Stories by the City, Stories by the Sea: Locative Literature and Narrative Archaeology
Verity Hunt, 25 Oct 2016, CEIR Seminar Series
Unless you are extremely adept at avoiding news on popular culture, you must have, in one way or another, encountered the mobile sensation that is Pokémon Go. In the past six months this augmented reality phenomenon has launched location-based gaming into the public consciousness. In the first paper in this year’s CEIR series, Dr Verity Hunt began by encouraging us to imagine if our smartphones alerted us to nearby voices from the past, rather than the presence of Pikachus. What if your phone could provide you, for example, with a story about the Victorian world set in the place you are standing, incorporating the archaeological traces of nineteenth-century narratives that permeate the built landscapes of our cities?
This is exactly what a team at the University of Southampton are achieving with the Story Places project, combining story-telling skills with the location-based technology behind Pokémon Go to create interactive historical landscapes. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the project has built a location-aware, storytelling application for smartphones, which supports situated stories interwoven with the places they are read. The team worked with a range of creative writers, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, taking three case study places as way to explore the potential of the application: Southampton Old Town and Docks, the Bournemouth Natural Science Society and the Crystal Palace Park in South London. (more…)
In the first of an ongoing series of posts, Katherine Mansfield, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, introduces her project: Sensationalising the New Woman: Crossing the Boundaries between Sensation and New Woman literature, 1859–1901.
Critical discussion regarding Sensation fiction has tended to focus on the genre itself, examining its main themes, such as the devious and criminal wife, and the bigamy and murder plots; in contrast, New Woman studies has placed the genre in relation to other fin-de-siècle movements, for example decadence and first-wave feminism, but has not paid much attention to links with earlier developments. Equally, the first phase of Sensation and New Woman fiction has remained within strict time boundaries; 1860-1880 for Sensation fiction, and 1880–1900 for New Woman literature. In my PhD project I seek to move beyond these limitations to conceptualise and explore the connections between Sensation and New Woman fiction, investigating the extent to which Sensation literature is a forerunner to the early development of the New Woman novel; and consequently how the two genres blur, or cross, temporal and conceptual boundaries. (more…)
In the sixth of an ongoing series of posts, Harriet Gordon, a second-year doctoral candidate based in Cardiff’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, discusses the early steps of her project: a book historical study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s global literary networks. Harriet’s project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW-DTP).
Edward Said writes that ‘none of us is outside or beyond geography; none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography’. The life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson is, perhaps more than most, intimately bound up with his geography. From the ambivalent relationship with his home town of Edinburgh, to his exploration of the conditions and effects of emigration in the New World, to his depictions of transculturation in the contact zones of the Pacific, issues of place and space, and their relation to identity, permeate both his biography and his writing. (more…)
It is these parallels, then, between the past and the present (as outlined in the first part of this piece) that help us to appreciate that there is nothing particularly ‘new’ about new media as all media were once new. As Carolyn Marvin observes:
New technologies is a historically relative term. We are not the first generation to wonder at the rapid and extraordinary shifts in the dimension of the world and the human relationships it contains as a result of new forms of communication, or to be surprised by the changes those shifts occasion in the regular pattern of our lives.
Marvin limits her study to electric communications, beginning with the invention of the telegraph, which she sees as the starting point of modern mass media and culture. But, perhaps mass media began in the Victorian period with the illustrated book and illustrated periodicals such as the ILN and the Graphic. This is the argument that Patricia Anderson puts forward in her book The Printed Image and the Transformation of Popular Culture1790–1860, where she asserts that advances in printing technology and its ‘associated imagery’ brought about the ‘beginnings of a modern mass culture’ in the Victorian era. Furthermore, she goes on to write that ‘the concept of “mass” carries with it a historical perception of unprecedentedness’ and during that period ‘there was among both the producers and consumers of the emerging culture a shared consciousness that they were participating in a fundamental and far reaching change in the structure of knowledge and communication.’ This sense of ‘unprecedentedness’ is being echoed today, throughout wider culture and, significantly, within academia as a consequence of the digital and its potential impact on research. As the authors of Digtial_Humanities observe, ‘we see this moment as marking a fundamental shift in the perception of the core creative activities of being human, in which the values and knowledge of the humanities are seen as crucial for shaping every domain of culture and society.’
Developed around the late 1780s by Thomas Bewick, wood engraving allowed artists to create images with a high level of sophistication that could be reproduced easily and cheaply. Because the wood used to engrave the images was usually boxwood it was very durable and the wood blocks could be set alongside type in the printing press which allowed for word and image to be combined on a single page. As Brian Maidment notes, ‘Wood engraving vastly extended the possibility of integrating text and image into the same printed page using cheap and technically simple methods.’ Wood engraving, combined with more efficient printing techniques, meant that the literature business was transformed into a mass-produced commercial industry and, for the first time, illustrated books became affordable to working and middle class families.