Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Lecture at Newcastle University: ‘Parochialism – a defence’

Henry Daysh Inaugural Lecture, ‘Parochialism – a defence’, by Professor John Tomaney
Clore Suite, Great North Museum: 11th January, 2012, 4pm

“In this paper I present a defence of parochialism against the claims of cosmopolitanism and in the context of debates about the relational accounts of place. Against normative claims that local attachments and territorial sense of belonging lead to exclusion and cultural atrophy the paper suggests that the local, its cultures and solidarities, are a moral starting and a locus of ecological concern in all human societies and at all moments of history. I explore this idea by reference to art and literature, especially poetry. This analysis suggests the local identities should be understood contextually; there is no necessary relation between local forms of identity and practices of exclusion. The paper shows how the virtue of parochialism is expressed in art with a universal appeal. I conclude therefore that we need more detailed studies of real local identities, which avoid a presumption of disdain.” Professor John Tomaney.

This event is part of a programme of activities celebrating the 35th Anniversary of CURDS in 2012.

For more information visit the Newcastle University

Thursday, 8 December 2011

'Pictures from Hopper' launch

Neil Campbell will introduce his new collection of short stories Pictures from Hopper at 6pm in Gallery North, Northumbria University on Tuesday, December 13th. Neil's stories are inspired by the works of Edward Hopper and engage with issues of place and location. For more on this collection visit:

Monday, 5 December 2011

Readings for 9th December 2011

Emails have been sent out with this week's readings, also available online:

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'Race', from English Traits (1856).
Paul Giles, 'Transnationalism and Classic American Literature', PMLA, 118 (2003), pp. 62-67.

We hope these readings will prompt discussion of transatlantic space, race, literary tradition, and the influence of the spatial turn on our understanding of these categories.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Change of Date in March

Just a quick note to say that our meeting in March will now go ahead on Friday 23rd, instead of 16th.

Also, Jenny Hodgson will lead the group on the 20th January on Alain Robbe-Grillet's 'Towards a New Novel' and Snapshots, and Laurie's Robin Hood and Derrida session will be rescheduled for the end of January/beginning of February.

Keep an eye out for the Walden and Emerson readings circulating soon for Clare's session (9th December), we look forward to seeing you then.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Newcastle Winter Book Festival

The Newcastle Winter Book Festival starts this Thursday 24th November and runs until Sunday 27th, featuring readings and workshops from a range of local writers, artists and historians. Events take place at a range of venues including Northumbria, Seven Stories, the Lit & Phil, Newcastle City Library, Blackwells Bookshop, and the Star and Shadow Cinema.

Place-based highlights include talks by Alistair Moffatt, 'Who do we think we are? The Scots: A Genetic Journey', and Ann Cleeves, who will talk about her story collection, Shetland Quartet. In addition, Ann will jointly run 'Crime in a Foreign Country' with Shirley McKay and Northumbria's own Jacky Collins.

Northumbria University Library will be hosting performance and installations from students and staff at the university, in An Encounter with Antigone (dir. by Jane Arnfield and Matt Cummins) and Chattering Monkey (by Alex Elliott). It would be great to see many of you there.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

November Meeting Postponed

Apologies for the short notice but we've decided to postpone this month's session until the new year so that Laurie can focus on submitting her thesis - she aims to have it in by the end of the month so let's wish her the best of luck!

Keep checking for updates about Clare's session, which will be going ahead on Friday 9th December.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Interdisciplinary Conference at Northumbria

Readers may be interested in the following conference hosted by Northumbria's 'States of Mind' research group:

Situating and Interpreting States of Mind 1700-2000
An Interdisciplinary Conference

14-16 June 2012
Northumbria University

Keynote Speakers
Professor Joel P. Eigen (Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology, Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania)
Professor Melinda A. Rabb (Professor of English, Brown University, Rhode Island)
Dr. Judith A. Tucker (Lecturer in the School of Design, Leeds University)

This cross-period and interdisciplinary conference seeks to situate and interpret states of mind from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first questioning how the space, place and historical context in which mental states are experienced shaped the narratives produced by individuals. Interweaving perspectives from across such disciplines as literature, history, philosophy, art history, creative writing, psychology and sociology, the conference will explore accounts of states of mind including mental illness, dreams, sleep-walking, imaginative states and self-awareness. The conference seeks to assess how these varying states of consciousness are expressed and how such narratives are influenced by historical change, continuity or the reconfiguration of these forms of expression.

We would like to invite abstracts for papers from across disciplines on the theme of the conference, particularly related, but not limited, to the following key strands:

Experience and Representation of Mental Illness
- the gap between individual experience and interpretations by medical and legal practitioners
- the relationship between mental distress, agency, literature and cognition
- representations of mental derangement and criminal responsibility

Liminal States of Mind
- representations of liminal states of consciousness
- the relationship between experiences and representations of dreams and sleepwalking
- categorisation of imaginative states in cognitive science and philosophy
- concepts of interiority, selfhood and imaginative processing of real or fictional worlds

Self-awareness and Place
- relationship between self and place, particularly regarding the past, decay and dilapidation
- artistic expressions of situating self-awareness
- creative representations of landscape as a geographic metaphor

Abstracts of 300 words for 20-minute papers should be submitted no later than 31 January 2012 to the conference organisers: or  Please see for details.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Remember, Remember: Eventful November

Apologies for the terrible rhyme. In addition to Laurie's Robin Hood and Derrida session on Friday 18 November (readings to follow shortly), there are loads of space-related events going on this month that you might be interested in. Our very own English Literature department is hosting some great talks in the Seminar Series this month: 
  • Dr David Stewart (Northumbria University), 'Reading Like a Cockney: Magazines and Romanticism', Wednesday 9 November
  • Dr Ian Davidson (Northumbria University), 'The Production of Suburban Space and 1950's Fiction', Wednesday 23 November
 Over the road at Newcastle University, NCLA are hosting the following: 
  • Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, 'Edgelands: Journeys into England's Last Wilderness', Thursday 17 November (£6/£4)  
  • Jack Mapanje, reading and panel discussion, 24 November (£6/£4) [This reading is hosted in association with English PEN and will be accompanied by an exhibition: Beyond Bars: 50 years of the PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Percy Building foyer, 18 November to 2 December 2011]
And further afield, the Tate Modern 'Topology' project runs from 5th November 2011-May 2012, bringing together artists, writers and intellectuals to discuss topological theory. The following events are taking place this month:
Keep checking back for updates on the next meeting, and thanks to readers for recommending events, we're always grateful. We look forward to seeing you on 18th.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dickens and Google Maps

Charlotte's Google Map of Bleak House

I'd like to draw your attention to a blog post recommended to me last week, 'Dickens and Google Maps', in which Charlotte Mathieson displays the locations of some Victorian novels using Google Maps. Her research blog on the Warwick University webpages includes some example images, showing how useful a tool this can be. Charlotte has also blogged about recent conferences that might be of interest to readers, such as 'Rural Geographies of Gender and Space, Britain 1840-1920' and 'Travel in the 19th Century'. Image courtesey of Charlotte Mathieson.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Summary of October Meeting

Tristram charts the plots of the first four volumes of
Tristram Shandy, 1762 (vol. 6, ch. 40, p. 152).

Thank you to everyone who turned up for Friday’s reading group, we hope you enjoyed the discussion. For the curious who didn’t make it, here’s a brief summary:

After some appropriately nomadic wandering from Lipman building to Squires building in search of a suitable room, we watched Penny Grennan’s short film A Journey Around my Life with a glass of white wine (Helen forgot the red). We then pondered the distinction between charts and maps, the influence of Laurence Sterne and Descartes on de Maistre, and the complex fusion of seriality and plot in Penny’s film. There was also a healthy debate about the economy of travel theory proposed by Georges Van Den Abbeele and how perhaps nomadic cultures (and even rambling texts) are difficult to assimilate to the A to B kind of travel that he favours. This led to a consideration of a changing or multiple sense of ‘home’. We also discussed ennui, walking, typographic margins and textual spaces, and the securing of national boundaries arising from the French Revolution. Quite a mixture!

The next meeting will be Friday 18th November, when Laurie McKee will introduce some Robin Hood texts which we will be comparing to Derrida’s theory of hospitality. Red wine will be available, and keep your eyes peeled for a confirmation of the room, as our usual one seems to be missing a computer. If you want to plan ahead even further, the 2011/12 schedule can be found here. Laurie’s extracts will be circulated in early November.

In the meantime, keep checking our ‘Useful Pages’ tab - it's regularly updated with related links and CFPs.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Journey Around my Life

We are very excited to announce that Penny Grennan's short film, A Journey Around my Life, will be shown as part of the reading group on Friday. The film neatly brings us from the theme of the last academic year, 'Objects', to that of this year, 'Spaces', via Xavier de Maistre. Unfortunately Penny can't attend this month's meeting, but we look forward to viewing and discussing her work. Image courtesey of Penny Grennan.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Seminar Series on Early Modern Spaces at LSE

Members of the reading group may be interested in the 2011/12 seminar series at LSE: 'The Uses of Space in Early Modern History 1500-1850'. It kicks off at 6pm on 13th October with Dr. David Lambert (Warwick) delivering a paper entitled 'Mastering the Niger: Spaces of cartography, accounting and slavery, 1797-1845'. Seminars are held in LSE New Academic Building, room 2.12. Contact Dr. Paul Stock for further details.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Readings for 7th October 2011

Emails have been sent out with this week's reading:

If you haven't received the email please contact us at See you on Friday!
  • Georges Van Den Abbeele, Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1992), pp. xvii-xxi. (attached)
  • Xavier de Maistre (1795), A Journey round my Room (Philadelphia: Carey, 1829), pp. 1-25.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Confirmed Dates

Lipman 121 is booked for the following dates, all Friday afternoons at 4:30pm:

October 7, 2011 (led by Helen Williams, on Xavier de Maistre and Jenny Mezciems)
November 18, 2011 (led by Laurie McKee, on Robin Hood, hospitality and Derrida)
December 9, 2011 (led by Dr Clare Elliott, on Walden and perhaps Emerson's 'Nature')
January 20, 2012
February 17, 2012
March 16, 2012 Now changed to March 23, 2012
May 18, 2012

Clare has kindly offered to lead the December session and we are keen to plan next term's meetings as soon as possible, so please get in touch with ideas. And feel free to spread the word. Non-Northumbria readers can be added to the group's mailing list by contacting

We’ll be in touch soon with the extract of Jenny Mezciems’s journal article, but in the mean time here is the primary reading for 7th October: Xavier de Maistre (1795),
A Journey round my Room (Philadelphia: Carey, 1829). We will be focusing on pp. 1-25.

Monday, 19 September 2011

New Reading Group for the New Academic Year

Following the success of last year's reading group 'Objects in Theory' we welcome readers to 'Spaces in Theory'. The new theme for 2011/12 reflects Northumbria's interest in issues of space, illustrated by the taught MA course Literature and Place and the AHRC-funded research project Locating the Hidden Diaspora.

In these sessions we engage with familiar and lesser known theorists alongside a range of literary and nonliterary primary sources. Last year, for example, we read Don DeLillo through Heidegger and Walter Benjamin through Jean Baudrillard, and this year we'd like to cover a similar breadth of periods and disciplines. We hope, above all, to bring people together from across the arts and social sciences in a friendly and informal setting.

Helen Williams will lead October's session, introducing Xavier de Maistre's Journey Round my Room and accompanying theory text, Jenny Mezciems's '"'Tis Not to Divert the Reader": Moral and Literary Determinants in Some Early Travel Narratives'. The November meeting, led by Laurie McKee, will consider some Robin Hood texts with reference to Derrida's Of Hospitality. Extracts will be circulated in advance. The sessions are not confined to the advertised texts; we merely use them as starting points for discussion.

Please get in touch if you have any ideas for December's session. You would simply give a very brief introduction to your chosen theory text (perhaps from the list below) and primary text, image or clip.

Possible themes include but are not limited to: adventure, the vagrant and the picaro; migration, exile and exile narratives; utopia; domesticity and country house poetry; travel and travel writing; borders and liminality; transnationalism and postcolonialism; the exotic; cartography; nationhood and regionalism; the theatre and the stage; nature and the pastoral; exhibiting and exhibition space; botany and landscaping; mobility and stasis; homelessness.

Readers are welcome to attend just one or all sessions. Refreshments (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) will be provided, followed by the customary trip to the Carriage. Do check this page for updates.

Possible Theory Texts

Extracts of theory should be 2000 words or less.

Bakhtin, Mikhail, ‘Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the novel’, in The Dialogic Imagination (Austin: U of Texas P, 1981) pp. 84-258. Available here:

Barney, Darin David, The Network Society (Cambridge: Polity, 2004), esp. ‘Network Society’, pp.1-33. Available in Northumbria library: 303.4833/BAR.
Bourdieu, Pierre, Logic of Practice (Cambridge: Polity, 1990), esp. chap. 3 ‘Structures, Habitus, Practices’, pp. 52-26. Available in Northumbria library: 301/BOU.
Buell, Lawrence, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge: Harvard U P, 1995), esp. ‘Pastoral Ideology’, pp. 31-52.
Davidson, Ian, Radical Spaces of Poetry (Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010), available in Northumbria library: 821.914/DAV.
Felski, Rita, and Susan Stanford Friedman, Comparison, special ed. of New Literary History, 40 (2009), available at:
Foucault , Michel, ‘Of Other Spaces, esp. section entitled ‘Heterotopias’.

Frank, Joseph, ‘Spatial Form in Modern Literature: An Essay in Two Parts’, The Sewanee Review, 53 (1945), pp. 221-240.

Lefebvre, Henri, The Production of Space, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), esp. ‘Social Space’, pp. 73-79. Available at:
McDowell, Linda, Gender Identity and Place (Cambridge: Polity, 1999). Available in Northumbria library: 301.412/MACD.
National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual (National Trust, 2011)
Thoreau, Henry David, Walden (1854). Available online: