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Urban Literary Geographies Mapping the city through narrative interpretation and creative practice

Cities have always been at the centre of interdisciplinary research, their intrinsic complexity asking for multiple languages to be told and disparate critical tools to be understood. Taking interdisciplinarity as its main epistemological tool, the present Research Program aims to start from the exchange between geography and literary studies within the re-emerging field of literary geography to explore contemporary urban landscapes as one of the most relevant postmodern spatial issues. In fact, whereas the urban is spreading around the globe, becoming the dominant form of dwelling in space, traditional tools for spatial analysis seem to be inappropriate to react to the crisis in the readability of what counts as a city today. As witnessed by the recent birth of the field of the GeoHumanities, arts and humanities seem to provide geographers with useful strategies to start ‘reimagining the urban’ from unpredicted perspectives.

 

Focusing on the narrative representation of urban landscapes (from literature to comic books and storytelling more in general) the Program tries to revitalize the traditional methods for critical textual interpretation to read contemporary urban landscapes. Moreover, considering texts not as static representations but as emerging practices, writing and reading texts are compared to the practices of walking/driving/dwelling in the city, collapsing the borders between the ‘text about the city’ and the ‘city as a living text’. UrLitGe’s projetcs is structured around several lines of research, from literary geography to urban and map studies, from the focus on creativity and performativity to that on the recent field of comic book geography. Each of these lines permits to deepen a specific field of study as well as to bring all these multiple perspectives together, enhancing the interdisciplinary exchange through a comparative dialogue.

 

Therefore, the Research Program refers to a composite set of methodologies. First of all, the study will refer to a comparative approach to different urban texts and narratives, sharing the same topic but differing in their peculiar narrative forms and contents. Second, it will rely on the theoretical and conceptual comparison between several disciplinary perspectives, trying to create a common ‘vocabulary’ for geographers and literary scholars working in the field of urban literary geographies. Third, the Researcher will not be limited to be a passive reader of urban narratives but will be actively engaged in a creative and performative research process, trying to embrace art-based methodologies as prolific tools within geoliterary research. In fact, the Program’s most innovative proposal would be to introduce geography’s recent exploration of creative methodologies for qualitative research into the field of urban literary geography, hoping to promote a ‘creative turn’ within a more traditionally intended literary geography.

Finally, the Research Program argues the crisis in the readability of urban landscapes is not simply a spatial issue for academic scholars but even for a broader audience of city-dwellers, whose everyday experience is defined by urban spatialities, practices and rhythms. Thus, through its diverse set of research outputs, the Research Program will be addressed to both a specialistic interdisciplinary network and international audience within the academia, as well as a broader NON-ACADEMIC community: academic papers, international conference presentations and symposia will, therefore, be accompanied by a set of creative outputs and dissemination activities.