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:

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