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, Continuité, 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!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Upcoming Events

Here are some events and a new book that might be of interest to readers.

Transnational Solidarities

This conference will explore the ways in which activists have embraced the causes of groups – or even entire nations – of which their knowledge and experience was often limited. Taking place at Northumbria University on Saturday 31 March and Sunday 1 April, the event hopes to discuss such themes as the relationship between ‘solidarity’ and ‘philanthropy’; and the domestic implications of transnational campaigns. You can download the provisional programme for this event here. Places are limited; to register for this event, please send an email to by 23 March. Please specify whether you intend to come for both days or only for one day.

Venice and the Cultural Imagination

This new book, edited by Michael O'Neill, Mark Sandy and Sarah Wootton, has just been published by Pickering and Chatto. The interdisciplinary Venice and the Cultural Imagination: 'This Strange Dream upon the Water' explores the representation of Venice in Western culture (poetry, fiction, art, music, film) since 1800, with particular attention to artistic and cultural legacies and the relationships between art and money, history and myth.

Spaces of (Dis)location

This two-day multidisciplinary graduate conference is hosted by the College of Arts, University of Glasgow, and takes place on 24th - 25th May 2012. The notion that ideas of space and location - whether physical or metaphysical, real or imaginary - are evolving provides the stimulus for a conference that aims to inspire creativity and debate across many subjects in the arts and humanities. See the conference website for more information. 

Stanza Stones

Stanza Stones, a Poetry Trail from Marsden to Ilkley, is a new collaboration between imove, Ilkley Literature Festival, Simon Armitage and Pennine Prospects, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Simon Armitage and some of Yorkshire’s most talented young writers, dancers and film makers celebrate the Pennine landscape in a series of performances combining dance, poetry, bicycles and film. The project also includes a series of walks as well as a stone carving workshop.
The events are free but must be booked in advance,

And don't forget the most important date of all - the Spaces in Theory Trip to Shandy Hall, Friday 18th May. Email us to register your place before Friday 30th March. It's proving popular so make sure you've got a seat on the bus!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Spaces in Theory trip - Literary Houses: Theory and Practice

We're excited to announce that on Friday the 18th of May we will be holding the reading group at Shandy Hall, the literary house where Laurence Sterne lived and wrote his most famous works. Attendees will also be able to view the Precious Cargo exhibition, which explores Sterne’s epistolary relationship with Mrs Eliza Draper as she sailed back to India on an East India vessel.

We hope the location, the readings (to be confirmed) and the exhibition will inspire discussion and debate on such themes as literary pilgrimage and tourism, Empire, site-specific writing, artists/writers in residence, and the interpretation of historic spaces and places through art installations and curatorial practice.

Places are limited, so we ask that all postgraduates and staff book their places before Friday 30th of March by emailing There will be a small fee of £4.50, payable on the day. We will set off from Northumbria at 1pm and full travel information will be circulated before the trip.

For more on Shandy Hall and the Laurence Sterne Trust visit Information about the Precious Cargo exhibition can also be found here:

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Summary of February's Meeting

On Tuesday we achieved the seemingly impossible feat of connecting Derridean theory and medieval Robin Hood ballads. To summarize:

Laurie began by discussing the notion of hospitality and the ways in which it has been theorized. This led us to ask: should hospitality be understood, and practiced, as an economic pact, or as a gesture of (potentially disastrous) openness? And what do we mean when we talk about 'hospitality' - what kind of personal, social and geographic boundaries are involved? Can we talk about all these things at once - does Derrida? And how successfully?

This led us on to the Robin Hood ballad and Robin's own 'hospitable' practices. We discussed the ways in which Robin positions himself as a greenwood host, and what this says about his social, economic and spatial position.  We talked a little more generally about the ballad itself and its contexts of production. We also idly wondered why the otherwise sparse ballad describes the many birds Robin eats for dinner in such minute detail ! "There fayled none so litell a birde / That ever was bred on bryre."

Thanks to all who came to another enjoyable session.

Finally, we will have some exciting news soon  regarding a 'Spaces in Theory' excursion. Details will follow shortly.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Readings for Tuesday 28th February

As mentioned below our next meeting will take place on this coming Tuesday, led by Laurie Mckee. We'll be talking about Robin Hood and theories of hospitality (especially Derridean), and our texts are:

As usual, all are warmly and hospitably welcomed to join and discounted wine will flow. If you're not on the mailing list and would like to join in, just email us at

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Change of Date and Upcoming Events

The session planned for Friday 17th February has been postponed until Tuesday 28th February, at 4.30pm in Lipman 121. Laurie McKee will be leading the session on Robin Hood, Jacques Derrida and hospitality. We'll send the readings around shortly.
The following meeting will take place as planned on Friday 16th March, led by Anna Hope.
In the mean time, there are a couple of events over the road at NCLA to keep you busy...
  • 22 Feb TippingPoint: An evening of readings and multimedia artworks. Editor Gregory Norminton will be in discussion with some of the authors (Jay Griffiths; Lawrence Norfolk) who have contributed to his anthology Out of Chaos: Short Stories for our Shared Planet (Oneworld, 2012). The stories were specially commissioned for Norminton’s collection and respond to ecological crisis.
  • 23 Feb NCLA Water Poetry Competition Award Ceremony with John Burnside and W.N. Herbert.
...and a new website featuring Prof Donald Hayden’s photography of locations and routes from Wordsworth’s Travels in Scotland and his walking tour of 1790 is now online.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

CFP: Spatial Perspectives

On the 22nd June, Oxford University will be hosting an excellent-sounding conference investigating the ways in which literature and architecture interact. Writers and researchers are invited to propose papers discussing textual spaces and spatial texts, narrative and architecture, interiors and design and many other topics. For more information and details of how to get involved  head over to

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Events in February

A couple of events at the Lit & Phil this month will appeal to those of us interested in places and spaces. On the 22nd Natasha Vall of Teeside University will examine how, after 1945, the North East struggled to create cultural policies which would support its vernacular culture. Then on the 29th a number of creative writing staff from Northumbria University will read from their work, including Ian Davidson and Michael Cawood Green whose rich works explore issues of space and location (see: for more information).

Some other snippets: the London Review of Books has some excellent articles this month, including Jeremy Harding's discussion of European borders and John Burnside's moving recollection of his time in the Arctic Circle (

We'll see you again towards the end of this month (date tbc) for a session on Derrida, hospitality and (believe it or not) Robin Hood.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Readings for Friday 20th January

Our next session, led by Jennifer Hodgson (Durham University), will focus on the following texts: 
  • Roland Barthes, 'Objective Literature' (1954), in Critical Essays, trans. by Richard Howard (Evanston, IL: Northwestern U P, 1972), pp. 13-24 [also available here]
  • Alain Robbe-Grillet (1957), Jealousy, trans. by Richard Howard (London: Calder, 1959), pp. 64-82 [extract to be circulated by email]
  • Last Year at Marienbad, dir. by Alain Resnais (Rialto, 1961) [clip to be shown in reading group]
If you're not patient enough to wait until Friday, Jen has kindly supplied us with a trailer:

Don't forget, if you're not on our mailing list contact us at

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Summary of December's Session

Claire helpfully opened last month’s reading group with a lowdown on the basics of Transatlantic Literary Studies. She described its status as a sub-discipline arising in 1997 from the strength of American Studies and an increasing interest in manifest destiny and the frontier spirit, topics which have long been concerned with international dialogue. The sub-discipline rethinks classic American Literature through a transnational and transcultural approach, emphasising hybridity, migration, and aboriginality rather than old world / new world binaries. We briefly looked at the work of Susan Manning, a pioneer in this field, and considered how the concept of global connectivity threatens notions of fixed national space through a collective imagination.
As discussion got underway, we debated how class, racial and economic groups can be privileged when examples of mobility and circulation become the focus of study.
With reference to the example texts (see schedule tab), we discussed the political symbolism of trees such as the oak; Irish-English relations; English-French relations from the eighteenth-century to the present day; and bestial imagery in Emerson, especially his comparison of the slave to the dodo. However, events such as John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 came up as possible evidence of Emerson’s nuanced beliefs on race, as in his journal we can see the process by which he eventually supports Brown.
As it often does, the concept of literary pilgrimage came up in last month’s session, as we learned about Emerson’s visiting Wordsworth and Coleridge, and how this might have affected his view of a ‘national’ literature. We debated how the construction of American Literature may be a religious endeavour. 
We talked about how transnationalism encompasses nation as it tries to supersede it and how international financial capitalism acknowledges yet transcends nation. We discussed nation as a relatively new term, compared to that of race, which is considered as located in a deep, mythic past.
We then considered the difference between transnationalism and postnationalism, and identified the latter with anxieties over a lack of control over the economy. We agreed that transnationalism is more concerned with borders and how porous they are, although we acknowledged that some are violent and therefore not porous for everybody. We discussed the Jewish diaspora as a potentially supranational ethnic group, and McDonalds and Starbucks as homogenizing brands that get re-localised in an attempt to appear more relevant and culturally accepting.

Quote of the month
Emerson on the Englishman: ‘He must be treated with sincerity and reality,—with muffins, and not the promise of muffins’.

Thank you to all who came and made the session so interesting, we can't wait for the next.