Book launch of Urban Culture and the Modern City – Hungarian Case Studies / 18 June 2024

I had the honor to participate in the book launch of the recent book Urban Culture and the Modern City: Hungarian Case Studies, edited by Ágnes Györke and Tamás Juhász.

The book provides an overview of cultural representations of the city in the context of 20th (and late 19th, early 21st) -century Hungary. In addition to new insights into city culture in the captial, it also has plenty to say about small-town poetics, something that remains understudied in much literary urban studies. Wonderful chapters also on urban culture in Hungarian cinema.

This book will act as a future reference work for scholars working on the 20th and 21st century Hungarian city. And it reminds scholars unfamiliar with Hungarian urban culture of the vast range of urban phenomena that remain underrepresented in much of academic literature published in English.

Thanks to Ágnes Györke for the invitation and congratulations to the editors, contributors, and to Leuven University Press on this inspiring book!

City Plots Before Gentrification

How do narratives of decline and displacement lay the groundwork for narratives of gentrification in the literature of New York and New Jersey? What central narrative forms can be outlined? I address these questions (and some more) in my presentation at the conference “Gentrification Imaginaries: Stories of Urban Transformations and Displacement” in Freiburg, 12-14 June 2024.

Full abstract below:

Before Gentrification: Changing Neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey in the works of Paule Marshall, Philip Roth, Jonathan Lethem, and Colson Whitehead

What kinds of urban transformations and displacement are at work in the literature of New York and New Jersey before gentrification? How do narratives of decline lay the grou ndwork for narratives of gentrification, and for the neighborhood in literature as a site for community and displacement? These questions will be examined with reference to Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), Philip Roth’s Zuckerman Unbound (1981), Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist (1999), and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003).
Drawing on the work of Carlo Rotella and Blanche Gelfant, and more recently, Thomas Heise, Hanna Henryson and Davy Knittle, I look at the narrative forms used to describe changing neighborhoods. I foreground 1. the aestheticization of absence; 2. the juxtaposition of loss with personal advancement, and 3. the emplotment of flight, as three key ways in which American literature describes urban transformation.


Many thanks to everyone at Freiburg and especially to Maria Sulimma for bringing this all together!


Image: still from the movie Bright Lights, Big City, based on the novel by the same name.

“Talking to you?” Narrative Prompts for Building Dialogue in Civic Space / 6 June 2024 / Conference Scripting Futures for Urban Sustainability

I’m at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, to participate in the Conference “Scripting Futures for Urban Sustainability“. The conference is the closing event of the City Scripts Research Group (2018 – 2024), a research group with whom I have had the privilege to collaborate over the past years.

The conference also includes the launch of two books I have been involved with:

Buchenau/Gurr/Sulimma, eds., City Scripts: Narratives for Postindustrial Cities, Ohio State University Press, 2023.

Ameel/Gurr/Buchenau, Narrative in Urban Planning: A Practical Field Guide, transcript, 2023.

My own presentation today, “Talking To You? – Narrative Prompts for Building Dialogue in Civic Space” deals with a new research project I’m developing, which considers textual space in cities and ways to establish civic dialogue in public space.

Looking forward to a rich panel that includes a.o. Erin James, a scholar whose work I’ve long admired.

Thanks to Barbara Buchenau and everyone at Essen-Duisburg for organizing this conference!

“Literature and Energy” at TALES (Tampere Literary Evenings), 10 April 2024

Looking forward to today’s TALES event (Tampere Literary Evenings), where I join author/energy activist Risto Isomäki to talk about literature and energy.

Risto Isomäki does not really need an introduction to a Finnish audience, but for an international public it might be interesting to know that he is the author of one of the first novels to explicitly consider man-made future climate catastrophe in his novel The Sands of Sarasvati (Sarasvatin hiekkaa; 2005), also made into a fascinating graphic novel by Jussi Kaakinen & Petri Tolppanen. He has also published fiction that directly touches on questions of energy.

The event takes place in the OASIS, surely one of the most welcoming places in academia anywhere to be found!

Image source: https://www.visiirilehti.fi/yliopisto-suunnittelee-oasiksen-siirtamista

Future of the Novel – syllabus update and guest lecture

The course I am co-teaching with Natalya Bekhta on “The Future of the Novel” is nearing its final stages, with the most recent classes on Bulgarian author Gospodinov’s Time Shelter and Polish author Tokarczuk’s The House of Day, the House of Night, and the final class in a few weeks on Norwegian author Rimbereid’s Solaris corrected. Full updated syllabus below and in this pdf.

Today (25 March), instead of a regular class, our students are listening in to a guest lecture by Eric Hayot on “The End of Aesthetic History” (in collaboration with Narrare) – brilliant perspectives on centuries of aesthetic history, and on the position of the humanities and literary studies in the twentieth century and into the present century.

The future of the novel: New literary forms beyond the centres / Syllabus

The course consists of: 1) lectures 2) individual tasks 3) an open book exam.

Reading requirements: regular theory readings and extracts from literary texts AND one book of your choosing from the reading list.

Abstract

The novel is the globally dominant genre of prose fiction today. How is it 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 will be 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, among others. The texts will be read in excerpts in English translation.

Literary texts will act as key resources and the students will be asked to actively reflect on the ways literary forms are tied to the socio-cultural functions of literary works. Regular theory reading and active participation are required. The evaluation will be based on participation, course work, and an open-book exam.

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 outline

1.Introduction 1
Introduction. Forms of twenty-first century literature. New Formalism.
Reading: Caroline Levine: “Introduction: the Affordances of Form.” In Forms: whole, rhythm, hierarchy, network.  Princeton UP, 2015.

2. Introduction 2
The novel within the twenty-first century literary field. World literature.
Reading: Mariano Siskind: Siskind, Mariano. “The genres of world literature. The case of magical realism.” The Routledge Companion to World Literature. 2012.

3. Machine Forms : À La Ligne
Literary reading : excerpt from Joseph Ponthus 2019/2021: On the Line (À La ligne).
Theory reading: Kai Mikkonen: The Plot Machine, 14-27, 32-40.

4. Polyphony: Osebol
Voice, authenticity, and polyphony
Literary reading: excerpt from Marit Kapla 2019: Osebol.  // Marit Kapla 2019/2021: Osebol. Voices from a Swedish village.
Theory reading: Mariano D’Ambrosio 2019: “Fragmentary writing and polyphonic narratives in twenty-first-century fiction” in The Poetics of Fragmentation. pp. 19-25, 31-32

5. Narrative: Mondegreen
Focus on form: the novel, satire and narrative form
Literary reading: excerpt from Rafeyenko, Volodymyr. Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love. Translated by Mark Andryczyk. Cambridge (MA): HURI Books, 2022. Pages: 45-60.
Theory reading: Walsh, Richard. “Narrative Theory for Complexity Scientists” in Narrating Complexity, eds. Richard Walsh and Susan Stepney. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2018. Pages: 11-19 [until Section 3 “Implications”].

6. Capital: Time Shelter
Focus on world-literary context: literary value and aesthetic capital
Literary reading: excerpt from Gospodinov, Georgi. Time Shelter. Translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: 2022.
Theory reading: Vermeulen, Pieter. “New York, Capital of World Literature? On Holocaust Memory and World Literary Value.” Anglia 135.1 (2017): 67-85.

7. Experiment: The House of Day, the House of Night
“Experimental novel”, literary experiment
Literary reading: excerpt from Olga Tokarczuk, The House of Day, the House of Night (1998)

8. Guest lecture by Eric Hayot: “The End of Aesthetic History; or, Provincializing Modernism”

9. Conclusion: Solaris corrected
Epic, future language, concluding remarks
Literary reading: excerpt from Øyvind Rimbereid 2004/2011: Solaris korrigert / Solaris corrected
Theory reading: Ursula Heise: “Science Fiction and the Time Scales of the Anthropocene.” 275-276, 281-282, 301.

10. Open book exam

“Flickering” reading of energy: presenting new work within the energy humanities at ACLA2024, Montreal

I’m in Montreal for the ACLA2024, where I’ll present some of my current work in progress (15 March 2024). I’m considering ways in which we can see energy at work in literature before the energy crisis (pre-1970s), at times when energy questions were rarely explicitly foregrounded in literary texts. I suggest a “flickering” reading of instances of energy in a comparative literary perspective, and argue that energy flickers tend to be tied in with moments when viable futures (individual or communal) are denied.

My talk continues earlier collaborations with Imre Szeman, during my three-year research project at TIAS, Turku, and builds on the course “Introduction to the Energy Humanities” taught at Tampere University in 2023. It is part of the seminar “Comparative Energetics: Energy Encounters and Beyond”, organized by Jordan Kinder and Reuben Martens. Good to reconnect with Reuben, whom I met while at KU Leuven, and looking forward to meet new people in this fascinating field.

Abstract below:

”Waking at the fumes and furnace-glares”: flickers of petro-modernity

Lieven Ameel

Building on work within the energy humanities that wants to make visible fossil-fueled energy transformations and their repercussions for (literary) culture (Szeman 2017; Wenzel 2019; Yaeger 2011), I propose a ‘flickering reading’ of the fossil-fueled fumes and glares often only visible in passing in the background of the narratives of long modernity. I argue that these flickers tend to occur in instances that emphasize the association between energy sites and the loss of (or threat to), viable futures, individual or communal. I draw on a comparative selection of texts from the early nineteenth century to the late 1960s, including William Blake’s Milton (1808), Stephen Crane’s Maggie (1893), and Philip Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings (1964).

This work is part of larger project that wants to develop the theory and methodologies of the energy humanities in ways that will deepen our understanding of the historical conditions of petro-modernity, and that will help outline the conditions for the necessary transformations ahead.


Image: Sheffield Forgemasters / https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/sheffield-forgemasters-announces-record-breaking-pour/

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/

Walkable City Panel Discussion at the Night of the Sciences, 25.1.2024

I participated in a panel discussion on the walkable city at the Puistokatu venue, together with Veera Moll, Taru Niskanen, and Johanna Vuorelma. The discussion was part of the Night of the Sciences program in Helsinki, 25 January.

Thanks to fellow panelists and everyone who attended!

Brief description in Finnish below

Tilaisuus alkaa tutkijapaneelilla, jossa keskustellaan käveltävän kaupungin kehittämisestä ja siihen liittyvistä kamppailuista. Paneelin jälkeen luvassa on tutkimuksellinen esitys kriittisestä kaupunkikävelystä situationistisena vastarintana.

Puistokatu 4 X Tieteiden yö: Käveltävä kaupunki poliittisena kysymyksenä

AIKATAULU

klo 19–20.15: Käveltävä kaupunki poliittisena kysymyksenä  -paneelikeskustelu

Keskustelemassa ovat yliopistonlehtori, dosentti Lieven Ameel (Tampereen yliopisto), väitöskirjatutkija Veera Moll (Aalto-yliopisto), akatemiatutkija, dosentti Tiina Männistö-Funk (Turun yliopisto) ja arkkitehti, väitöskirjatutkija Taru Niskanen (Aalto-yliopisto). Keskustelun puheenjohtaa yliopistotutkija Johanna Vuorelma (Helsingin yliopisto).

Opening the year with a lecture on the literature of Antiquity

On my way to teach the first class of the year, as part of my spring course “Introduction to the History of Western Literature”. We’ll begin with some opening thoughts on the literature of Antiquity, its performativity and materiality.

Always a daunting task to try to cram the history of Western literature into a two-month course, and to justify what to leave out, what to gloss over, and to connect classical literature to contemporary perspectives without simplifying differences and ruptures.

I’ve tried to add an extra dimension by focusing on how different periods see their own temporality – how are they seen as building explicitly on previous periods, previous examples, previous cultural layers?

 

Image: Delphic poems, 2nd C BC. Source: wikicommons