“Peopling Urban Futures” – Master class and invited talk at UPEM, Paris, 11-12.2.2020

On my way to Paris for a master class and seminar on future cities. Looking forward to meet colleagues and students at the University Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallee. I’ll be talking about the affordances of literature for imagining future cities – what does fiction do differently when compared with policy and planning?

Excited to get in touch with the team of PARVIS at UPEM, a project which “consists in studying representations of the future city, in order to identify the multifaceted futuristic urban imaginaries, particularly in terms of climate change.” The PARVIS research project shares a number of close research interests with my own current project “Imagining City Futures” – looking forward to learn more and to collaborate. Thanks to prof. Irene Langlet for putting this together!

Master class title: ”Peopling Urban Futures” (11.2.2020)

Invited talk title: « Imaginer les villes futures à travers les discours : Affordances de la fiction littéraire, de l’aménagement et de la politique » (12.2.2020)

 

Programme (in French)

Paroles de villes 1: Approches / journée d’études

12.2.2020

9H30 – 10H Accueil (café, thé)

10H Introduction de la journée d’étude

Session 1 : A l’intersection des discours urbains et écologiques

Lieven Ameel: « Imaginer les villes futures à travers les discours : Affordances de la fiction littéraire, de l’aménagement et de la politique »

Pierre Schoentjes: « Le changement c’est quand ? Littérature et écologie »

11H40 >12H Pause

Session 2 : Bidonvilles en France, récits par l’image

Pascale Joffroy et Jacques Ippoliti, Groupe Parvis “Slumcity”

12H45>14H Déjeuner

Session 3 : Cadrage générique

Nadège Pérelle : « Fictions climatiques : cartographie des genres »

Irène Langlet: « Fictions climatiques, fictions urbaines, science-fiction : tentative de relevé de terrain(s) »

15H20>15H40 Pause

Session 4 : Paroles citoyennes et imaginaires urbains

Un représentant.e du CTC national (Collectif pour une Transition Citoyenne) et un.e représentant.e de l’Institut des Futurs Souhaitables.

16H20>16H30 Pause

Session 5 : Atelier PARVIS – Groupe “Modele”

Catherine Dominguès à propos du corpus soumis au Traitement Automatique des Langues

17H Mot de conclusion

 

Hope for the Future

(Future Turku / source: https://www.turku.fi/blogit/kohti-vuotta-2029/tulevaisuuspaivaa-turusta)

This spring I’m teaching a course on Hope in Future Narratives at the University of Turku. At the background of this course is a sense, undoubtedly familiar to many, that we live in a particularly future-oriented era, in which knowing the future has become something a of a moral imperative, a time in which we are individually and collectively urged to make decisions and take action based largely on future projections.

At the same time, many of the future visions were are confronted with – in media, policy texts, literature, and everyday modes of storytelling – are distinctly pessimistic, to the extent that their gloominess may impact on our sense of possible agency. Hence, a.o. recent calls for more “hopeful” visions of the future, or for the examinations of seed of hopefulness in the way current media and other narratives project possible worlds.

The aim of my course is to examine questions of hope and agency in literary (and other) narratives that are set in future or alternative storyworlds. How are such storyworlds structured? What rhetoric and narrative structures are put into play to convey hope, agency, or trajectories towards desirable or possible alternative futures?

As our opening discussions during the first lecture made clear, the subject of the course resonated with a number of students, with environmental anxiety one obvious point of reference, but also a more broadly felt sense of the need to be able to discuss and project possible alternative worlds.

Below, the readings for the course – all thoughts more than welcome!

Hope in Future Literature – From Golden Age Utopias to Contemporary Climate Fiction

[Toivoa tulevaisuudesta. Kaunokirjalliset tulevaisuusvisiot utopian kultakaudesta ilmastofiktioon]

University of Turku, Finland / Comparative Literature / Spring 2020 / lieven.ameel [a] utu.fi

Primary material

  • Leena Krohn 1985: Tainaron. 1st letter
  • Edward Bellamy 1888: Looking Backward: 2000–1887.
  • H. Auden. 1939. “In memory of W.B. Yeats.”
  • Edwin Morgan. 1965. “In Sobieski’s Shield.”
  • Oyvind Rimbereid. 2004. “Solaris korrigert” / “Solaris corrected”.
  • Colson Whitehead 1999: The Intuitionist.
  • Emily St. John Mandel 2014: Station Eleven.
  • EVAN global scenarios / Juha Itkonen 2009: Pelin henki.
  • Turku City Master Plan 2029.

Secondary material

  • Lubomir Dolezel 1998. Heterocosmica . Fiction and Possible Worlds. Johns Hopkins UP, 113-132.
  • Caroline Edwards 2019. Utopia and the Contemporary British Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 16-25; pp.  35-49
  • Ernst Bloch: ”Introduction.” The Principle of Hope.
  • Richard Gunn 1987: ”Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope.” The Edinburgh Review pp. 1-5.
  • Pirjo Lyytikäinen: “Modernin allegorian A ja O.” Joutsen / Svanen 2014. pp. 13-21.
  • Gifford, Terry. 2014. “Pastoral, Anti-Pastoral, and Post-Pastoral.”
  • Barbara Adam and Chris Groves 2009. Future matters: action, knowledge, ethics. Brill. pp. 13-15, 25-38.

Further reading

  • Ameel, Lieven. 2016. “Cities Utopian, Dystopian and Apocalyptic.” In Tambling, Jeremy (ed.): Palgrave Handbook of Literature and the City. London: Palgrave, 2016, 785-80.
  • Lilley, Deborah. ”Pastoral.” In Robert Eaglestone and Daniel O’Gorman (eds.): Routledge Companion to Twenty-First Century Literary Fiction. London: Routledge, 2019.
  • Wendell Bell 2003. Foundations of Futures Studies. London: Routledge.

Thanks to all the feedback I received from colleagues when I asked for future stories of hope – thanks, in particular, to Brian McAllister for suggesting Morgan’s “In Sobieski’s Shield”, to Anne-Marie Evans for reminding me of Station Eleven, and to Caroline Edwards for getting me inspired about the possibility of a utopian method of reading!

(Un)Fair Cities, Limerick 12-13 December 2019

The next few days will be quite hectic, with my first-ever visit to Ireland. Tomorrow I’ll be in Limerick for a meeting with people from the European COST Action “Writing Urban Places“, with work on the interstices of literary studies, architecture, and planning. Thursday and Friday 12-13 December I’ll participate in the conference “(Un)Fair Cities: Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Texts”. The conference is the second ALUS conference (the fourth, if we include the previous HLCN conferences), and the first international conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies. The conference is organized in collaboration with the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies.

Very much looking forward to the wide range of topics at the conference, which promises to be an intense but also cozy and reasonably small-scale gathering of literary urban studies and utopia scholars. Looking forward, in particular, to the keynote by Caroline Edwards, “The other city, the city of dreams: Literary Utopias and Literary Utopianism”

I’ll present a paper on “Peopling the Future Fair City: Affordances of Literary Fiction, Planning and Policy”, part of my research project at TIAS.

Paper abstract:

“Narrated future visions of (un)fair cities are about putting in place meaningful storyworlds (or cityworlds), with distinct spatial, temporal, moral, social, linguistic, and metaphoric dimensions and guided by their own modalities. But as important is the way in which these storyworlds are peopled in a way that gives readers of such future visions access to the qualia – the ’how it feels like’ – and to situated agency.

This paper draws on Adam and Groves’ Future Matters (2007), in which the authors warn against an “emptying of the future” (ibid., 2), in a bid to consider how different textual genres envision and people the future fair city. It aims to examine the affordances of literary fiction, urban planning, and policy, for imagining fair future cities, and the possibilities to act towards fair futures. Drawing on recent examples from New York City’s planning and literary fiction, I will argue that literary fiction is geared more toward embedding and embodying moral dilemmas, while planning and policy texts tend to focus on embedding decisions. However, the increasing use of non-fictional elements (reportage, lists, scientific detail) in future fiction, and the increasing use of fictional elements (fictional characters, personal experiences) blurs such clear-cut distinctions.”

Thanks for everyone at the Ralahine Centre, in particular Michael G. Kelly and Mariano Paz for the inspiring collaboration and for all the good work on the practical issues.

More on the conference:

(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.

(Un)Fair Cities. Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Textsis the second international conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studiesand is organizedin 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).

More on ALUS:

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[at]helsinki.fi or ALUS president Jason Finch at jfinch[at]abo.fi


Image source: Shutterstock, Will Rodrigues

 

“The Future of Cities – Perspectives from Literature”

Today I’ll give a talk at the Turku City Library on ”The Future of Cities – Perspectives from Literature”. Welcome!

Turku Main Library – source: turku.fi

I’ll give a general overview of some of the findings from my current research project on imagining cities at the water across genres, with a particular focus on what literature can tell us about the future of cities. I’ll discuss a.o. Nathaniel Rich and New York; Antti Tuomainen; Anders Vacklin and Aki Parhamaa on Helsinki; Guido van Driel on Amsterdam.

The talk is part of the TIAS public lecture series.
More details below (in Finnish)

Puhun tänään Turun kaupungin pääkirjastossa kaupunkien tulevaisuudesta. Tervetuloa!

Luentoni on osa Turun yliopiston Ihmistieteiden tutkijakollegiumin yleisöluentosarjassa.

Kaupunkien tulevaisuus tässä ja nyt – näkökulmia kirjallisuudesta

http://www.turku.fi/tapahtuma/ma-11252019-1800-kaupunkien-tulevaisuus-tassa-ja-nyt-nakokulmia-kirjallisuudesta

Rannikoilla sijaitsevat kaupungit ovat epävarmojen aikojen edessä: nouseva merenpinta, ilmastonmuutos, muuttuvat työ- ja asumisolot luovat uhkaavia tulevaisuuskuvia. Radikaaleihin muutoksiin valmistaudutaan erilaisilla tulevaisuusvisioilla, joita tuottavat niin kaupunkisuunnittelijat, ajatushautomot, virkamiehet kuin taiteilijat ja kirjailijat. Tulevaisuusvisiot suuntaavat ymmärrystämme tulevaisuuden mahdollisuuksista sekä siitä, millaisina hahmottuvat kaupunkiemme tulevaisuuksien rajat. Tämä luento esittelee kaunokirjallisuuden mahdollisuuksia ja rajoja mahdollisten tulevaisuuksien luojana.

• ma 25.11. FT Lieven Ameel: Kaupunkien tulevaisuus tässä ja nyt – näkökulmia kirjallisuudesta
TIAS-luentosarja Studiossa maanantaisin klo 18-19.30
Tapahtuman osoite:
Linnankatu 2, Turku
Studio (pääkirjaston uudisosa, 1. krs)

Ontological Instability in Rimminen’s Early Prose at Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland

I’ll present a paper today on spatiality and ontological instability in Mikko Rimminen’s early prose today at the Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, as part of the book launch of Contemporary Nordic Literature and Spatiality.

The paper will present the key arguments of my article “A Geo-ontological thump…” The full article is available in open access here.

Congratulations and thanks for excellent work on the book, Kristina Malmio and Kaisa Kurikka!

Programme of today’s seminar

(1 November 2019)

14:15 Kristina Malmio (University of Helsinki) & Kaisa Kurikka (University of Turku): Spatial Stories of the Nordic Countries

14:45 Lieven Ameel (University of Turku): “To the the end of the world” – Urban Apocalypse in Mikko Rimminen’s Early Prose

15:15 Short break

15:30 Elisabeth Friis (Lund University): On the Commons: a Geocritical Reading of Amager Fælled

16:00 Ralf Andtbacka (poet): Potsdamer Platz as Historical and Imaginative Space

16:30 Reception

 

 

Imre Szeman research visit to TIAS

Over the next few weeks, professor Imre Szeman from the University of Waterloo, Canada, will be visiting TIAS. Really looking forward to connect with his work with the environmental humanities and energy humanities.

We’ll have several research workshops, meetings with other scholars, and also two guest lectures – the lectures are open to the public, but please register if you plan to attend the Turku event:

Quitting (the) Habit: Fossil Fuels, Governmentality and the Politics of Energy Dependency

Guest lecture by Prof. Imre Szeman and Round Table

31 October 2019, Time: 14h-16h Place: Porthan Hall, Maaherran makasiini, University of Turku (Henrikinkatu 10, Turku)

Round Table with Imre Szeman, Pia Ahlback, Heikki Sirviö, Tere Vaden & Lieven Ameel

More information here

Energy (and) Humanities Seminar
hosted by UH Environmental Humanities Hub and HELSUS, University of Helsinki
Time: November 5th, 2019, at 2 pm – 6 pm,
Venue: Porthania, room 224, HELSUS Hub Lounge

Imre Szeman: “Eight Principles for a Critical Theory of Energy”

16.00-17.15: Prof. Imre Szeman (the University of Waterloo, Canada)
Imre Szeman conducts research on and teaches in the areas of energy humanities, environmental studies, critical and cultural theory, social and political philosophy, and Canadian studies. His most recent work has focused on energy humanities and petrocultures. http://imreszeman.ca/
17.15-18.00 – panel discussion “Energy Humanities’ Agenda”

More information here

Research Trip to New York – October 2019

I’m off to New York City for a research trip of a bit more than a week. I’ll be visiting a range of waterfront sites I’m examining in my research project “Imagining City Futures“. A.o. Hudson Yards, Riverside Park, Battery Park in Manhattan; Greenpoint, Red Hook, Rockaways and Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn. I’ll meet up with several people at City University of New York, and will talk about my work at the Department of City Planning.

(source: wikicommons)

Any thoughts on what lesser-known sites to absolutely see at the NY waterfront? Or people to meet who are working on planning narratives/waterfront futures/literary New York? Let me know! lieven.ameel [a] utu.fi

More on my New York waterfront research so far:

“The ‘Valley of Ashes’ and the ‘Fresh Green Breast’: Metaphors from The Great Gatsby in planning New York.” Planning Perspectives 2019, 34:5, 903-910. link

“Agency at / in the waterfront in New York City: Vision 2020 and New York 2140.” Textual Practice 2019. link

“Metaphorizations of the waterfront in New York City’s comprehensive waterfront plan Vision 2020 and Foer’s ‘The Sixth Borough.’” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 2018. link

 

 

The Materiality of Literary Narratives in Urban History

Out now: The Materiality of Literary Narratives in Urban History (Routledge), edited together with Jason Finch, Silja Laine and Richard Dennis.

https://www.routledge.com/The-Materiality-of-Literary-Narratives-in-Urban-History/Ameel-Finch-Laine-Dennis/p/book/9780367343293

The publication is connected to my earlier work and work within the Association for Literary Urban Studies to examine the complex role of literary sources in urban history.

The introduction, “Urban History and the Materialities of/in Literature” gives an in-depth exploration of literature and materiality in the context of historical research of the (literary) city.

With contributions by Bo Pettersson, Markku Salmela, Aleksejs Taube, Silja Laine, Jason Finch, Lucie Glasheen, Flore Janssen, Richard Dennis, Julie Gimbal, Huda Tayob, Elke Rogersdotter, and Anubhav Pradhan.

Several chapters draw on forms of literary and material evidence that are still often missing in examinations of the historical materialities of literary cities. Lucie Glasheen, in her chapter ”The Casey Court House Builders’: 1930s Children’s Comics and the Material Transformation of East London”, for example, examines comic reels in a popular children’s magazine to explore attitudes toward urban transformation in the inter-war period; Huda Tayob, in “The Unconfessed Architectures of Cape Town”, draws on archival material, architectural research, and photographs to question the role that literary texts can play in responding to the archival silences of subaltern architectural and urban histories.

Thanks to all the contributors and to co-editors Jason Finch, Silja Laine and Richard Dennis for work on this exciting volume!

Summary of the book:

“The Materiality of Literary Narratives in Urban History explores a variety of geographical and cultural contexts to examine what literary texts, grasped as material objects and reflections on urban materialities, have to offer for urban history. The contributing writers’ approach to literary narratives and materialities in urban history is summarised within the conceptualisation ‘materiality in/of literature’: the way in which literary narratives at once refer to the material world and actively partake in the material construction of the world. This book takes a geographically multipolar and multidisciplinary approach to discuss cities in the UK, the US, India, South Africa, Finland, and France whilst examining a wide range of textual genres from the novel to cartoons, advertising copy, architecture and urban planning, and archaeological writing. In the process, attention is drawn to narrative complexities embedded within literary fiction and to the dialogue between narratives and historical change.

The Materiality of Literary Narratives in Urban History has three areas of focus: literary fiction as form of urban materiality, literary narratives as social investigations of the material city, and the narrating of silenced material lives as witnessed in various narrative sources.”

From the Preface:

“This collection of essays has its origins in a long-term interest the editors have in city literature and its meanings for our understanding of the urban experience. It is based on a session held at the European Association for Urban History (EAUH) conference in Helsinki in 2016. The session,

‘Urban History and the Materiality of Literary Narratives in Urban History’, proved to be remarkably successful – we had planned for one session with four papers but received thirty proposals, from which we were able to choose twelve that formed a coherent whole. These complemented each other and were sophisticated in their approach to literary texts while remaining analytical in questions regarding materiality and history. The response to the call for papers, as well as the lively discussions during and after the EAUH conference, highlighted an ongoing need to improve understanding of how fictional and literary sources can be used and interpreted in the field of urban history. The present book was planned around a core group of the papers read at EAUH 2016, complemented with chapters by invited authors, among them three of the editors.

The ideas, concepts, and methodological approaches presented in this volume were further developed in seminars organised by the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS); at a particularly stimulating one-day symposium, ‘The City: Myth and Materiality’, at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), University of London; and in cooperation with the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies and ALUS. The starting point of the symposium was similar to that in this book: to explore how cities have always been driven by the dynamic interaction of myths and materialities, and to examine such oscillations between fictional representations and the material conditions of city sites. The keynote talk presented by Richard Dennis provided the basis for his chapter in this volume.”

Table of Contents

1. Urban History and the Materialities of/in Literature

Lieven Ameel, Jason Finch, Silja Laine and Richard Dennis

Part I: Literary Fiction as Urban Materiality

2. Between the Street and the Drawing Room: Slumming in Eliot’s Early Poetry

Bo Pettersson

3. Recycling Fictions in the City: Don DeLillo and the Materiality of Waste

Markku Salmela

4. Embodied Experience of London’s Material Structures in Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor

Aleksejs Taube

5. Sensory Environments of Poverty Seen Through the Writings of Runar Schildt, Toivo Tarvas, and Elvi Sinervo

Silja Laine

6. “Quite an Aristocratic Place, Although in Whitechapel”: Hospital Topographies and Margaret Harkness’s Writing of London

Jason Finch

Part II: Literary Narratives as Social Investigations of the Material City

7. “The Casey Court House Builders”: 1930s Children’s Comics and the Material Transformation of East London

Lucie Glasheen

8. “On the Square”: Constructing the Dangers of Depression-Era London in Ada Chesterton’s Social Investigations

Flore Janssen

9. “Would You Adam-and-Eve-It?”: Geography, Materiality and Authenticity in Novels of Victorian and Edwardian London

Richard Dennis

10. The Literary Adventure of the Skyscraper in France (1893–1930): Literary Narratives and Urban Architecture Between Fiction and Reality

Julie Gimbal

Part III: Narrating Silenced Material Lives

11. The Unconfessed Architecture of Cape Town

Huda Tayob

12. Contestant City Tales: Searching for a “Literary City” Through Archaeology

Elke Rogersdotter

13. Memorialising Materiality: Narrative as Archive in Neo-Liberal Delhi

Anubhav Pradhan

Syncopated City: Mobilizing and Immobilizing Dynamics in Twentieth-Century Literature of New York – Padua, 27 September

In Padua for ”Mobilities of/in the book” (27th September 2019), a mobility and the humanities seminar series, DiSSGeA, Centre for Advanced Studies in Mobility and the Humanities, University of Padova.

https://www.dissgea.unipd.it/mobilities-ofin-book-antiquity-present-times

I will be speaking on the subject of ”Syncopated City: Mobilizing and Immobilizing Dynamics in Twentieth-Century Literature of New York”, with a specific interest in how particular urban spaces and modes of transportation appear as mobilizing and/or immobilizing protagonists and plot dynamics in twentieth century literature of New York. How do particular forms of mobility, and of transport infrastructure, structure urban experiences in literary fiction? And what happens to such experiences when transport network breaks down, as happens in strikes or in the case of natural disaster? I will look at a range of novels, including Wharton’s House of Mirth; Howells’s A Hazard of new fortunes; Dreiser’s Sister Carrie; Plath’s The Bell Jar; Robinson’s new York 2140; Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow; Lethem’s Chronic City; Lerner’s 10:04.

Many thanks to Tania Rossetto and her colleagues at the University of Padua for organizing the seminar and for inviting me to Padua!

This afternoon, we will also have the Association for Literary Urban Studies symposium Mobilities of/in Urban Narratives. Thanks to Giada Peterle for organizing the symposium. It’s the first ALUS symposium in Italy, and a great opportunity to take forward existing collaboration in the field of literary urban studies with scholars from Italy and beyond.

“A Geo-Ontological Thump” – Ontological Instability and the Folding city in Mikko Rimminen’s Early Prose

Really happy to see the appearance of this article, in an exciting collection on contemporary spatiality in Nordic literature:

““A Geo-Ontological Thump” – Ontological Instability and the Folding city in Mikko Rimminen’s Early Prose.” In Malmio, Kristina & Kurikka, Kaisa (eds.): Contemporary Nordic Literature and Spatiality. London: Palgrave, 2019.

The collection should be available open-acess soon.

https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030233525

I’ve always had an interest in how the work of Mikko Rimminen approaches, evokes, and distorts the spatial coordinates of Helsinki. Pussikaljaromaani (“The six-pack novel”) has a particular place for me, also because it was the first longer prose text I ever translated (published as Drinkebroersroman with Arbeiderspers in 2007), and several of the strange sayings and events of the book has stuck with me ever since. Work on this article provided a great opportunity to return to this Helsinki classic, and to two other works by Rimminen – and also a way to revisit Deleuze’s reading of the fold.

Thanks to Kristina Malmio and Kaisa Kurikka for the excellent work on this collection.

Key takeaways from my article: 1. Mikko Rimminen’s early prose texts can be read in terms of escalating ontological instability, moving toward, and beyond, urban apocalypse; 2. the instability between competing worlds can most productively be described by way of Deleuze’s concept of the fold, which posits a continuing plane of meaning between storyworlds, rather than by drawing on binary oppositions.

From the introduction to : “A Geo-Ontological Thump”:

“In the Finnish author Mikko Rimminen’s novel Pölkky (2007; “Woodblock”), set in present-day Helsinki, one of the most disturbing occurrences is the appearance of a gradually widening hole in the skating rink in Kaisaniemi Park. The skating rink is under the supervision of the protagonist of the novel, and the threat posed by the hole is not only directed at the skaters, or at the hypothetical sense of achievement of the protagonist. As is suggested throughout the novel, the expanding hole and the steam rising from it are potentially of much more far-reaching consequences, intimating the possibility that not only the skating rink, but perhaps fictional Helsinki itself is being subjected to a slow but world-threatening upheaval. This event which threatens the storyworld’s spatial environment in Rimminen’s second novel echoes similar events in a range of postmodern literary texts. One parallel is the giant tiger roaming New York’s underground in Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City (2009), which causes the sudden appearance of gaping holes in the city—a reference which is of particular interest for its disturbance in the referential relationship with an identifiable urban environment. Like the hole in Pölkky, it presents an unreal and ultimately inexplicable occurrence that contrasts the narrated space and the referential world, but that also threatens the stability of the storyworld itself. Such disturbing events in late modern literature will be examined in this chapter as instances of ontological instability, and approached in terms of folds in narrated space. I will focus on Mikko Rimminen’s early prose texts. One of the aims of this chapter is to propose a new reading of his early prose from the perspective of the texts’ apocalyptic undercurrents, which have remained largely unappreciated, and to take into account a little-studied extract from an unfinished novel by Rimminen.

The focus in this chapter is on how the relationship between the fictional city and its referential counterpart is both foregrounded and undermined in a way that destabilizes the ontological status of the storyworlds in question. The texts under discussion here display intimations of apocalypse, inviting the reader to consider whether the ontological instability is located in the perception of the focalizer or narrator, in literary space, or both. The key concepts that will be explored in the analysis of the literary space and storyworld are Brian McHale’s flickering effect (1987) and Bertrand Westphal’s heterotopic interference (Westphal 2011, 101). Gilles Deleuze’s fold (1993) will be proposed here as a heuristic concept to describe how ontological instability in postmodern storyworlds is shaped. I argue that one of the advantages of this concept is the way it defies binary opposites, moving instead toward an understanding of spatial environments in postmodern storyworlds as acting on a holistic, if often paradoxical, continuous plane of meaning.”

From the conclusion:

“In a conversation with the author (27.1.2017), Rimminen agreed that there is some basis for interpreting his first three prose texts as an apocalyptic trilogy (or trilogy moving toward the apocalypse), centered on Helsinki: “If I had published a novel written on the basis of that PROSAK extract, there would have been this structure, in which in Pussikaljaromaani there are hints; in Pölkky, it is already feared, and in the next novel, it would have already happened.” This narrative structure also sheds some light on the thematic understanding of these prose texts. Rimminen pointed out that in the three prose texts there is an important social context: Pussikaljaromaani posits the importance of a community, while Pölkky deals in part with human loneliness; in the last (unfinished) novel, with only one man left, it would not even have been possible to be lonely in company. The development in Rimminen’s early prose texts can be seen from the perspective of the author’s interest in the precariousness of community in late capitalist society, or in terms of his preoccupation with labor in its many forms (see Mäkelä 2015; Ojajärvi 2013). What I have tried to suggest here is that the development in Rimminen’s first three prose texts can also be read in terms of gradually escalating ontological tensions, which are also integral to the author’s experiments with language and the role of the narrator. The spatial environments, although upon first encounter firmly referential to actual Helsinki, are presented as subject to incomprehensible forces that are hinted at, first, as a possibility in the linguistic realmby taking metaphor literallybut that gradually appear as actual interferences in the ontological storyworld. In the course of the three texts, the spatial environment and its referential mode move, in the terms proposed by Westphal, from homotopic consensus—a close relationship to actual Helsinki—to a threatening sense of heterotopic interference, in the form of the hole in the ice rink, and eventually, in the “Extract,” to a full-blown utopian excursus: a world in which the threatening intimations from the two novels seem to have become realized in a process of gradual unfolding.”

“The treatment of the urban spatial environment in Mikko Rimminen’s early prose texts raises a number of issues that are of relevance for our understanding of space in postmodern literature in more general terms. An examination of Rimminen’s prose texts confirms the notion, proposed by Brian McHale, that postmodern literature displays a conspicuous ontological instability: what at first appears to be a recognizable storyworld in the texts, with a firm referential relationship to actual Helsinki, turns out to be increasingly undermined by intimations of ontological disturbances. The distinction made by Bertrand Westphal between three types of “coupling”—“homotopic consensus,” “heterotopic interference,” and “utopian excursus”—is a helpful typology with which to examine the various kinds of referential relationships displayed by these texts. These relationships defy an understanding as being either true or not true—both in the internal coherence of the storyworld and in their relationship to the actual world—but can be approached more productively through the concept of the fold, as proposed by Deleuze: a concept that challenges binary oppositions, and that emphasizes the simultaneous presence of possibly contradictory worlds evolving on the same plane of meaning. Crucially, such an understanding of literary space and its referential relationship to the actual world that refuses to make a dramatic distinction between actualized (or the real) and potential (or the imaginary) also draws attention to how the ontological instability of postmodern literature may in turn feed into readers’ perspectives of their actual world, and may urge us to consider it in questions of real and unreal, possible and actual.”