Book Launch: Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies and Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory – 30 September 2022

Today we organize a double book launch at Tampere University to celebrate the recent publication of two new volumes: the Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies (Ameel 2022) and the Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory (Dawson & Mäkelä 2022).

Very much looking forward to the talk by visiting prof. Cecile Sandten (TU Chemnitz), who has agreed to give a brief assessment of the Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies as part of the program.

The book launch also has given me the time to reflect more on what has been achieved with the Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies, what could have gone differently, and what aspects stand out looking back. I will talk about these elements in more detail today, but I’d look to highlight here three of the 33 brilliant chapters of the volume. I hope these brief highlights will say something also about the aims for the broader volume, and will encourage readers to get to know the companion in its totality.

1. The chapter on the “Medieval Civic Encomium”, subtitled “A Theme and Variations in Praise of Italian Cities”, by Carrie Beneš and Laura Morreale. My own sense is that contemporary literary urban studies could do more to be attentive to historical city writing genres, which is why I was particularly happy to be able to include this exciting chapter on the genre of the civic encomium, a genre with a hugely important afterlife in city writing. What makes this an extra special chapter is that much of the work by the authors here is based on literary texts that are not available in translation, or even available in print, making this a particularly rich contribution. Fascinating is also how the the chapter shows that the genre of the encomium was active beyond literary texts (strictly defined), with a vivid presence in civic festivals and city life.

2. Michael G. Kelly’s chapter “The Form of a City: Geographies of Constraint in
Contemporary Urban Writing from France” presents scholarly work that is fairly close to my own research interests and which probably also for that reason resonated particularly strongly with me from the moment I read the first draft. Kelly’s chapter presents an unusally ambitious – and highly compelling – analysis of the interrelationship between city form and the form of the literary text. It brings figures from the urban margin, as well as lesser-known French authors, to the centre of literary urban studies, all in a study that in its own, balanced and intricate structure, reflects an attentiveness to the how material, societal, and literary form may interact.

3. Elizabeth Ho’s chapter “The Urban Child and Hong Kong’s Public Housing and Public Space in Yeung Hok-Tat’s How Blue Was My Valley“. Hugely attentive to the details of literary analysis as applied to the graphic novel, and with a meticulous grounding of the literary text within the local urban development context and the planning literature, this chapter will be useful to literary urban studies scholars and students alike. Also a text that puts the experiences of the child front and center. The evocative images from Hok-Tat’s graphic novel are an integral part of the compelling argumentative progression in this chapter.

Abstracts and book launch details below:

Lieven Ameel (ed.): The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies. August 2022

The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban studies consists of 33 newly commissioned chapters that provide an outline of contemporary literary urban studies. The Companion covers all of the main theoretical approaches as well as key literary genres, with case studies covering a range of different geographical, cultural, and historical settings. The final chapters provide a window into new debates in the field. The three focal issues are key concepts and genres of literary urban studies; a reassessment and critique of classical urban studies theories and the canon of literary capitals; and methods for the analysis of cities in literature. The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies provides the reader with practical insights into the methods and approaches that can be applied to the city in literature and serves as an important reference work for upper-level students and researchers working on city literature.

Paul Dawson & Maria Mäkelä (eds.): Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory. July 2022.  

The Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory brings together top 44 scholars in the field to explore the significance of narrative to pressing social, cultural, and theoretical issues. How does narrative both inform and limit the way we think today? From conspiracy theories and social media movements to racial politics and climate change future scenarios, the reach is broad. This volume is distinctive for addressing the complicated relations between the interdisciplinary narrative turn in the academy and the contemporary boom of instrumental storytelling in the public sphere. The 40 chapters of the volume explore new theories of causality, experientiality, and fictionality, challenge normative modes of storytelling, and offer polemical accounts of narrative fiction, nonfiction, and video games. Drawing upon the latest research in areas from cognitive sciences to complexity theory, the volume provides an accessible entry point for those new to the myriad applications of narrative theory and a point of departure for new scholarship. 

The Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory - 1st Edition - Paul Daws

Time: Friday, September 30 at 14:00–16:30  // Place: Café Aula & Toivo, Main Building 2nd floor, City Centre Campus 

Sparkling wine, coffee/tea and snack served. The program will consist of short introductory talks, online video greetings from our international collaborators and contributors, and a guest commentary by visiting Erasmus professor Cecile Sandten.  

The book launch is also the first event of the science event series of the Faculty of Social Science, Tampere University.  

Out Now: The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies

After years in the making, this book is finally out in the world: The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies. Its aims are to provide the reader with a methodical overview of the fundamentals of literary urban studies, and with a detailed outline of new directions in the study of the literary city.

It’s been a privilege to work on this with so many committed and wonderful colleagues. This is a book that showcases the richness and vitality of literary urban studies, with chapters on subjects ranging from urban satire in ancient Rome (by Grace Gillies), to the metropolitan miniature (by Andreas Huyssen), Athens in post-crisis literature (Riikka P. Pulkkinen), Hong Kong’s public housing in the graphic novel (Elizabeth Ho), translocality in city literature (Lena Mattheis), and much more.

From the Introduction: “What does it mean […] for a literary text to take the city as its focal point, as the presence from which character, language, plot, and voice take part of their meaning? How does the citiness of city literature make that literature – and literary urban studies – different from other texts and scholarly approaches? To what extent does the raw material constituted by the urban realm demand other kinds of approaches, as opposed to other kinds of literary texts? In each of the chapters of this Companion, these questions are present at least as part of a general background that informs the analysis.” (p. 2)

The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban studies consists of 33 newly commissioned chapters that provide an outline of contemporary literary urban studies. The Companion covers all of the main theoretical approaches as well as key literary genres, with case studies covering a range of different geographical, cultural, and historical settings. The final chapters provide a window into new debates in the field. The three focal issues are key concepts and genres of literary urban studies; a reassessment and critique of classical urban studies theories and the canon of literary capitals; and methods for the analysis of cities in literature.

The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies provides the reader with practical insights into the methods and approaches that can be applied to the city in literature and serves as an important reference work for upper-level students and researchers working on city literature.

From the Acknowledgements:

“I am grateful to all of the contributors to this volume for taking up the challenge to contribute a chapter within a tight time frame and under difficult circumstances. I am particularly indebted to all contributors whom I did not know prior to the work on this Companion and who reacted warmly and collegially to my invitation. […]

I would also like to thank all colleagues with whom I have been in touch in the planning stages of the Companion, and who were not able to contribute for a variety of reasons. Circumstances for academic work have been particularly difficult these past years, with an unrelenting global pandemic (as I write these words) causing a continued state of uncertainty. In several countries – my own home country included – political decisions have made working conditions at universities more difficult during the past decade, especially within the humanities. Colleagues with whom I communicated in the context of this Companion wrote that they were coping with bereavement, were struggling under the simultaneous pressures of online teaching and home schooling, or were so overwhelmed with teaching in precarious positions that they had no possibility to do research or writing. I think it is important to also note, in an acknowledgment section such as this one, the wide-ranging invisible work and the meaningful absences in the background of academic publishing.

A special thanks to Frida, who was born during the final stages of this book project, and who always brought a sense of perspective and a smile to working from home. This book is dedicated to her.” (xiv-xv)

From the Introduction: “literary urban studies as a field can be said to resemble the city itself: it is a space where people from all kinds of backgrounds and with a range of different aims and perspectives meet and interact. And it is never finished – there are always some structures to be refurbished or adapted, some fallow land to be repurposed, and new kinds of methodologies, approaches, and experiences to be incorporated, always in ways that build on what is already there. In both of these senses, this Companion hopes to resemble its object of study.” (p. 8)

Do get in touch (at lieven.ameel [a] tuni.fi) if you are interested in reviewing the book, if you would like to read a particular chapter or chapters, or if you want to discuss literary urban studies.

Fennia Reflections: New directions for narrative approaches to urban planning

The latest issue of the geography journal Fennia features a book review forum that focuses on my latest book, The Narrative Turn in Urban Planning (Routledge 2020). In the forum, Robert Beauregard and Mark Tewdwr-Jones each wrote a review of my book, contextualizing its contribution to the field and proposing further directions. As part of the book review forum, I wrote my own reflection on the reviews. Beauregard and Tewdwr-Jones are two eminent urban studies scholars whose work has long been an inspiration for my own research, and it was an honor to engage in such a rich dialogue within the forum provided by Fennia.

I would like to thank the team of Fennia, Kirsi Pauliina Kallio, Jouni Häkli, and in particular, the reflection editor James Riding, for their work in providing this exciting dialogic space.

From the issue’s introduction:

“In the first book review forum published in Fennia, as part of a new initiative, Lieven Ameel’s (2021) The Narrative Turn in Urban Planning: Plotting the Helsinki Waterfront, is the book that provides the starting point for dialogue. In two extended case studies from the planning of the Helsinki waterfront, the book applies narrative concepts and theories to a broad range of texts and practices involved in urban planning. Robert Beauregard (2021) kicks off the forum by adding a material perspective that treats planning documents as actors in planning practice. The vibrant matter of these hidden texts also weaves narratives, as planners produce documents before they tell the public stories. […] Tewdwr-Jones (2021) emphasizes also […] wider democratic and polarizing issues. These issues cannot be separated from narratives of place shaping, planning, and urban growth and decline. In response, Ameel (2021) addresses the material aspects of planning practices that take place in increasingly digitalized environments, and storytelling to which the public is not invited, attending to narratives developed by planners in their cloistered world, opening the forum to potential future research.” (Kallio, Häkli & Riding)

All articles are published open access:

Robert Beauregard’s article “The stories that documents tell”: https://fennia.journal.fi/article/view/115188

Mark Tewdwr-Jones’s article “Narratives of and in urban change and planning: whose narratives and how authentic?”: https://fennia.journal.fi/article/view/115636

My reflection piece “New directions for narrative approaches to urban planning”: https://fennia.journal.fi/article/view/117123

Nostalgia and world literature

I participated today in the yearly autumn seminar at Tampere University; the seminar is structured this year around the notion of nostalgia.

The seminar includes a range of speakers on the subject of nostalgia in literature, including Riikka Rossi, Maria Matinmikko, and Mikko Mäntyniemi – full program can be found here.

I presented an (admittedly tentative) talk about nostalgia and world literature.

Many thanks to Nazry Bahrawi, Liz Ho, Chen Bar-Itzhak, Francesco Marilungo, Cengiz Buket, Tim Hannigan, Annie Webster, and others, who have drawn my attention over the past years to the many aspects of nostalgia in literature beyond Europe.

 

Invited lecture at Rutgers, 20 October 2021

I’m honored to present a guest lecture at Rutgers University today, on the topic of “Literary Urban Studies: Comparative Perspectives on Future Cities across Genres”. I will start out with a tentative introduction into 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 three texts (Odds Against Tomorrow, De Ondergang van Amsterdam, 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.

Source: https://newbrunswick.rutgers.edu/

Many thanks to prof. Weijie Song – an expert, among others, on the literature of Bejing – for the generous invitation! I hope I have the opportunity to visit Rutgers in person in the not too distant future…

Uncertain Ontologies in Twenty-First-Century Storyworlds – Style 55:3

Delighted to see the publication of this special issue of Style on uncertain ontologies in twenty-first-century storyworlds. This special issue identifies ontological uncertainty as a key concept for the study of contemporary fiction. I feel privileged I could co-edit this together with Marco Caracciolo, and for the inspiring group of scholars involved in putting together the special issue.

Editors Lieven Ameel & Marco Caracciolo, with articles by both editors and Merja Polvinen, Pieter Vermeulen, Alison Gibbons, Alice Bell, Brian McHale.

I’d be happy to send a pdf of the articles to anyone interested – just send me a mail at lieven.ameel [a] tuni.fi

From the introduction abstract:

“From climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic, the present moment is defined by the destabilizing effects of uncertain and urgently threatening futures. The articles collected in this special issue explore literary narratives that stage different aspects of this destabilization. We suggest that contemporary fiction’s emphasis on uncertainty differs from the ontological questions raised by postmodernist literature, because the “earnest ontologies” of twenty-first-century storyworlds do not primarily evoke detachment or self-referential playfulness; rather, they tend to take on direct real-world relevance.” 

Content:

Introduction: Uncertain Ontologies in Twenty-First-Century Storyworlds
Lieven Ameel and Marco Caracciolo 
Warped Writing: The Ontography of Contemporary Fiction  
Pieter Vermeulen  
Ontological Instability and Nonhuman Presence in Twenty-First-Century New York Fiction
Lieven Ameel  
Ontological Instability and the Place of the Subject in Contemporary Fiction  
Marco Caracciolo  
The Dark Inside the Prologue: Enactive Cognition and Eerie Ontology in Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance 
Merja Polvinen  
Interpreting Fictionality and Ontological Blurrings in and between Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting and there’s no place like time 
Alison Gibbons  
“It all feels too real”: Digital Storyworlds and “Ontological Resonance”  
Alice Bell  
Afterword: Earnest Ontology in the Year of the Flood  
Brian McHale

Thanks to everyone at Style and Penn State University to make this special issue happen!

Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/style.55.3.issue-3

Redemptive Scripts in Planning and Fiction of the New York Waterfront

I’m speaking today (23 Aug) at the closing symposium of The Changing Environment of the North research project. I’ll be a brief (15 min) presentation on the subject of redemptive scripts in the context of planning and fiction of the New York waterfront, building on my earlier work on metaphors and modes of emplotments with which to approach the waterfront. 

The closing symposium also serves as the inofficial launch of the recently published book coming out of the project: Visual Representations of the Arctic: Imagining Shimmering Worlds in Culture, Literature and Politics, edited by Markku Lehtimäki, Arja Rosenholm and Vlad Strukov (Routledge 2021). The book features a.o. my article on balloon perspectives on the Arctic: “Balloon Explorers, the Panorama, and the Making of an Arctic Nomos in Contemporary Fiction.”

Book abstract:

“Privileging the visual as the main method of communication and meaning-making, this book responds critically to the worldwide discussion about the Arctic and the North, addressing the interrelated issues of climate change, ethics and geopolitics. A multi-disciplinary, multi-modal exploration of the Arctic, it supplies an original conceptualization of the Arctic as a visual world encompassing an array of representations, imaginings, and constructions. By examining a broad range of visual forms, media and forms such as art, film, graphic novels, maps, media, and photography, the book advances current debates about visual culture. The book enriches contemporary theories of the visual taking the Arctic as a spatial entity and also as a mode of exploring contemporary and historical visual practices, including imaginary constructions of the North. Original contributions include case studies from all the countries along the Arctic shore, with Russian material occupying a large section due to the country’s impact on the region.”

 

Nonhuman Presence and Ontological Instability in Twenty-First-Century New York Fiction

Interested in the nonhuman, ontological instability, unseasonable weather, and/or New York fiction? My latest article, published open-access with Routledge, examines all of these – and more. The article, “Nonhuman Presence and Ontological Instability in Twenty-First Century New York Fiction” is part of an exciting set of texts that look at how nonhuman spaces are narrated, the edited volume Narrating Nonhuman Spaces: Form, Story, and Experience Beyond Anthropocentrism. Some of my personal highlights of the volume include Sarianna Kankkunen‘s work on monomaniacs of the Anthropocene, Brian J. McAllister’s article on space-time in poetry, and Laura Oulanne on Woolf and Mansfield. Thanks to Marco Caracciolo, Marlene Karlsson Marcussen and David Rodriguez for bringing this volume together.

open access download link here

Thanks to Marco and the NarMesh group for inviting me to the workshop on nonhuman space in Ghent, 1 Dec 2017, where early versions of the articles were presented and where we could get to know each other in person in a convivial and stimulating environment.

My article:

Ameel, Lieven. “Nonhuman Presence and Ontological Instability in Twenty-First Century New York Fiction.” In Marco Caracciolo, Marlene Karlsson Marcussen & David Rodriguez (eds.):  Narrating Nonhuman Spaces, Form, Story, and Experience beyond Anthropocentrism. London: Routledge, 71-88

Abstract:

This article explores ontological instability in three contemporary New York novels. Drawing on Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction and on the concept of the fold as developed by Gilles Deleuze, it examines Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City (2009), and Ben Lerner’s 10:04 (2014) and looks, in particular, at how occurrences of nonhuman presence and menacing weather conditions threaten the ontological stability of the narrated storyworld.

From the conclusion:

“Human consciousness, and its ability to connect with the world, is at once “blind” and, paradoxically, capable of visionary “insight,” as the protagonist of Open City, drawing on Paul de Man, infers. The visionary experiences of Ben, in 10:04, driven by something close to hallucination, and the insights provided by “blots on vision” and by looking out of the corner of one’s eye in Chronic City, point to a similar fawed yet insightful sensitivity, in a way that defes binary oppositions or causal hierarchies.
The real, the possible, and the imaginary are described as continuations of the same plane, coeval with human perception. In 10:04 and Chronic City, in particular, there are endeavors to extend that folding of inner and outerinto the world of the reader, such as the hiccups of Perkus in Chronic City, visualized on the page in blank spaces and the freworks above Brooklyn Bridge, in 10:04, which are imagined on the physical page in the hands of the reader, thus extending tangibly into the reader’s physical world.
Approaching ontological instability and the interaction between human perception and nonhuman environment through the concept of the fold helps home in on those elements that spill out from the fctional representation into the actual world. Such spill-over effects re-enact the Baroque breaking of spatial boundaries; Deleuze was intrigued, following Wölffin, in how Baroque form was “always put in motion” ending “in the manner of a horse’s mane or the foam of a wave,” and how “matter tends to spill over in space” (4). The endeavors to reach out into the reader’s referential world, evident especially in Chronic City and 10:04, are one particularly tangible example of such overspill. In language, a tentative overlap between the consciousness of reader and narrator is attempted, a moment of “coeval readership” (Lerner 93). Similar to Perkus’s view of New York City, which becomes for Chase an “ellipsistic” experience that starts to affect his own perception of the surrounding world, some of the
visionary experiences in these novels may color the reader’s view of the referential world, enabling a sense of interconnection with the nonhuman environment, in the way of a fold connecting inner and outer, actual and possible.”(p. 86)

Note:

A shorter and amended version of this article appears in Style 55 no. 3 under the
title “Ontological Instability and Nonhuman Presence in Twenty-First-Century
New York Fiction.”

MyHelsinki and Helsinki’s shoreline

Some of my work on the cultural and literary meanings of the Helsinki shoreline have  made it to the MyHelsinki website, the city marketing site of my home city. Featuring a great picture of a researcher in action on the Helsinki shores.

(Photo Jirina Alanko)

The photo is shot on the southern shore of the Helsinki island where I live. Hard not to like Helsinki for promoting its shores with this realistic picture of conditions in Helsinki in the month of May (it was raining relentlessly).

https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/see-and-do-neighbourhoods/seaside-helsinki/helsinki%E2%80%99s-shoreline-creates-space-for-new-ideas-and-peace

I’ve personally always liked the way in which MyHelsinki presents the city through insiders’ stories, and I’ve also used their website for discovering new places, so glad to have been involved.

Myhelsinki text below:

“The seashore is a place of change”

For literary scholar Lieven Ameel, Lammassaari Island is one of Helsinki’s finest locations.

“Helsinki’s maritime environment is a place for metamorphosis and new opportunities in literature. Fictional characters visit the sea to imagine what their future lives might look like. Many social changes have also begun by the sea.

For instance, it is by the sea that the protagonists in Arvid Järnefelt’s Veneh’ojalaiset (1909) receive a vision about a better future. In Anja Kauranen’s Pelon maantiede, the headquarters of a feminist guerrilla fraction is located on Lammassaari Island.

We residents of Helsinki’s Lauttasaari district have traditionally had a close-knit connection to our home island. I, however, find that the finest maritime environment is to be found on Lammassaari.

The experience begins from the moment of departure toward the island, as the view from the duckboards opens out over a layered vista of the city looming in the horizon. The city of Helsinki was founded in the Vanhankaupunginlahti bay area. The rapids area at the mouth of the Vantaanjoki river also offers a vignette of 19th century industry.

Those who walk along the same duckboards can also cast their gaze over urban visions of the 1990s in the Arabianranta district, as well as toward something completely new in the Kalasatama district.”