Presenting ”Symbolic Cities Beneath Brussels” at the Underground Imaginaries Conference, Alcalá (24-26 May 2023)

At Alcalá University, Spain, for the Underground Imaginaries conference. I’ll be presenting about “Symbolic Cities beneath Brussels”, with an examination of Brüsel and other underground cities in two graphic novels by François Schuiten & Benoît Peeters.

The conference is organized by Fringe Urban Narratives and EROSS@DCU, with a host of collaborating networks and institutes, including the Association for Literary Urban Studies and the European Society of Comparative Literature. Very much looking forward to meet with friends and colleagues, old and new. Thanks especially to Patricia Garcia for bringing this all together and for inviting me to be involved in the Fringe network and this conference.

My presentation is part of the ALUS session “Underworld Cities”, with Riikka P. Pulkkinen on Athens’ underworld in literature, and Hanne Juntunen on urban and human underworlds. I’m especially keen on some of the upcoming sessions on thresholds, sewers and mines, underground anxieties and utopias, among others.

I’ve also had the opportunity of a quick visit to Madrid, going to the Atocha Station and the Prado to see Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross – following in the footsteps of the protagonist in Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station (2011).


Abstract of my presentation below:

”Symbolic Cities Beneath Brussels”: Brüsel and other underground cities in graphic novels by François Schuiten & Benoît Peeters

This paper examines underground cities located underneath the Belgian and European capital, Brussels. It focuses on two Belgo-French graphic novels by François Schuiten & Benoît Peeters:  Brüsel (1992) and Le Dernier Pharaon (2019). I will draw on existing research on literary urban studies in the context of graphic novels, including work by Jan Baetens, Giada Peterle and Benjamin Fraser. This paper aims to provide a tentative classification of the functions of underground cities by adapting James Phelan’s character classification of synthetic, mimetic, and thematic functions to the functioning of literary spaces.

Image source: Schuiten, Gunzig, Van Dormael & Durieux: Le Dernier Pharaon (2019).

Guest lecture at TU Braunshweig, 11 May 2023

Very much looking forward to give a guest lecture at TU Braunschweig today, on the topic of “Literary Urban Studies: Comparative Perspectives on Future Cities across Genres”. I will start out with an introduction to the field of literary urban studies, with the second part of my lecture a comparative approach to future cities, by way of a reading of two texts (Odds Against Tomorrow and Solaris korrigert).

One of the aims of the talk is also to give an update on my research project on cities at the water, and to present some of the key findings of the book (currently under review) that come of that project.

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Many thanks to prof. dr. Eckart Voigts for the kind invitation to participate in his course on city literature – this is for me also a fascinating window into how courses in literary urban studies are planned and taught at other universities.

I have published (and co-authored) several articles on teaching city literature (references below) and teaching is one field in which the resources of literary urban studies scholars could be further developed through international collaboration.

Of course, I hope I to visit TU Braunschweig in person at some point in the future, and there is increasing collaboration between my home university, Tampere University, and TU Braunschweig in a variety of fields.


“Teaching Literary Urban Studies.” In Lieven Ameel (ed.): Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies. London: Routledge, 2022, 11-25. With Chen Bar-Itzhak, Jason Finch, Patricia Garcia, Silja Laine, Liam Lanigan, Anni Lappela, Juho Rajaniemi, and Markku Salmela.

“Panoramic Perspectives and City Rambles: Teaching Literary Urban Studies.”  In Tally, Robert Jr. (ed.): Teaching Space, Place, and Literature. London: Routledge, 2017, 89-98.

“Narrative approaches for twenty-first century urban planning and theory” – presentation at the Finnish Urban Studies Conference, 5 May

Following a presentation yesterday at the yearly conference of the Finnish Literary Research Society, I presented today at the annual Finnish Urban Studies Conference – both conferences are organized this year in Turku, and suitably located in adjacent buildings.

My presentation is part of a 10-presentation double panel on cultural and social knowledge in interdisciplinary urban studies. Great to hear diverse presentations on this important topic and looking forward to meeting old friends and new colleagues from different academic backgrounds!

Abstract below

Narrative approaches for twenty-first century urban planning and theory

Following a tentative “narrative turn” in planning, what have been the benefits of drawing on narrative and literary studies when working in the field of urban planning and theory? This paper builds on three recently completed international projects: the COST action “Writing Urban Places. New Narratives of the European City” (hosted at TU Delft), the project “Scripts for Postindustrial Urban Futures: American Models, Transatlantic Interventions” (Ruhr region) and the project “PARVIS – Paroles de villes” (Paris). It identifies as central achievements: 1. clarification of concepts and methods; 2. clarification of innovative methods in teaching and participation; 3. identification of important points for further development. Productive approaches for further development in planning practices, based on narrative and literary methodologies, include among others: polyphony, open-ended storytelling, and narrative-purpose PPGIS. This paper draws on work published recently in the open-access book Narrative in Urban Planning: A Practical Field Guide (Ameel, Gurr & Buchenau).

Presenting “Energy Humanities: Resources, methods, aims” at the KTS conference, Turku

On my way to Turku to participate in the yearly conference of the Finnish Literary Research Society. I’ll give a presentation on the resources, methods, and aims of the Energy Humanities. My presentation is based on the preliminary results of a thematically focused literature research review (articles published between 2010 and 2022), and draws also on the work carried out in the course “Energy and literature: An Introduction to the Energy Humanities”, taught this spring at Tampere University.

Also in Turku today and tomorrow is the yearly Urban Studies conference, where I’ll present tomorrow. Looking forward to meeting many colleagues and friends from literary studies and urban studies in person!

Abstract of my presentation (in Finnish) below:

Humanistinen energiatutkimus: aineistot, menetelmät, tavoitteet

Lieven Ameel

Menneillään oleva maailmanlaajuinen energiamurros kohti vähähiilisyyttä vaatii paitsi teknologisia innovaatioita ja uudenlaisen energiatuotanto- ja siirtoinfrastruktuurin kehittämistä, myös uudenlaisten yhteiskunnallisten ja kulttuuristen muotojen luomista. Humanistiset tieteet ovat tässä mielessä energiamurroksessa avainasemassa (ks. Lummaa & Ameel).

Miltä näyttää humanistinen energiatutkimus tutkimuskirjallisuuden valossa? Mitkä ovat sen keskeiset tavoitteet ja minkälaisia aineistoja tai tutkimusmenetelmiä se hyödyntää? Tämä esitelmä esittelee humanistisen energiatutkimuskentän päälinjoja, keskeisiä tutkimuskysymyksiä, aineistoja ja tutkimusmetodeja. Esitelmä pohjautuu laadulliseen kirjallisuuskatsaukseen, jonka aineisto koostuu vuosina 2010-2022 julkaistuista tutkimusartikkeleista, joissa mainitaan avainsanoja ”energy humanities”, ”petrocultures”, tai ”petrofiction”. Taustalla on keväällä 2023 Tampereen yliopistossa pidetty kurssi ”Energy and Literature: An Introduction to the Energy Humanities”, jossa opiskelijat toteuttivat pienimuotoisia kirjallisuuskatsauksia annetun aineiston pohjalta.


Karoliina Lummaa & Lieven Ameel: “Petrokulttuuria purkamassa – Imre Szemanin haastattelu.” niin & näin 20/1, 2020, 7.

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