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Mobilities of/in Urban Narratives

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Starting from the recent encounter between mobility and the humanities, this Symposium meets the international Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/hlc-n/) to take advantage of its peculiar interdisciplinarity and focus on the representation of urban space as a significant lens to understand mobilities in both their diachronic and synchronic dimension. On the one hand, cities have always been spaces of interchange and fluxes. They define the rhythms of circulation of ideas and texts, human and non-human entities, but they also often reinforce the contrasts between voluntary and involuntary (im)mobilities. On the other hand, narratives (in literature, comics, movies, TV series) are themselves able to ‘move’. They provoke both physical and affective motion; they can lead or activate cognitive movement, where they call for an active participation of the reader/observer in the composition of the narrative thread or in the exploration of narrative space; they also mobilize, when they stimulate new practices to move across space and to re-signify place.

For all these reasons, we interpret urban narratives as the perfectlaboratory for an interdisciplinary dialogue between literary urban studies and literary geographies around the ‘new mobilities paradigm’ and, through this symposium, we aim to promote a dialogue across the disciplines on the different forms through which mobilities are both represented in and practiced through urban narratives.

With the urban as a common frame, areas which presentations could focus on include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Narratives’ ability to ‘move’ audiences in emotional and cognitive terms;

• How narratives can bring about changes of meaning in place, thus ‘mobilising’ place;

• Specific types of urban mobility as mediated in narratives and cultural representations (e.g. pedestrianism, automobility, experiences of public transport);

• Specific categories of urban space that function as hubs of mobility and the experiences connected to them: railway stations, airports, road junctions, streets;

• Books as mobile objects (in the city);

• Book collections as moving assemblages;

• The mobility of books in terms of transfer, encounter, and exchange;

• Comparison of different media and artistic forms as means of grasping urban mobilities (photography, film and TV, the novel, autobiography and travel writing, drawing and painting, musical genres and styles);

• Concepts valuable in the discussion of urban mobillities as mediated in multiple cultural forms (acceleration and deceleration; simultaneity; rhythm and syncopation; repetition; stillness and immobility);

• Mobilities of scale, including over longer temporal phases;

• Domestic mobilities including representations of relations (class, gender, ethnic, etc) within buildings, and within lived neighbourhoods, between private and public spaces;

• Relationships of physical and social mobility (including the border-crossing of moves to and from the city such as inward and outward migrations spanning various distances);

• Relationships of distribution and circulation contained in publishing and book/newspaper/magazine production;

• Digital circulations and virtual mobilities in relation to representations of the city;

• Mobility between cities and different urban contexts within or beyond the same region, country or continent.

• Reading texts as a mobilizing practice to explore urban space;

• Reading paths within cities (from literary ‘implicit maps’ to literary tourism practices and circuits);

• Texts as triggers of real/physical/bodily and imaginary/fictional/virtual movement;

• Mobile literary methodologies to explore urban space.


DiSSGeA, Centre for Advanced Studies in Mobility and the Humanities, University of Padova in Collaboration with the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS)


Symposium, DiSSGeA, University of Padua, Italy


27th September 2019


Giada Peterle

Schermata 2020-01-12 alle 16.30.53