Association for Literary Urban Studies

The Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS, formerly Helsinki Literature and the City Network) provides an international and interdisciplinary platform for scholars studying the city in literature. Membership is free, and all scholars working within literary urban studies are warmly invited to join the association. It welcomes approaches that examine city narratives in a broad understanding, including approaches that combine urban studies, cultural geography, urban planning, future studies, and other relevant fields with the examination of narratives of cities. It aims to foster interdisciplinary research on city literature, including literature written in all languages and encompassing all historical periods. The Association for Literary Urban Studies organizes meetings twice a year in Finland for members residing in Finland or passing through, and one international conference every two years. It aims to cooperate with other international organizations to organize international seminars, conferences and events.

Scholars interested in the city and literature from all fields of study are most welcome to join ALUS.
For further information on joining the network, contact ALUS secretary Anni Lappela at anni.lappela [a] or ALUS acting president Lieven.Ameel [a]

To add to the ALUS bibliography, please send details of your own published works on literary urban topics or those of others to Meeria Vesala, bibliography editor meeria.vesala [at]


ALUS General Meeting 2022

The next ALUS general meeting will be on Tuesday 11 January 2022 at 5.30 pm (EET). The meeting will be online. More information to follow.


Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology, Bhilai
in collaboration with
Association for Literary Urban Studies
presents online conference
Narrating the South Asian City: Critical Perspectives

The conference will be held online, via WebEx, on Monday, 15 November 2021 (IST). Keynote speakers of the conference are Dr Stuti Khanna, IIT Delhi, and Dr Dominic Davies, City, University of London. Please click here to access the programme and here to see the book of abstracts. There is no registration fee to attend. Joining details can be found in the conference poster here.


Call for papers
Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology, Bhilai
in collaboration with
Association for Literary Urban Studies
presents online conference
Narrating the South Asian City: Critical Perspectives
15 November 2021

Please find call for papers here:

Proposals of not more than 300 words accompanied with bio-notes of a maximum
of 100 words should be emailed to dept_la [a] by 13 August 2021.
Selected presenters will be informed by 6 September 2021 and working drafts of not
more than 3000 words will be due by 1 November 2021. While the conference will be
held in hybrid mode, we hope it will be possible for some of the presenters to participate
in-person and look forward to welcoming them at IIT Bhilai. There will be no registration
fee, neither for participation nor for attendance. One of the conference outputs will likely be a special issue in a journal relevant to the field. Please feel free to write to
dept_la [a] for any queries.

Conference Committee:
Anubhav Pradhan, IIT Bhilai
Rachna Mehra, Ambedkar University Delhi
Sonal Jha, IIT Bhilai
Anni Lappela, University of Helsinki
Meeria Vesala, Tampere University


Call for papers
Cities Under Stress: Urban Discourses of Crisis, Resilience, Resistance, and Renewal
The Third International Conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS)

We invite proposals for contributions at the third international conference of ALUS, scheduled to take place at the University of California, Santa Barbara on 17–19 February 2022. Following earlier successful meetings in Tampere, Finland (2017) and Limerick, Ireland (2019), and sessions at the Modern Language Association Convention (MLA) in both 2020 and 2021, ALUS now organizes its first event in North America.

This conference explores the theme of crisis and response as conveyed in cultural representations of urbanity. We welcome contributions that take up any aspect of or perspective on urban crisis and response, working on any period or genre of literature, from any linguistic tradition. Proposals are invited for individual 20-minute papers or multi-paper panels that in some way work with the theme of urban crisis and response.

See original call for papers here:Cities Under Stress CFP

Please send an abstract of your proposed talk (max. 250 words) and a 50-word bio indicating your affiliation and any other key points to alus-sb-2022 [a] by 1 August 2021. You may also direct any questions about the conference to this address or individually to the conference organizers.

Conference Organizers:
Liam Lanigan, Governor’s State University
Eric Prieto, University of California Santa Barbara.
Anni Lappela, Helsinki University


Annual General Meeting
ALUS Annual General Meeting was held 29 January 2021 online in Zoom.
The closed board meeting was held earlier on the same day.
The meeting minutes of both meetings are available here: ALUS_board_and_AGM_minutes_29Jan2021


Autumn 2020 ALUS Symposium
is held online in Zoom 23 November 2020, at 13.00-18.15 (EET).
Full programme available here: ALUS_symposium_autumn2020


Representing Urban Change:
Gentrification and Displacement in Literature and other Media
21 August 2020

Department of Modern Languages, Uppsala University
Institute for Housing and Urban Research (IBF), Uppsala University

In collaboration with
The Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS)
Uppsala Forum for Democracy, Peace and Justice
Faculty of Humanities, Psychology and Theology, Åbo Akademi University

Please find the programme of the symposium here: Representing Urban Change symposium 21 Aug. 2020


ALUS Annual General Meeting was held 31 January 2020, at Åbo Akademi University, Tehtaankatu 2, 20500 Turku, Finland. You can find meeting minutes here: ALUS_AGM_2020_meeting_minutes


Call for papers:

Representing Urban Change: Gentrification and Displacement in Literature and other Media
International Symposium
Department of Modern Languages, Uppsala University
Institute for Housing and Urban Research (IBF), Uppsala University
21 August 2020, Uppsala University

See original cfp here:Representing_Urban_Change_CfP_15-01-20

In collaboration with
The Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS)
Uppsala Forum for Democracy, Peace and Justice
Faculty of Humanities, Psychology and Theology, Åbo Akademi University

Keynote speaker: James Peacock, Keele University (UK)

Proposals (300 words maximum) for 20-minute papers should be sent to Jason Finch (jfinch [a] by 15 April 2020. Please feel free to contact any of the organizers with
questions, including about the probable suitability of your topic.

Hanna Henryson, Modern Languages, Uppsala University (hanna.henryson [a]
Jason Finch, English Language and Literature, Åbo Akademi University (jfinch [a]
Åse Richard, Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University (ase.richard [a]


All members are warmly welcome to the 2020 Annual General Meeting of ALUS at Arken building, Åbo Akademi University, Tehtaankatu 2, 20500 Turku, Finland on 31 January 2020.

The day will last approximately from 10:00-17:00 with the following proposed agenda:

10:00-10:15, welcome
10:15-12:15, discussion of reading shared in advance
12:15-13:15, lunch
13:15-14:45, short presentations by early career researchers
14:45-15:00, break
15:00-17:00, ALUS AGM (separate agenda to follow)

We encourage our early career members to join the meeting and present their current research about urban related topics. If you are interested in presenting your work, please contact President Jason Finch (jason.finch [a] or Secretary Anni Lappela (anni.lappela [a]

One thing for the agenda will be any changes to board membership. If you are interested in a position in board, please contact Jason Finch for more information about what is involved.

Even if you’re not in Finland and can’t attend the meeting, do let us know if there are things you’d like discussed, and generally any opinions about ALUS-related matters are welcome!


Call for papers:

Association for Literary Urban Studies / Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies
(Un)Fair Cities. Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Texts
University of Limerick, 12-13 December 2019

Conference website:

See cfp here:UnFair Cities-Limerick-12-13.12.2019-cfp

(Un)Fair Cities. Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Texts seeks to explore relations between the urban and the utopian, as manifested and explored in literary and cultural practice understood broadly, along another strand of the utopian problematic: that of the complex relations of the utopian and the ideological. These can be understood as antagonistic, with utopian departures challenging and undermining dominant ideological structures, of which the city is both producer and product. But they may also be analysed as dialectically conjoined, whereby utopian projections or disruptions form the basis upon which ideological reformulations are subsequently imagined and put in place.
Key, in this respect, is the problem of representation along both spatial and temporal axes. Writing the city in the light of utopia can thus result in a focus on nonconformist or disruptive spaces within the urban fabric, an attention to spatial discontinuities and their textual correlates, their accompanying discourses and poetics. But it can equally lead to a focus on singular experience; on the event and its after-life; on memory and anticipation of that which itself evades satisfactory representation. These are challenges which speak to the specific concerns of generic and experimental textual practices in an inclusive way – and this conference seeks to explore the full variety of responses elicited, across and between languages and traditions of practice, and in deep historical perspective.
Our title gestures towards a further ambivalence that is arguably key to the writing of the city and the urban experience – the ‘fair’ is what links the equitable and the beautiful, and the indissociably ethical and aesthetic challenge of imagining and writing the city – both inside and beyond ‘literature’ – thus makes such writing an especially fraught ideological space. This being so, the conference will seek in particular to re-visit the perceived ‘end of utopia’ in urban planning and contemporary literary fiction (see e.g. Baeten), and to think about new examples of both ‘spaces of hope’ (see Harvey), ‘utopic degeneration’ (see Marin), and ‘utopia, limited’ (Nersessian) in the textual worlds of urban planning, futures studies, literary fiction, and utopian studies.

We invite individual papers and sessions on subjects engaging with, but not limited to, the following themes:
– Representations of equity, equality and inequality in city writing
– Radical urban futures
– Geographies of hope in the context of 20th and 21st-century dystopia
– Afrofuturism and the city
– Urban segregation and future cities
– Representations of freedom in urban texts
– Novel forms of interaction and encounter in urban writing
– Representation of urban mobilities and large-scale infrastructure – from the industrial revolution to hyperloops
– Rule, Utopia! Class struggles in urban political fiction
– Techno-utopia and the representation of ‘smart cities’
– Governing Ecotopia in climate fiction
– Self-organization in 20th and 21st century dystopia
– Urban commons in near-future fiction
– Urban fables and cautionary tales
– Methodological approaches to interdisciplinary research bridging utopian studies, future studies and literary urban studies

The deadline for submission of proposals is 15 June 2019. Please send proposals (c. 300 words (per paper) / c. 500 words (session rationale)) together with short bionote(s) to:

The language of the conference will be English, but papers focusing on material in any language from any part of the world are very welcome. The organizers plan to publish a selection of the work issuing from the conference.

(Un)Fair Cities. Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Texts is the second international conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies and is organized in association with the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies at the University of Limerick. Conference Organizers: Lieven Ameel (ALUS), Michael G. Kelly and Mariano Paz (Ralahine). Confirmed keynote speakers: Prof Antonis Balasopoulos (Associate Professor in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, University of Cyprus); Dr Caroline Edwards (Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature, Birkbeck, University of London).

The Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies was established at the University of Limerick in 2003 to pursue innovative research across disciplines on utopian thought and practice. The Centre’s research and service agenda is based on the premise that social values, policies, and practices are shaped by hopeful, utopian visions, and that this dimension is critical to the betterment of life for all members of society. The Ralahine Centre has been instrumental to the development of the (inter-)discipline of utopian studies in Irish, European and international contexts of the past fifteen years. More information at

Baeten, Guy (2002). ‘Western Utopianism/Dystopianism and the Political Mediocrity of Critical Urban Research.’ In Geografiska Annaler B, 3-4: 143-152.
Harvey, David (2002). Spaces of Hope. Edinburgh University Press.
Marin, Louis (tr. Robert A. Vollrath) ([1973] 1984). Utopics. The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces. Humanity Books.
Nersessian, Anahid (2015). Utopia, limited. Romanticism and Adjustment. Harvard University Press.


ALUS Symposium
Simultaneity in the City
15 February 2019, University of Duisburg-Essen

Program now available on the symposium website:


ALUS general meeting and mini-symposium 27 November 2018

Meeting notes and summaries of the presentations (27 November 2018) are available here:priorities_and_symposium_notes_nov2018

General meeting and mini-symposium are held at Tampere University of Technology (Tampereen teknillinen yliopisto, Korkeakoulunkatu 10, Tampere), room TA117 in the first floor of Tietotalo.

11.00 General Meeting
12.00 Lunch
13.00 Walkabout at TUT
13.40 Coffee
14.00 Mini-symposium
16.00 Closing words

Mini-symposium presentations:

“Maria Edgeworth’s Ormond (1817) from island to country house to commercial metropolis: impressions of worldliness in fictions of development” (Aino Haataja, English Language and Literature, Åbo Akademi University).

”Urban and rural spaces in the post-Second World War literature of the U.S. South” (Salla Toivola, Comparative Literature, University of Turku)

“The European City and Fantastic Literature during Modernity (19th century narratives)” (Patricia Garcia, Helsinki Collegium, University of Helsinki)


ALUS Member meeting in September 2018

The meeting notes of the member meeting, held 21 September 2018, in Tensta konsthall, Stockholm, is available here: Meeting_notes_ALUS_210918

New publication:

Re-City. (Im)possible cities is now available! See link to the publication here (open access):

The second international city regeneration congress, Re-City 2017, took place on 24.–25.8.2017, two years after the first congress. As previously, the conference was a collaboration between University of Tampere and Tampere University of Technology. This time, about 65 researchers from about 20 different countries gathered in Tampere, Finland, to discuss the challenges of envisioning, planning and constructing today’s cities. The conference theme ‘(Im)Possible Cities’ was shared by another conference organised in Tampere during the same week, by the Association of Literary Urban Studies (ALUS). In addition to sharing the theme, the two conferences shared one seminar day, allowing researchers of literary studies, architecture and urban studies to intermingle and share views on the urban condition and its visionary future. Indeed, the imagination-provoking theme resulted in a variety of papers, ranging from literature-inspired theoretical studies to practice-oriented reports of urban management and urban planning. (Rajaniemi and Chudoba 2018, 6.)

Call for Contributions

Jason Finch (Assistant Professor, Åbo Akademi University; Maxwell Woods (PhD, University of Wisconsin – Madison)

We are calling for contributions to Mediating and Representing Slums, a special issue/collection. Building on a series of sessions at the 2018 Association of American Geographers conference in New Orleans, recent debates surrounding Alan Mayne’s (2017) most recent work, and earlier widely circulated examinations of slums (UN-HABITAT 2003; Davis 2006), this special issue/collection seeks to examine the effect and function, as well as the cultural and urban politics, of representing and/or mediating those urban spaces referred to as ‘slums’. Interested participants are encouraged to contact Jason Finch ( or Maxwell Woods ( prior to submission of abstracts with any questions they may have. Abstracts of 500 words are due to Finch and Woods by November 1.

The full call for contributions is available here: CfC_Mediating and Representing The Slum

The novelty of this special issue/collection will consist in its bringing together contributions concerned with the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century genesis of the notion of the slum, chiefly in the industrialized cities and imperial capitals of what became the Global North as well as in cities tied to these industrial and imperial capitals through global colonial matrices of power, with work on the period post-1945 in which urban settlements labelled ‘slums’ have grown explosively on every continent. Equally, it is envisaged that the collection will bring together researchers in a wide range disciplines alongside one another, thus opening up several new cross-disciplinary conversations.
This special issue/collection therefore seeks to investigate the function and effect of the mediation and representation of slums throughout the world. We seek papers and presentations from a diverse set of areas, languages, and time periods. Diverse methodological approaches are welcome, including but not limited to those offered by participants with backgrounds in fields such as human geography, cultural geography, urban history, literary studies, anthropology, sociology, and the history of art, architecture, and design. We are interested in perspectives from all geographical locations.

Questions we are asking include (but are not limited to):
– Should the word ‘slum’, viewed from the perspective of multiple disciplines, have continued currency in the mid-twenty-first century, or should it be replaced and if the latter then by what term or terms?
– How are slums mediated, conceptualized, and represented in literary works, artwork, cinema, formal reports, planning documents, and news media?
– What are the functions and effects of such mediations and representations?
– How are slums differently perceived by different urban collectives and populations? How do residents or potential residents of areas labelled ‘slums’ view them differently than government agencies?
– What is the relationship between ‘slums’ and discourses of modernization, development, and public health?
– What relationship do representations and mediations of ‘slums’ have with discourses and practices of colonialism, coloniality, and/or imperialism?
– How are slums being reconceptualized in the Anthropocene and/or the era of global climate change?
– How do race, gender, and class participate in the mediation and representation of slums?
– Can urban areas across time, space, and cultures be mediated through the concept of ‘slum,’ or should new modes of mediation be developed?
– How do the contemporary and historicized local histories and topographies of individual ‘slum’ areas relate to the longer-term identities of individual cities grasped through notions such as citiness, Deep Locational Criticism (Finch 2016) or the ‘stratigraphy’ proposed by geocritics (Westphal 2011)?
– How should the concept of the slum be related to notions of non-standard, non-traditional or provisional housing and urban living viewed not only negatively, including to notions of informality and improvisation?
– How does the history of the concept of the slum, including the history of the word ‘slum’ and related lexical items, affect an understanding of actual urban areas?



ALUS Symposium
Simultaneity in the City
15 February 2019, University of Duisburg-Essen

Simultaneity is an essential feature of citiness. The constant acceleration of urban life and the increasingly densely populated cities it takes place in confront us with countless layers of simultaneously occurring events, stories and developments. The interconnectedness of cities across the globe through new media only adds to the impression that simultaneity is “the crux of any attempt to narrate urban complexity, for simultaneity, the notion of innumerable things –momentous or trivial – happening at the same time, is surely a central characteristic of urban complexity.”[1] Simultaneity is a central concern not only in urban studies, but also in literary, film and media studies (and particularly in narratology across media), in transnationalism and transculturality, geocriticism, or diaspora studies, to only name some of the possible fields. Simultaneity therefore links urban studies to all of them.

The old question of whether a written text, linear in nature, can ever fully convey simultaneity, which has most famously been asked in Lessing’s Laocoon (1766), continues to motivate research on simultaneity. As Lessing argues, words on a page can tell a story only in sequence, unlike a painting (or the split screen in a film) which allows for simultaneous perception of several aspects of a scene. The innumerable stories that take place in a city, side by side, at any moment, can never be fully contained in any medium. Nonetheless, writers from diverse backgrounds—from Gustave Flaubert, Evgenij Ivanovič Zamjatin, Yokomitsu Riichi, Mu Shiying, Oliverio Girondo, James Joyce, Mário de Andrade, or T.S. Eliot, to Kiran Desai, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, or Naguib Mahfouz, to name only a few—have explored simultaneity in urban literature. This symposium aims to engage in a critical examination of such diverse attempts at representing urban complexity.

At the ALUS (Association for Literary Urban Studies)[2] symposium that will take place on Friday, 15 February 2019 at the University of Duisburg-Essen, we want to explore questions that relate to simultaneity in the city and the challenges that arise in representing it, while also encouraging research on the potential and potency of the concept. The symposium will take place on the Essen Campus of the University of Duisburg-Essen, where most of the institutes that share the university’s special focus on urban studies are located, although several research projects in urban studies also span the entire University Alliance Ruhr. Jason Finch and Lieven Ameel, president and vice president of ALUS, have been invited as a special guest speakers.

Suggested topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Simultaneity in literature
  • Simultaneity in audio-/visual arts and media
  • Urban complexity
  • The urban palimpsest
  • Globalisation, transnationalism, translocality
  • Theoretical perspectives on simultaneity
  • Historical perspectives on simultaneity
  • Simultaneity in Modernist/Avantgarde literature

We invite proposals for contributions (20 minutes in length) from scholars at all stages of their research. Proposals should include an abstract (200 words maximum) and a brief biographical note and should be sent to Lena Mattheis ( and Saskia Hertlein ( by 30 September 2018. Potential presenters will be informed by 15 October 2018 whether their abstract has been accepted. Further information and current updates on the symposium will be provided on the symposium website (

[1] Gurr, J. M. (2011). “The Literary Representation of Urban Complexity and the Problem of Simultaneity: A Sketchy Inventory of Strategies.” In: Gurr, J.; Raussert, W. (eds.) Cityscapes in the Americas and Beyond: Representations of Urban Complexity in Literature and Film. Trier, Tempe: 12.

[2] For more information on ALUS, please visit


Large-Scale Housing Projects as Productive Space in Literature and Culture.
21 September 2018, Stockholm University, Sweden.
A one-day symposium organized by the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS) in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Aesthetics (IKE).

See more information here: Call_for_Papers_Large_scale_housing_projects

During the latter part of the twentieth century, the high rise suburb emerged as a new urban space. This one-day symposium investigates questions about the representations and aesthetics of large-scale housing projects in the context of urban development, literary urban studies, and cultural geography.

ALUS and IKE want to encourage research on the representations and aesthetics of post-war large-scale housing projects in different cultural and geographical contexts, and invite proposals for papers dealing with the intersection of literary studies, urban history and other disciplines including human and cultural geography, design history and urban planning. Papers can be focused on theories and methodologies or be case studies.

Suggested topics that might be addressed include:
– Aesthetics of the large-scale housing project
– Post-war urbanism
– The large-scale housing project and the spatial turn in the humanities
– The large-scale housing project as dystopic/creative space
– New national identities, migration, and transnational literature
– The housing project and genre (literature, cinema, music, photography)
– The housing project as thirdspace/contactzone

We invite proposals for papers (20 minutes in length). Proposals should include an abstract (200 words maximum) and a short CV, and should be sent to Lydia Wistisen ( by 22 June 2018. Potential presenters will be informed by the end on June 2018 whether or not their abstract has been accepted.

Narva, an Industrial Border City: Literary Reflections
Symposium in literary urban studies and discussion day
University of Tartu Narva College, 13–14 September 2018

Studying city literature offers a rich interdisciplinary field for researchers to engage in. In autumn 2018 a meeting on literary urban studies will take place in Narva, an important border city and a commercial and industrial centre of historical significance. Contemporary Narva is also a hotbed of intriguing ideas. This is evident e.g. in the fascinating architecture of the building of the Narva College of the University of Tartu – a highly innovative educational building project on the Eastern border of the EU that has merited numerous prizes (ArchDaily 2013), as well as the exciting publications of the Narva Museum, the documentary film Paper City, and the intention of the President of the Republic of Estonia to move her seat temporarily to Narva in the coming autumn. Narva is an Estonian candidate city for the European Capital of Culture 2024.

Literary Narva has a broad scope. In 1898, Eduard Vilde published the novel Iron Hands, inspired by the Narva Kreenholm textile mill. The history of Narva and Sillamäe has been addressed by Andrei Hvostov, the Narva of memories reflected on by Albert Üksip, the lost Narva recalled by Adolf Rammo, Vladimir Beekman and Tiit Aleksejev (Hinrikus 2011, Talivee 2017).

We are suggesting two possible angles of approach.

A framework that has been gaining increasingly more attention recently is boundary studies. Boundaries are not seen as political or administrative lines of separation, but rather as sociocultural, environmental, economic and temporal processes that are being created by public practices and individual choices. Boundaries can be natural and visible in the landscape, but they can also be fully imaginary. Natural boundary regions often create contact zones that offer various opportunities for interaction and movement for humans as well as other species. Boundary regions are dynamic, compelling a constant engagement with issues of identity and of similarity and difference. Literary works concerned with Narva, as well as several other cultural phenomena in Estonia, will certainly provide fruitful material for study from these perspectives.

Secondly, from the perspective of technology studies we may enquire if Narva as a border city (observed in connection with, e.g., political boundaries, but also with the thresholds between nature and artifice, surface and the underground, the past and the future) exhibits a dependence of the social environment on the natural surroundings, and whether industrial aesthetics can be perceived here. Are the industrial and the beautiful in a negative correlation in an industrial city, or does a decrease in power diminish the beauty? Can the example of Narva serve to discuss the possible unfeasibility of restoring earlier associations, while the changed situation can be evaluated for its new value (e.g. recreational, cultural, heritage-related)? Can this be seen as reflected in the project of the Narva College building and the city’s more general planning policy?

Is Narva a city of more question than answers?

We invite you to address these topics, first and foremost in connection with literature. We welcome contributions for 20 min presentations and posters but are also open to suggestions for formats like shorter ‘provocations’ for works in progress (c. 5-10 min). Please send an abstract (for classical presentations) or a short note on why you are interested in the event and a possible title for your short intervention to Elle-Mari Talivee ( by 7 May, 2018.

The working languages are English (symposium) and Estonian/Russian (public day, summarising also the results of the symposium). Attendance is free.

The City: Myth and Materiality
29 May 2018, Wolfson Suite, Senate House, London WC1E 7HU, UK (10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.)

A one-day symposium organized by the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS) in collaboration with the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), University of London, with the support of the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS).

Link to cfp here: The City Myth and Materiality CFP

Cities have always been driven by the dynamics between myths and materialities, oscillations between founding myths (from Rome to St Petersburg), to the material conditions of city sites (hills and swamps; river, estuary and seashore), and patterns of technological innovation, consumption, and distribution. City zones where myth and materiality meet include those to which ideas of the sacred and the profane are central, from cathedral precincts to slums and red-light districts. Unpacking the dynamics of urban materialities and their mediation in literary and other texts goes through a range of approaches, including the examination of urban experience, technology, or the topographic layout of streets in literary texts. Its aspects range from the physicalm production of books and the fetishization of art and other objects in city contexts, to studies of literary texts and historical moments from the perspective of book production, reading cultures, and consumption patterns.

ALUS and the IHR invite proposals for papers dealing with the intersection of literary studies and urban history, examining any historical period or geographical area, that work to reshape our understanding of the relationship between myth and materiality. Papers can be focused on theories and methodologies, or be case studies.

How do city myths and city materialities interact? And in what different ways do perspectives from literary studies, urban history, and other disciplines including human and cultural geography, design history and urban planning, cast light on these intersections?

Suggested topics that might be addressed include:
• Cities, their literature, and the history of technology including that of the media
• Studies of literary production in urban contexts
• Mediations and representations of specific city spaces, both imagined and actual
• Examination of the relation between actual city topographies to cities’ myths of themselves
• Approaches focused on ‘environment’ in literary urban studies and urban history
• The materialities of city myths, including memorials and toponyms
• Urban mythos: a given city’s self-fashioning through an idea of its unique personality
• Critical readings of city myth
• City objects
• Literary and historical urban archaeologies (both literal and figurative)

We invite proposals for papers (20 minutes in length). Proposals should include an abstract (200 words maximum) and a short (half page) CV (preferably in .doc or .docx format), and should be sent to Jason Finch ( by 20 March 2018. Potential presenters will be informed during the second half of March 2018 whether or not their abstract has been accepted.

A limited number of bursaries are available for Masters Students, PhD researchers and ECRs to help with conference fees and travel expenses. For more information and details on how to apply, please visit:

PLEASE NOTE: Booking for this symposium will open in April 2018.
Organizing committee: Jason Finch (ALUS, Åbo Akademi University), Lieven Ameel (ALUS, TIAS), Peter Jones (IHR, University of London)


Welcome to the general meeting of the association, which will be held Wednesday 24.1.2018 in Turku, 12-13.30. Location: University of Turku, Minerva T52 / E211 Tempo kokoushuone E211. Campus map here.

The aims of the Association for Literary Urban Studies are to provide an international and interdisciplinary platform for scholars studying the city in literature. During the general meeting, the members of the board are elected. The posts are tenable for two year at the time, four years at the maximum. Most board members are currently at the end of their two-year tenure, so please notify us (preferably two weeks in advance) should you be interested in becoming active as board member, even if you are not able to come to the general meeting in person. All candidates for the positions will be communicated to members before the meeting, and votes vor candidates can be cast electronically by mail sent to the current board members and secretary.

During the general meeting, the aims and activities of the Association for Literary Urban Studies will be discussed and further developed.

Program (may be subject to change):

  • opening of the meeting, welcome
  • appointment of secretary of the general meeting
  • overview of activities in 2017
  • overview of the members of the board and possible changes in the board
  • planned activities in 2018 & 2019: symposium in London, possibly Stockholm, international conference in 2019
  • publishing activities; Palgrave Literary Urban Studies Series forthcoming; plans for volume (Im)Possible Cities
  • other issues
  • closing of the meeting

Please note:

We hope it would be possible to organize symposia of the association in different universities on a rotating basis. We encourage all members interested in organizing a symposium (typically with 3-6 presentations and theory reading/discussion) at their home university to contact the board (eg. Symposia will be marketed via the association’s newsletter and website. We would like to explore the possibility of joint grant applications for organizing symposia at rotating institutions, and it would be helpful to get an idea of who might be interested. ALUS co-organized a symposium in Tallinn, Estonia in Autumn 2017 and further events are planned in London and Stockholm in 2018.

Please notify the board should you want to present remarks or suggestions, and if you are not able to attend in person.


Out now: Literary Second Cities (Palgrave)

Out now with Palgrave: Literary Second Cities (editors Jason Finch, Lieven Ameel and Markku Salmela). The volume grew out of the conference by the same name, organized at Åbo Akademi/Turku in 2015.

This book brings together geographers and literary scholars in a series of engagements near the boundaries of their disciplines. In urban studies, disproportionate attention has been given to a small set of privileged ‘first’ cities. This volume problematizes the dominance of such alpha cities, offering a wide perspective on ‘second cities’ and their literature. The volume is divided into three themed sections. ‘In the Shadow of the Alpha City’ problematizes the image of cities defined by their function and size, bringing out the contradictions and contestations inherent in cultural productions of second cities, including Birmingham and Bristol in the UK, Las Vegas in the USA, and Tartu in Estonia. ‘Frontier Second Cities’ pays attention to the multiple and trans-national pasts of second cities which occupy border zones, with a focus on Narva, in Estonia, and Turkish/Kurdish Diyarbakir. The final section, ‘The Diffuse Second City’, examines networks the diffuse secondary city made up of interlinked small cities, suburban sprawl and urban overspill, with literary case studies from Italy, Sweden, and Finland.

“Setting ‘second’ cities first, this is an impressive and timely reminder that complex literary cultures exist in many locations beyond more familiar metropolitan capitals. In a set of exciting interdisciplinary essays Literary Second Cities reminds us of the distinctive character of urban life as conceptualised by writers exploring cities such as Birmingham, Las Vegas, or Narva. This volume is thus a brilliant and original addition to the growing body of work on urban literary studies.” (Professor Andrew Thacker, Department of English, Nottingham Trent University)

“Urban literary studies has understandably focused attention on certain major, global cities — London, Paris, New York, Tokyo — haut lieux that dominate the spatial imagination. But what of the second cities, smaller, less revered, but perhaps more representative of urban life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? The essays in Literary Second Cities address this blind spot by analysing the distinctive space and character of these ’secondary’ places. This is a vital and necessary collection.” (Professor Robert T. Tally Jr., Department of English, Texas State University)


Autumn 2017 Symposium of the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS)
Literature and the Multilingual City
Friday 22 September 2017, 11.00-16.00


Museum Department of the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (UTKK)
Väkese Illimari 12, 11623 Tallinn, Estonia
Organizers: Jason Finch (, Åbo Akademi University; Elle-Mari Talivee (, UTKK

11.00-12.00: welcome; presentations
– Ivo Heinloo, Tallinn University, ‘Heterotopia in Estonian Literature’
– Brief presentation of research interests: Tauri Tuvikene, Tallinn University; also Lieven Ameel, Jason Finch, Elle-Mari Talivee and possible others

12.00-13.00: discussion of theory/critical text(s) (please contact the organizers if you do not have the PDFs of these texts!):
– Jan Kaus, ‘In Front of the Estonia’
– Tiina A. Kirss, ‘The Tartu/Tallinn Dialectic in Estonian Letters and Culture’
– Tomas Venclova, ‘The “Text of Vilnius” and the “Text of Tallinn”: A Comparison’

13.00-14.00: lunch (provided for participants by UTKK)
14.00-15.00: further presentations and group discussion
– Topi Lappalainen, University of Helsinki, ‘Helsinki and Tampere in Prose Poems with a Paratextual Dimension: Galleria by Kari Aronpuro and Händelser by Henrika Ringbom’
– Ene-Reet Soovik, University of Tartu, ‘Meelis Friedenthal and The Willow King’

15.00-16.00: ALUS meeting
Details of the venue and a map:

Website (English-language version) of the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (UTKK):
Travel from Helsinki
Viking Line: Helsinki-Tallinn 08:00/09:45, Tallinn-Helsinki 18:00/20:30 (also 15:30/17:15 with Viking FSTR) / Tallink Silja: Helsinki-Tallinn 07:30/09:30, Tallinn-Helsinki 19:30/21:30 (also 16:30/18:30)
Journey from Port of Tallinn to Väikese Illimari 12 by public transport: 40-50 minutes’ journey, approximately (by taxi, 25 minutes, approximately)
The symposium is supported by the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Astra Project.

Association for Literary Urban Studies:
Please contact Lieven Ameel ( to join ALUS and receive regular newsletters

Overview of earlier activities

The HLCN’s first symposium was organized 2nd May 2012. Subsequent HLCN meetings included a theory seminar in November 2012 and a second symposium in spring 2013, hosted at the Åbo Akademi University in Turku, and further symposiums at the Universities of Helsinki and Tampere (spring, autumn 2015). Most recent symposiums include the 1st ALUS symposium at the University of Tampere, 31.3.2016, and the 2nd ALUS symposium “Scaling the city” organized 2.12.2016 at Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland.

The HLCN organized its first international conference in August 2013: A second international conference, entitled Literary Second Cities, was organized in 2015 at Åbo Akademi University, Turku. The third international conference, and first ALUS conference, organized at the University of Tampere, Finland, will take place in August 2017 with as theme (Im)Possible Cities. More information here.

A collection of articles, based on the 2013 conference, has been published in spring 2015. The book, entitled Literature and the Peripheral City (Ameel, Finch & Salmela; Palgrave 2015) can be ordered here. A collection of articles, selected from papers presented at Literary Second Cities, is currently being edited, and due to be published in late 2017 with Palgrave (Finch, Ameel & Salmela 2017).

 Ameel et al

Recent activities:

(Im)Possible Cities
The First International Conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies
23–24 August 2017
University of Tampere, Finland

In the wake of two successful international conferences under the auspices of the Helsinki Literature and the City Network, we are welcoming scholars interested in urban writing to the first international conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS).

This inaugural conference will be devoted to the theme of possible and impossible cities, the links between them, and the complex relationships between city imaginaries and real-world cities. The conference theme straddles a variety of fields, including literary urban studies, urban planning theory, cultural geography, and future studies. The two keynote speakers of the conference are Ayona Datta (King’s College London) and Eric Prieto (University of California, Santa Barbara).

The conference will take place in Tampere back to back, and in collaboration, with another urban studies conference, Re-City 2017 (24-25 August). This allows guests to participate in both conferences (i.e., two days in one, one day in the other; both conferences allow one-day registration). Please note that the two conferences will share the theme of (im)possible cities. Re-City 2017’s confirmed keynote speaker for 25 August is David Pinder (Roskilde University).


For more information: contact lieven.ameel [a]

3rd ALUS symposium – “Urban Space in Postmodern Literature”, Helsinki, Friday 19.5.2017

Welcome to the third symposium of the Association for Literary Urban Studies (former HLCN), with as theme “Urban Space in Postmodern Literature”

The one-day symposium will be held at the University of Helsinki, Friday 19 May 2017. Time and place: 10h-15h; place: Metsätalo, Sali 9.

The symposium will offer a meeting where researchers can present ongoing work related to city literature, as well as a theory reading. Anyone interested in urban literary studies is most welcome to participate. Please do sign up if you intend to participate, and/or send a short abstract outlining current research if you would like to present research (by mail to as soon as possible, but at the latest by 10.5.2017.

Provisional program outline:

10-11.30: welcome, presentations
11.30-12.30 lunch break

12.30-14.00 Discussion and theory reading – concepts in literary urban studies

14.00-15.00 closed Association for Literary Urban Studies meeting – editorial meeting & conference 2017