British Association for American Studies


Summer Scholars: Polar Exploration / Island of Demons (British Library)

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Summer Scholars: Polar Exploration / Island of Demons (British Library)

August 7, 2015 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Summer Scholars Friday 7 August

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  • Over the Ice: When Polar Explorers Took to the Skies

Marionne Cronin (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow) discusses her research into how the use of new, cutting-edge technologies reshaped the popular culture of polar exploration.

  • Sea Birds, Lost Bodies, and Phantom Islands on the Event Horizon of the New World

J. R. Carpenter (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow) will present her research on the strange tales of an Island of Demons off the coast of Newfoundland which have persisted in maps and literature from the early 1500s to the present day.


‘Over the Ice: When Polar Explorers Took to the Skies’

Marionne Cronin, University of Aberdeen (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow)

In the 1920s, polar explorers embraced the new possibilities offered by aircraft and took to the sky.  But what did this mean for popular ideas about polar exploration?  How did this cutting-edge technology fit with existing images of the Polar Regions and polar explorers?  This paper discusses how the nature of polar exploration was reimagined in the age of aerial exploration and how the emergence of the figure of the technological explorer can tell us more about Americans’ intertwined concepts of modernity, progress, masculinity, race, and national identity in the interwar years.

Dr Marionne Cronin is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Northern Colonialism Programme at the University of Aberdeen, where her research investigates the place of technology in the culture of polar exploration.  She is currently working on a book examining how interwar polar explorers’ use of new technologies – particularly airplanes – was incorporated into popular images of heroic exploration, masculinity, and modernity.  She will be an Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow in North American Studies in June-August 2015.

‘Sea Birds, Lost Bodies, and Phantom Islands on the Event Horizon of the New World’

JR Carpenter, Independent (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow)

This paper will undertake a comparative literary and cartographic analysis of phantom islands of the New World through an examination of a contemporary work of digital literature – There he was, gone. (Carpenter 2012) [http://luckysoap.com/therehewasgone]. Maps dating back to the early 1500s show an Isle of Birds off the North East coast of Newfoundland. For just as long there have been reports of an Island of Demons or Devils in that region, inhabited by wild animals, mythological creatures, evil spirits, and demons. In 1542 the explorer Jean-Francois de La Rocque cast his niece Marguerite ashore on a deserted island off Newfoundland, allegedly for sins of adultery. Upon her rescue over two years later, she recounted tales of howling winds, snow-white beasts, and the demonic screeching of seabirds. In Shakespeare’sThe Tempest (1610), washed ashore on Prospero’s enchanted island, Ferdinand cries: “Hell is empty, And all the devils are here!” In There he was, gone., a computer-generated narrative dialogue situated within a cartographic collage of coastal Newfoundland perpetually evokes but can never quite enunciate the circumstances surrounding a recent traumatic event, a body, a loss, at sea. A live-feed displays a marine weather forecast for Funk Island, so named for the evil stink of centuries of accumulated guano. This barren scrap of land lies just off the edge of this map, just beyond the boundaries of the browser window. In early modern maps and literature, the Isle of Demons represents a persistent belief in a pronounced evil off the shores of North America. In There he was, gone., Funk Island represents the furthest ‘there’ the interlocutors can imagine that ‘he’ might have gone to. In this paper I will situated these islands on an event horizon, hovering at the outer limit of narratives of the unknown.

J. R. Carpenter is a Canadian artist, writer, researcher, performer, and maker of maps, zines, artist’s books, poetry, short fiction, long fiction, non-fiction, and non-linear, intertextual, hypermedia, and computer-generated narratives. Her pioneering works of digital literature have been exhibited, published, performed, and presented in journals, galleries, museums, and festivals around the world. Her critical writing has appeared in numerous books, catalogues, and journals including Performance ResearchJournal of Writing in Creative PracticeThe Literary Platform, and Jacket2. Her recently-completed PhD thesis, Writing Coastlines: Locating Narrative Resonance in Transatlantic Communications Networks, drew upon the emerging fields of performance writing, digital literature, and media archaeology to interrogate narratives which resonate in the spaces between places separated by time, distance and ocean yet inextricably linked by generations of immigration. She lives in South Devon. http://luckysoap.com/


August 7, 2015
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Eccles Centre for American Studies
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British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB United Kingdom
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0843 208 1144
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