Monday, 21 May 2012

Shandy Hall trip and Thanks

On Friday we held the final Spaces in Theory meeting at Shandy Hall. We began with a tour of the house kindly led by the engaging and knowledgeable Patrick Wildgust, taking in the house's recently discovered sixteenth century wall paintings, the famous bust of Sterne produced by Joseph Nollekens, and Sterne's souvenir china cow (!) Patrick then led us into a discussion of the relationship between Sterne and Elizabeth Draper, the subject of Shandy Hall's current exhibition.

The exhibition puts Sterne and Draper's relationship into context, featuring Sterne's letters and Eliza's forged replies, reproductions of the gifts that passed between the two and artistic responses to their relationship and separation. In addition it introduces the art of eighteenth-century letter writing.

After enjoying the exhibition we then had the privilege of visiting the bedroom created for, but never used by, Eliza. An eerie and emotional space, the room features an installation by Carolyn Thompson which explores the truths and fictions surrounding Sterne and Draper's relationship."Folie a Deux" is an elaborate coverlet created using eighteenth-century techniques and embroidered with copies of Sterne's letters.

There is still time to catch this wonderful exhibition which runs until June 29th.

Finally, we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped with and participated in the reading group over the last year; we've had a fantastic time.

- Laurie and Helen.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Readings for Shandy Hall trip (18th May)

We've chosen some short readings to accompany the final Spaces in Theory meeting at Shandy Hall this Friday:
  • Paul Munden, "Obsession", "Grass", and "DIY" in Asterisk*, illus. by Marion Frith (Sheffield: Smith/Doorstop, 2011), pp.14-17; 42-43.
  • Laurence Sterne, Journal to Eliza, ed. by Wilbur Cross (New York: Taylor, 1904).
  • Laurajane Smith, Uses of Heritage (London, Routledge, 2006). Subsection from Chapter 2 ("Heritage as a Cultural Process") entitled "Place", pp.74-80.
For those joining us, here's a brief itinerary:

We'll depart from outside Londis at 1pm, to arrive around 2.30 pm. We'll look around the exhibition in the gallery space then view the installation in Eliza's room in Shandy Hall. After that, we'll have a discussion in the gardens if it's sunny, or perhaps the Old Kitchen, followed by a walk around into the village to see the church, village pub and/or tea rooms. We'll leave around 4.30 pm and return to campus at around 6pm. And a gentle reminder: transport is free but entry to Shandy Hall costs £4.50.

If anybody is not on the mailing list and would like copies of the texts just email us, as usual, at

See you on Friday!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Summary of May's Meeting

On Wednesday Anna Hope guided us through the strange world of 'Bizarro' fiction and Foucault's essay 'Of Other Spaces'. The texts provoked plenty of questions, including: how 'bizarre' really is Bizarro? What kinds of conservative assumptions and messages might actually lurk within the genre? How does the genre- and Carlton Mellick in particular - treat the female body? Do these authors encourage particular reading practices? Can any kind of dialogue be opened up between these authors and theorists or academics?

Foucault's text allowed us to think about the female body in Mellick's The Haunted Vagina as a type of 'heterotopia', which in turn made us ask whether the text positions the female body as a 'deviant' space. It also led us to discuss Foucault's notions of 'real' and 'unreal' spaces, and to ask to what extent the virtual worlds evident in texts such as Mellick's challenge or complement Foucault's thesis.

Thanks to all who attended our penultimate session. On the 18th we will bring 'Spaces in Theory' to a close with our trip to Shandy Hall.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Readings for Wednesday 2nd May

The next meeting of the reading group is entitled 'AnOther Landscape: Deviant Heterotopia in The Haunted Vagina' - led by Anna Hope.
Be warned - this session is not for the faint of heart!
We will be covering the following texts:
  • Carlton Mellick III, The Haunted Vagina (Portland: Eraserhead, 2006) [to be circulated via email]
  • Michel Foucault, 'Des espaces autres' [Different Spaces], Architecture, Mouvement, Continuit√©, 5 (1984), pp. 46-49
Please note, due to file size we will be sending the Mellick out on request - email us at if you would like to receive the attachment.
We hope to see many of you in Lipman 121 at 4:30pm.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

In Search of the Missing England

On this coming Saturday Northumbria university will host this one-day event which will undoubtedly interest Spaces in Theory attendees as well as anyone with an interest in emigration, ethnicity or family history. The event will provide both a platform for debate about English emigration and enable discussion on locating and using source materials. To register, please contact

For more information on the excellent 'Locating the Hidden Diaspora Project', visit the project's website here.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Northern City Renaissance

While we're gearing up for Anna's session on the 2nd May, just a quick note to say that there's still time to catch the 'Northern City Renaissance' exhibition at the Laing gallery, Newcastle. Place and space enthusiasts will enjoy depictions of the city's changing cityscape from local and national artists, including the Ashington group - who are coincidentally the subject of Lee Hall's hugely successful play, running at the Live theatre this month.

Arguably the  jewel in the crown, Stephen Hannock's eponymous 'Northern City Renaissance' is a deceptively complex work composed of mini narratives  about the city, alternately personal and factual. The exhibition is well worth a visit, whatever your thoughts on the painting's patron (I jest):

Finally, thanks to all those who have signed up for the Shandy Hall session/trip next month- it's looking to be a great day.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Politics of Place: A Journal for Postgraduates

Members of the reading group might be interested in Politics of Place, a new peer-reviewed journal for postgraduates, based at the University of Exeter. It focuses on the relationship between culture and spatiality in works of literature, engaging particularly with issues of nationhood, community, class, marginality, and the self, and places specific emphasis on the complex interactions between physical environments and human activity.

The journal is encouraging submissions which consider ideas of space, place, mapping, journeying, and discovery for its first issue, the theme of which is 'Maps and Margins'. It aims to explore notions of mapping from the physical to metaphysical and metaphorical, and to cast light upon margins of the self and society – within the page, beyond the page, or beyond the map. The deadline for the ‘Maps and Margins’ issue is 30 June 2012.

Readings will soon be circulated for our next session, led by Anna Hope, on Carlton Mellick III's The Haunted Vagina and Foucault's concept of heterotopia (Wednesday 2nd May, 4:30pm). We hope to see you after a restful Easter break!