Out with Palgrave: our latest volume Literatures of Urban Possibility (eds. Salmela, Ameel & Finch). The book is the third volume in a trilogy of literary urban studies books that developed around the Association of Literary Urban Studies (previously Helsinki Literature and the City Network) and the international conferences we organized every other year. Earlier books were Literature and the Peripheral City (2015) and Literary Second Cities (2017).
Thanks to Markku and Jason, to all contributors and the participants in the conference (Im)Possible Cities in Tampere, to Palgrave and all encouraging members of ALUS in supporting work within literary urban studies!
Some of my personal favorites among the articles are “From Utopia to Retrotopia: The Cosmopolitan City in the Aftermath of Modernity” by Chen Bar-Itzhak, “Possibilities of Translocal Mapping in Tendai Huchu’s The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician” by Lena Mattheis (who recently published this brilliant monograph in our Literary Urban Studies series), and Anni Lappela’s “‘Cartographic Ecstasy’: Mapping, Provinciality and Possible Spaces in Dmitrii Danilov’s City Prose”.
Literatures of Urban Possibility also includes my latest article “Rising Towers, Rising Tides: Competing Visions of the Helsinki Waterfront in Planning and Fiction”. Abstract:
“This chapter examines the Helsinki waterfront as a site of the possible, a space onto which possible futures of the city are projected and where competing visions of future urban possibility interact. The first part examines Niniven lapset (‘Children of Nineveh’, 1915) and its connection to the cultural narratives of the waterfront in twentieth-century Helsinki, as well as its relation to more recent developments, such as the plans for a Helsinki Guggenheim. The second part examines near-future novels such as Beta: Sensored Reality (2018), De hemlösas stad (‘City of the Homeless’, 2011), Totuuskuutio (‘Truth Square’, 2015) and Parantaja (The Healer, 2010), and focuses on the interaction between the pessimistic vision of a possible future Helsinki in fictional texts, and the optimistic visions as presented by the Helsinki City Planning Department.”
Speaking today (2 June 2021) at the Climate Conference of Finnish Communes on perspectives from literature on future cities and climate change.
A few takeaways from my talk:
- Literary perspectives are not (primarily) about communicating climate change or climate action. Rather, literature and other cultural representations provide important insights into the frames and language availabe to envision our complex relationship to the environment, about our agency towards the future – frames and language that guide how we can work towards solutions
- Future literary cities provide important information on the “what” and “how” of future urban infrastructure, but also about the qualia or “what it feels like”, including contextualized perspectives on possible turning points along pathways to the future
- Quotations from literary texts always need to be embedded in the broader framework of a particular literary work, genre, and period if we want to understand their functions and meanings.
- Future-oriented literature tells the reader first and foremost about the present moment (of publication), about the frames of knowledge at our disposal today, about what may be lost, and about our current possibilities of agency.
More on the subject in my recent article:
- “Rising Towers, Rising Tides: Competing Visions of the Helsinki Waterfront in Planning and Fiction.” In Markku Salmela, Lieven Ameel & Jason Finch (eds.): Literatures of Urban Possibility. London: Palgrave, 2021, 45-64.
Interview on the subject (in Finnish) here.