Place-based Knowledge: Perspectives from Literary and Cultural Studies, Keele University, 14 Feb

On Wednesday 14 February 2024 I virtually visited Keele University to present a paper on place-based knowledge from the perspective of literary and cultural studies.

The paper draws in part developed in The Narrative Turn in Urban Planning, in particular the section on narrative mapping and PPGIS, and Narrative in Urban Planning (with Jens Gurr and Martin Buchenau), in particular the section on polyphony.

Thanks for everyone at Keele for the lively discussion! Special thanks to Ceri Morgan, who has done brilliant work on (among other things) Montreal in literature, for inviting me!

Abstract below

Place-based Knowledge: Perspectives from Literary and Cultural Studies

Place-based information is of crucial importance for policymaking, urban planning, and regional management. With the increase of digitalized practices and geographic information systems, place-based information tends to be increasingly stored as quantitative data points on a digitized map. But how to move from place-based information to meaningful place-based knowledge? Knowledge that is qualitative rather than quantitative, relational and dynamic rather than individuated or static in meaning? In this paper, I argue that such a shift can be accommodated with the help of approaches from literary and cultural studies. Key concepts in this respect are metaphor, plot, and the idea of interrelational space. Central for a qualitative and humanities-informed approach to place-based knowledge is a view in which personal and communal experiences take shape not as easily quantifiable data points, but rather within a storified interaction of personal and communal trajectories, recognizable plotlines, and relationships between different locations (including imaginary, past or future locations).

Teaching “The Future of the Novel” with Natalya Bekhta

This spring, I’m teaching a course on forms and fuctions of the contemporary novel, together with Natalya Bekhta.
We focus specifically on non-English texts from what can be considered continental European peripheries.

After two introductory classes, we discussed Joseph Ponthus’s novel À la ligne (On the Line) and most recently Marit Kapla’s Osebol.

Our next sessions will discuss Volodymyr Rafeyenko‘s Mondegreen, Georgi Gospodinov’s Time Shelter, Olga Tokarczuk’s The House of Day, the House of Night, and Øyvind Rimbereid’s Solaris corrected..

Course introduction below:

How is the novel being transformed in the twenty-first century? And what new literary forms are being developed in European cultural peripheries? This course addresses these questions by offering a broad introduction to new formalism and contemporary theories of world literature, and through a series of diverse literary readings.

The focus of the literary readings is on literature beyond the current centres of the international literary field, especially literature from continental European peripheries: texts from Ukrainian and Polish contexts, from rural France and the Swedish smalltown. The texts will be read in excerpts in English translation.

The course will provide students with a thorough understanding of contemporary debates on literary form and world literature, and will enable to understand how new literature from beyond the centres is pushing the boundaries of the contemporary novel. The overall objective of the course is to help shape a better awareness of literature as an integral part of society and a key element of the way we construct notions of identity, memory, language, ethics, politics – and, in short, social reality.

Course title:

The future of the novel: New literary forms beyond the centres (KIE.KK.352 Englannin kielen ja kirjallisuuden erikoistumisjakso, 5 op)

More on the work of Natalya Bekhta:

https://research.tuni.fi/tampere-ias/research-fellows-2022-2024/natalya-bekhta/

Presenting new work at KU Leuven, 17.10.23

Back in Leuven today as part of an Erasmus+ teacher exchange. I’ll be presenting some new work at the KU Leuven English literature research seminar. Looking forward to reconnect with colleagues I got to know when I was working as visiting professor at the department in 2019.

Time also to repost this image from the Begijnhof in Leuven, where we lived for 6 months. Great memories of the university and the city, a thriving place for learning as well as a wonderful city.

My presentation at the research seminar discusses some new work that continues from earlier projects on the linkages between comparative literary form and material infrastructures, with a specific interest in how those are shaped by new energy transformations in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In addition to a presentation at the research, I’ll also host a “walk-in session” for early career research who would like to discuss their research projects.

Functions of Literary Space: Tentative Classifications

In Monopoli, Italy, today to present a tentative classification of functions of literary space. Wide array of presentations on rhythm, speed and path at the ENN7 / 7th conference of the European Narratology Network. Looking forward also to participate in the co-located IGLE conference, conference of the International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature.

In my presentation, I continue earlier work on the city novel and toponyms in literature. In brief, I note that – despite a long-lived spatial turn – questions of space have remained relatively marginalized and theoretically underdeveloped. A classification of spatial markers in literature would include a keen attentiveness to the dynamic interaction between space and character, space and plot, and character and plot. It should also aim to incorporate processes of mapping within the narration, as well as the rhetorical interaction between spatial markers and (embodied and embedded readerly responses).

Abstract below:

Functions of Literary Space: Tentative Classifications

This paper examines the functions of spatial markers and locations in literature, and considers several tentative qualifications for the study of literary space. A first classification draws on James Phelan’s character classification of synthetic, mimetic, and thematic functions to examine the functions of literary spaces. A second classification (building on earlier work by the author on the city novel) pairs literary space with plot development and character development in a dynamic model in which all three influence upon each other, enabling the fulfilment (or thwarting) of their respective affordances. A third classification proposes an allegorical reading, in which functions of literary space can be read respectively as referential, allegorical, moral, spiritual, or metafictional. A fourth and final classification distinguishes between functions within the text and rhetorical functions, in which spatial markers act not as real-world referents, or as functions within the storyworld, but as activating associations within readers in ways that are highly contingent. I will consider these tentative classifications and their practical application by drawing on the work of French-Canadian author Nicolas Dickner, in particular his novels Nikolski (2005), Tarmac (2009), and Six degrés de liberté (2015). One aim is to move beyond spatial markers as statical elements of description, and to foreground instead the functions of dynamic spatial trajectories, spatial transgressions, and dynamic meshworks of spatial nodes.

Utopia as genre and method

Giving a lecture today (20 September) in the Studia Generalia series on utopia and dystopia, Tampere University (in Finnish). I’ve heard more than a hundred students signed up – looking forward to a full house!

My guest lecture will focus on utopia as literary genre and on utopia as method. I’ll be drawing on the work of Caroline Edwards and Ruth Levitas, and on experiences from teaching the course “Hope for the Future” at Turku University a few years back.

We’ll be looking at excerpts from Annika Luther’s City of the Homeless (2011) and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014).

Relevant publications include my articles on “Cities Utopian, Dystopian and Apocalyptic” and the co-authored “Toivoa tulevaisuudesta” (in Finnish).

New Publication: “Narrative in Urban Planning: A Practical Field Guide”

What do planners need to know in order to use narrative approaches responsibly in their practice? What makes narratives coherent, probable, persuasive, even necessary – but also potentially harmful, manipulative and divisive? And how can narratives help to build more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive communities? This practical field guide makes insights from narrative research accessible to planners through a glossary of key concepts in the field of narrative planning. The authors are literary scholars who have extensive practical experience in planning practice, training planning scholars and practitioners or advising municipalities on how to harness the power of stories in urban development.  

This is the first book to synthesize the theory and practice of storytelling in urban planning into a usable handbook for practitioners. It makes available key insights both from research and from practical experience in training planners and in working with municipalities. The emphasis is on accessibility and applicability: in clearly structured entries, this practical field guide defines key concepts, provides examples and illustrations, and discusses possible applications. The book aims to allow a practitioner in the middle of a project to quickly look up a relevant key concept, but also to provide pointers to in-depth research.  

Book details and link:  

Lieven Ameel, Jens Martin Gurr & Barbara Buchenau: Narrative in Urban Planning:A Practical Field Guide. Transcript 2023.  

Published Open Access, March, 2023:

https://www.transcript-verlag.de/detail/index/sArticle/6337/sCategory/310000027  

Many thanks to co-authors Jens Martin Gurr and Barbara Buchenau for a truly inspiring collaboration over several years on this book! I am grateful also to colleagues at Aalto University, Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, and Tampere University (Narrare, in particular). We also would like to express our gratitude to the students who attended our various seminars, workshops and guest lectures about narratives in the context of planning – your genuine interest and questions have provided inspiration, food for thought, and important reference points for our work.

Out now: Narrative Forms of Adaptation, Retreat, and Mitigation in Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank with You

My most recent article “Narrative Forms of Adaptation, Retreat, and Mitigation in Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank with You” has just been published by Poetics Today 43:1, pp. 127-147. Link here.

Abstract:

This article examines narrative engagement with strange weather and rising waters in Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank with You (2014). It applies three terms from climate policy — adaptation, retreat, and mitigation — as heuristic concepts to approach the formal responses in the novel to a catastrophic event, Hurricane Sandy, while also considering the broader implications for the interplay between narrative form and radical climate change. The focus is on narrative forms such as catalogs, gaps in language and in the storyworld, and plotted instances of compassion. By drawing from environmental policy terms, this article suggests an analogy between how literary fiction functions and how human populations are described as behaving in the language of policy. Literature is adapting in formal terms to a changing climate; it is retreating from the effects of climate disruption, by way of a diluted language; and it is trying to find ways to soften and mitigate those effects — with mitigation approached in its first, now largely obsolete meaning of the word, as compassion. Exploring such analogies, this article emphasizes literary form’s participation in a broader discursive and material meshwork of human relationships with the transforming environment, in dialogue with science and policy
communications.

Excerpt:

“Of course, literary form — seen here, following Caroline Levine (2015: 13), as literary “patterns of repetition and difference,” from meter to novelistic plot — does not adapt and retreat in the way coastal communities change their living habits or move to higher ground in the face of radical climate change. And literary form cannot mitigate climate change in the way we can by switching to renewable energy or a more sustainable diet. And yet literary form can display adaptation of existing language and narrative strategies, such as the list, in its responses to climate change, and, as will be explored below, it can even exhibit a marked sense of retreat on the part of language in the way threatening futures are imagined.
In media and policy texts, adaptation, retreat, and mitigation tend to be seen in terms of financial costs and possible risks, visualized in flood maps, graphs, and quantitative measurements. Examples from media and policy include the IPCC’s (2018) use of the term carbon budget or Citigroup’s 2015 report on the economic cost of global warming (Citigroup), or again the warning, in media, that rising waters would cost “trillions of dollars” (Abraham 2018). A novel such as Nathaniel Rich’s Odds against Tomorrow
mimics — and satirizes — such language used in finance and insurance (see also Bergthaller 2018: 117). What unnerves people and institutions, in Rich’s novel, are not the material conditions or the real effects of catastrophe on lives, communities, and civilization but, rather, the figures and numbers that denote risk in financial terms — financial settlements based on insurance policies. Such a position mirrors real-life responses to radical climate change: a recent study focusing on the aftermath of Sandy in New York concluded that for inhabitants of at-risk shores, the flood map — an abstraction visualizing future risk — was perceived as “scarier than another storm” (Elliott 2018: 1068). In Ford’s Let Me Be Frank with You (2014: 49), it is not the specter of a future storm that drives people from their homes, but the prospect of “the new flood maps issued by fuckin’ Obama’s lackeys.”
If the current crisis is a “crisis of the imagination” (Ghosh 2016), it is notable that, in the case of Odds against Tomorrow, fictional language turns to technical, financial, legal, and insurance discourses for models to bring the reader nearer to the future. This appropriation of financial language can be seen as a mode for critiquing such language, but also as an inflection of the novelistic voice by financial and utilitarian discourses that naturalize and normalize highly problematic modes of framing radical climate change in terms of its monetized costs. But other forms of adaptation are possible — including modulations of narrative form that gesture toward chaos and contingency, and toward an inability to assign coherent meaning (let alone to ascribe quantifiable measurings) to chaotic events. Let Me Be Frank with You explores some of these possibilities.”

(pp. 133-134)

From the conclusion:

“Forms, as Levine (2015: 5) reminds us, “matter . . . , because they shape
what it is possible to think, say, and do in a given context.” The partial
breakdown of language and narrative form can act as a reminder of the
limits to our vocabulary and cognitive capacities when faced with the sca-
lar complexities of multiple uncertain futures, and with future losses visi-
ble in our present language. And while, for the characters within the sto-
ryworld, brief moments of compassion are arguably outside the political,
this doesn’t have to be true for the effect on the reader, for whom instances
of emplotted compassion may provide a powerful sense of shared human-
ity across temporal or spatial boundaries, as well as an articulation of the
unspoken loss and grief that have become one of the dominants in thinking
of uncertain ecological and climatic futures.”

(p. 144)

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Jason Finch for inviting me to Åbo Akademi University to present a version of this article and everyone present at the seminar for their comments. Thanks to everyone at the “Wavescapes” conference in Split/Vis, Srećko Jurišić in particular, for
valuable feedback to an early draft of this article. Thanks are also due to Pieter Vermeulen and Jouni Teittinen for comments at various stages, and to Markku Lehtimäki and Adeline Johns- Putra for extensive and insightful feedback. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the editors and outside reviewers of Poetics Today for their thoughtful engagement with my article.

Fraught Fictionality in Narratives of Future Catastrophe

Out now in Narrative 29:3: my article “Fraught Fictionality in Narratives of Future Catastrophe”, which discusses the use of fictional elements in non-literary future narratives, more specifically in The Effects of Nuclear War (1979), Storms of My Grandchildren (2009), The End of Western Civilization (2014), and The Water Will Come (2017). The article is part of my broader research project on future narratives of cities at the water in planning and fiction.

ABSTRACT:

In our future-oriented era, future visions have become increasingly important for shaping policy and public awareness. How is fictionality as a rhetorical mode used in non-literary future visions, and how are signposts of fiction instrumental—or detrimental—to conveying pathways to the future, in view of forecasted environmental devastation and radical climate change? How does the temporal mode of the scenario (which, describing the future, has as yet has no truth-value in the actual world) complicate our thinking of fictionality? This article examines fictionality in a selection of non-literary narratives of future catastrophe: The Effects of Nuclear War (1979), Storms of My Grandchildren (2009), The End of Western Civilization (2014), and The Water Will Come (2017). I develop the idea of “fraught fictionality” to denote the kind of uneasy fictionality found in future scenarios, burdened by its inclusion within a textual genre that is geared toward policy-making and anticipation.

From the conclusion:

“In our future-oriented era, policy scenarios as well as media and science reports envisioning possible futures have become increasingly important in shaping policy and public awareness. Moving from abstract to concrete, from the general to the particular, “fictional” excerpts within nonfictional texts may serve to bring the consequences of choosing a particular path home to the reader. The four texts discussed here—“Atlantis”; “Charlottesville”; “In the Year 2525”; and The Collapse of Western Civilization—combine a pragmatic framework defined by sincerity with the aim to bring across the disconcerting consequences of a possible future to the general public, by embedding local texts that contain invented stories within global texts that are emphatically nonfictional. The result is “fraught fictionality”: a profoundly contradictory mode of storytelling that brings together urgent real-world referentiality with a narrative that is conceived as intentionally invented, in view of shaping policy and public awareness.

[…]

The four “fraught fictional” texts examined here share a number of striking features. The mode of representation is largely impersonal, with a focus on third-person plural narration. Individual characters tend to be lacking, and there is a highly limited set of stock characters with foregrounded thematic functions, which sets the stage for a conspicuously narrow frame for meaningful agency (typically confined to “scientists” and a generic American president). Little to no insight is gained as to the motives, fears, or hopes of the people inhabiting future worlds, since there are no instances of “theory of mind” or references to individual thoughts, feelings, or indeed experiences. Regardless of the aim to “provide a more concrete understanding” or to “provide detail” (OTA 9), instances of qualia are rare. Also striking is the prevalence of a panoramic and distancing viewpoint. In terms of rhetorical strategies, these texts draw on a narrow field of cultural tropes from American cultural history, often with considerable ideological baggage, such as the examples of the Mayflower in “In the Year 2525” and Jeffersonian anti-urbanism in “Charlottesville.”

If the recent turn to what I here call “fraught fictionality” stems in large part from the perceived limits of storytelling tools in policy and science communication, then these conclusions, which foreground the narrow range of experiences, characters, and cultural tropes used in “fraught fictionality,” must be an urgent wake-up call for policy makers and scientists who want to turn to “fiction” for rhetorical purposes, to carefully consider the aims they want to achieve with these kinds of storytelling, and the means by which these may be reached.” (369-370)

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/809290

Thanks to everyone who commented on various versions and presentations; to colleagues at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies and colleagues at Tampere University’s Narrare Centre and literary studies; and to the participants of Narrative 2019 in Pamplona, where I presented a paper on the same subject.

 

“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.”

“Translocal Narratability” – Disputation of Lena Mattheis

In Germany today for the disputation of Lena Mattheis’ dissertation “Translocal Narratability in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction”, at the University of Duisburg-Essen. It’s an honor to have been the examiner of this fascinating dissertation.

In her dissertation, Lena Mattheis starts out from the observation that “contemporary Anglophone novels are increasingly characterised by a global, transcultural and complex quality that becomes particularly tangible in their spatial settings and narrative voices.” She sets out to examine the communalities of such translocal texts, focusing on the narrative strategies involved in bringing out what she calls “translocal narratability”. This key concept is examined in an impressive corpus of 32 novels, and from six distinct perspectives: simultaneity, palimpsest, mapping, scaling, nonplace/silence/absence, and haunting.

Mattheis makes a compelling case not only for the central importance of the translocal in contemporary Anglophone literature, but also for the importance of a new toolbox and new conceptualizations to address translocal novels. With this dissertation, Mattheis provides readers with a set of original methodological approaches, and with a helpful and clearly articulated toolbox that promises to generate exciting further research.

For readers who want to know more, one starting point is Lena Mattheis’s recent article in Narrative: “A Brief Inventory of Translocal Narratability: Pamlipsestuous Street Art in Chris Abani’s The Virgin of Flames” (Narrative vol 26, 3, 2019, pp. 302-319).

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/703195

article abstract:

“This essay aims to fill a gap in the current research on translocal narratives by providing a concept that structures and defines the typical strategies found in contemporary global writing: translocal narratability. Translocal novels narrate side by side two or more different places, such as Lagos and Princeton in Adichie’s Americanah, and thereby show how places and cities can permeate each other as well as the world of the reader. Since contemporary Anglophone novels are increasingly characterized by a global, transcultural, and complex quality that becomes particularly tangible in their spatial settings and narrative voices, translocality has become an important field in literary research, but often responds to questions of ‘what’ rather than of ‘how.’ This essay will therefore illustrate how novels such as Chris Abani’s The Virgin of Flames, or Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For use specific sets of narrative techniques in order to layer urban spaces from diverse parts of the globe to create trans-local stories and to make them accessible and relatable for a wide readership. After briefly explaining which narrative strategies typically produce translocal narratability and which three areas of research inform the concept—translocality, narratology and urban studies—this essay provides an in-depth analysis of how Chris Abani, in his East LA novel The Virgin of Flames, employs the palimpsest as one of the most central tools of global urban narratives. This close reading aims to illustrate some of the techniques that are typical for translocal writing and further expand on the concept of translocal narratability.”