The First International Conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies,.University of Tampere, Finland, August 23-24, 2017
In the wake of two successful international conferences under the auspices of the Helsinki Literature and the City Network, we are welcoming scholars interested in urban writing to the first international conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS), to be organized at the University of Tampere, Finland.
This inaugural conference will be devoted to the theme of possible and impossible cities, the links between them, and the complex relationships between city imaginaries and real-world cities. This topic acknowledges the debt that literary cities owe to real-life city plans, and the similar debt that visions of urban development owe to the imaginary scenarios put forth in fictional narratives. The conference theme straddles a variety of fields, including literary urban studies, urban planning theory, cultural geography, and future studies. The two keynote speakers of the conference are Ayona Datta (King’s College London) and Eric Prieto (University of California, Santa Barbara).
In the sense that cities are sites for envisioning the future, questions of possibility and potentiality have always been prominent in urban theory. In the last sixty years, such queries have often taken the form of re-imagined political geographies and approaches to what constitutes ‘the good city’, including Henri Lefebvre’s conceptions of the ‘right to the city’ and ‘the urban revolution’, David Harvey’s ‘spaces of hope’, and Jane Jacobs’s call for cities to build on their community assets. But utopian features in imaginations of the city (from Plato onwards), as well as fantastic elements in even the most realistic city literature (in Victor Hugo’s Paris, for example) have not only drawn attention to what life can learn from literature, they have also problematized the relationship between imagined cities and their real-life counterparts.
In literary history, a long continuum of cities that stretch the limits of the possible runs through the work of writers from Thomas More, Alexander Pushkin, and Italo Calvino to contemporary speculative fiction, including twenty-first-century dystopias and urban climate fiction. Like Calvino’s no-longer-possible miniature versions of the city of Fedora, displayed in crystal globes in a section of Invisible Cities, some fictitious cities represent alternative futures conceivable at a specific moment in time. Other literary cities, such as the London of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, are impossible from the outset but draw attention to everyday urban potentialities in ways that demand attention. Yet others would seem to represent something akin to real-life cities but cannot – due to their very identity as linguistic, imagined constructions – avoid engaging with the (im)possible. The examination of literary cities as impossible (imaginary, non-existent) or possible (future, alternative, desirable) thus also encourages reflections concerning the referentiality of literary cities. The conference ‘(Im)Possible Cities’ seeks new approaches to these intertwinings of possibility and impossibility in cities and texts.
For more information contact:
Markku Salmela, University of Tampere (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lieven Ameel, University of Tampere (email@example.com)
Jason Finch, Åbo Akademi University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Further information will be posted on the conference website at www.uta.fi/conference/impossiblecities2017.