some scientific or ontological basis for it but to identify narrative qualities that characterise and define it. I illustrate how this collective dimension of our identity, and the affective bond of allegiance that it affords, makes our relationship to the non-human world significant, such that the scope and integrity of our human interaction with it can be of major concern. In light of this account of nature I argue that to describe landscape as ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’, is to communicate a relational distinction; a distinction that bears on the integrity of the relations set up by the interaction of human and non-human interests. In conclusion, I examine the ramifications of this account of nature for considering the rationale that drives conservation.

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Birgit Neumann

As Britain expanded its overseas spheres of influence in the course of the seventeenth century, the complex dynamics of territorial expansion and global mobility became a central topic of cultural negotiation. Imaginatively circumnavigating the world, numerous poems, plays and travelogues evoke powerful ideological tropes to give specific historical meaning to the complex experience of global mobility and territorial expansion. Frequently, this “expansionist fantasy” (Brown 2001: 74) revolves around the figure of the sea, which becomes a paradigm of imperial capitalism and territorial desire. Yet the sea figures not merely as a symbol of imperial progress and maritime capitalism; rather it is imagined as an agent of change itself, an agent that sets up global trading networks, connects waterways and impels the English along an inevitable and predestined course. The present article traces some of the literary and rhetorical strategies by which the sea is made an agent of expansion (sans violence) and is thus translated into spatial practice. It is argued that the trope of the sea makes manifest a set of claims about political and commercial power, legitimising imperialism as an inevitable, vigorous and yet highly precarious development. By effortlessly forging transatlantic links between metropolitan Britain and territorial peripheries, the trope of the sea depicts imperialism as a natural extension of space and a progressive development in history.