Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru (University of Bucharest)
What Makes a Capital? Violence, Architecture and the Media in New York City
If not the political capital of the US (with Washington having been built specifically to perform this function), New York is considered the leading US city in many other ways. One of them is that it is the largest media market in North America and, on the downside, a capital of violence, which is very much reflected on and perpetuated by the media. The aggressive intertwining of the city's history with that of the media goes back to the establishment of the latter as ‘Fourth Estate’. A dominant rhetoric of media violence is created, which influences even the architecture of the city (see Aurora Wallace's 2012 book Media Capital: Architecture and Communications in New York City). More recently, New York seems to have become a faithful spatial urban projection of Manuel Castells' ‘network society’, with its street life being always synchronized mediatically with the global world.
This paper will draw on a number of print media, new media and literary texts (such as The New Yorker, Facebook, Michael Almereyda's film Hamlet 2000, Salman Rushdie's novels Fury and Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights) to analyze the question whether today's post-fin-de-siècle New York urban space still a projection of media power and, if it is, whether the new media have replaced more traditional media forms, as well as the implications of this phenomenon.
Vassil Anastassov (Fatih University, Istambul)
Constantinopolis – Civitas Paradigmatica
(What is it that Makes Istambul Paradigmatic City? The City as Text)
The paper examines the different levels of cultural history that modern Istanbul is based upon as the elements of a paradigm. The mosaic of the urban structure of the ‘megapolis’ is thus compared to the intertextuality of a piece of literature. A parallel between ‘textual structure’ and ‘urban structure’ on a diachronic basis reveal the semiotic value of the city in its paradigmatic unity.
Oana Bosca-Malin (University of Bucharest)
Una giornata particolare in Rome: the Essence of Masse Fascism at Its Peak
This paper takes into analytical account the movie picture Una giornata particolare (Ettore Scola, 1977) and aims to demonstrate that it offers Mussolini’s Rome in a nutshell and the freezing image of the Fascist regime in one of the most glorious moments of its history. The macrostoria faces the microstoria: in every detail lies a metaphor and a piece of information, from the architecture to the back sound and to the interior details, and the scenography, along with the dynamics of the relationship between the two protagonists, is able to depict the reality and the spirit of a capital, of a regime, of an era.
Elena Butoescu (University of Craiova, Romania)
Chronicles from the Galata Bridge, or Geert Mak’s Multi-Ethnic Heterotopian Space
The present paper explores the role that the Galata Bridge (Köprü) has played in the history of Istanbul since the sixth century AD by connecting the two shores of the Golden Horn, the old walled city of Stamboul with Beyoğlu, the northern district of Istanbul. In The Bridge: A Journey Between Orient and Occident (2007), the Dutch historian Geert Mak introduces the reader to the bridge as a multi-ethnic space, where Turkey’s history discourses with Europe and the West, where the Armenian issue is still painful, and where people live their everyday existence struggling desperately to survive. The bridge is a microcosmic city within a metropolis which not only links European and Asian shores both geographically and culturally, but it has become a visible city in itself, inhabited with different ethnic groups (Jews, Greeks, Persians, Armenians, and others), with petty thieves and police officers, tourists and fishermen, cigarette boys and waiters, booksellers and musicians, the perfume vendor and the tea vendor, the umbrella salesman and the woman who sells lottery tickets. On the bridge it smells of fat sardines and fried fish as well as of multiple historical layers – the former Byzantine and Roman Istanbul and the present cosmopolis. I will endeavour to make evident that the Galata bridge is, in Foucauldian terms, a heterotopian space, since it can, at times, become a site of ‘crisis;’ it has had specific functions at different times in history; it is based on an ambivalent system of opening and closing, entry and exit; and it exists in relation with other particular places in order to generate a new symbolic urban culture. The article also argues that if mobility is a significant aspect of modernity and of the global world, the bridge functions both as a metonym for the region it created and as a symbolic chronotope uniting sides, shores, cultures, ethnic groups, religions, tastes, and histories.
Zelma Catalan (Sofia University)
Encountering the Metropolis in the Victorian Novel: First Impressions, Lasting Effects
The arrival of a young, callow man or woman into the metropolis to face the trials of modern urban existence is a staple element of the novel but never more so than in the nineteenth-century. Many novelists devote whole scenes to those first encounters almost always focalized by the hero or heroine even in heterodiegetic narratives. Those scenes, and their descriptive sections in particular, carry a high mimetic potential, with the time of viewing and the viewer’s location accurately recording all that would catch the attention of any newcomer. In my paper I will be looking at several such scenes from works by Dickens and Charlotte Bronte where there is a single focalizer and yet the presentation carries the evidence of a knowledgeable, city-wise mind. This is not surprising given that the writers themselves were London-based or at least fully familiar with the capital. What I want to argue is that these scenes narrate not just first impression but also carry the seeds for the subsequent action. Furthermore, from the very first they naturalize the unity between subject and object of viewing, setting up the perspectives that will then enable the creation of tensions and conflicts. I will be supporting my analysis with some recent research on visual attention, as well as using the insights of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception.
Nick Ceramella (Independent Scholar, Italy)
Italy: The Multi-Capitals Country
In this paper we will see why Italy had different capitals, and why that was an issue until 2001. In brief, following the unification of the Italian peninsula, on 17 March 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, although Rome was designated as its ‘moral capital’, Turin became its first capital. Yet, due to an agreement with France, it was moved to Florence from 1865 until 1870. Only on 1st July, Rome was declared capital of Italy. Then, it was the turn of Brindisi and Salerno, through two short periods, between September 1943 and February 1944. It will be surprising to notice that Rome was granted the constitutional status of Capital as late as 2001, after the reformation of the Title V of the Italian Constitution. But that is not the end of the story, since Milan has continued to be considered the ‘real capital’, the moral / financial capital vs. the corrupt and decadent Rome. Will there be another change? Besides approaching all the above from a historical point of view, as a literature expert, it is to Dante onwards that I think we must trace back those events which concern us here, and which so much contributed to the unification of Italy and the proclamation of Rome as its capital.
Péter Dávidházi (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for the Humanities, Institute for Literary Studies, Budapest)
A Sinful City for the Lord:
Nineveh in Mihály Babits’s Book of Jonah
Unlike in the Bible, Nineveh remains wicked and stubbornly unrepentant all through Mihály Babits’s poem Jónás könyve (The Book of Jonah); nevertheless the Lord does not destroy it in the end. This is perhaps the most significant, though by no means the only, poetic alteration in this classic masterpiece of Hungarian literature, and one that makes the final encounter between Jonah and the Lord all the more telling. How can the Lord justify his merciful decision, an explanation that required only two verses (Jon 4:10–11) in the Bible, by the eloquently grandiose oration disguised as a pedagogical exercise in no less than 32 lines in Babits’s poem? What was the archaic logic and what were the contemporary allusions of this passionate defence in 1938, on the eve of destruction, when Babits’s poem was written and first published? Moreover, collating the poem with the biblical text, how can we interpret the striking or subtle differences between the two lines of argument, each trying to make the most of their respective versions of the plot? Finally, when considering also Babits’s subsequent lyrical poem, Jónás imája (Jonah’s Prayer), written in 1939, what does the implied analogy of the reluctant Old Testament prophet and the modern poet tell us today, living as we do in cities much bigger than Nineveh ever was, and still not being able to distinguish between our right and left hands?
Gabriel H. Decuble (University of Bucharest)
The ‘Cool Person’ Facing the ‘Architectural Uncanny’: Why Postmodern Cities are Uncentered
It’s not as if postmodern Western culture had built its paradigmatic city on rock (& roll), but on steel & glass fiber. One couldn’t shake loose, given their interconnectedness, and yet one has to stand firm. Before World War II moral decay in European metropolises (e.g. Berlin) was given the aesthetic answer of a detached attitude (cf. Helmuth Lethen’s concept of ‘cool conduct’). Thus the literary program of New Objectivity (‘Neue Sachlichkeit’) has emerged announcing a certain resistance of both humanity and art against the unmanageable mass-society. Bertolt Brecht’s Reader for Those Who Live in Cities is an example. Present-day’s mass-communication and the continuous exposure to the ‘architectural uncanny’ (A. Vidler) impose a new moral conduct beyond scruple and vigilance at the upper extremity, moral incontinence or militant amoralism at the lower extremity respectively. Facing the vertiginous technological burst humanity and art are far from formulating a programmatic aesthetic answer, but for all that they develop what I would call a conditio vagans, a condition of mobility and a vague symptom at once. The middle-class doesn’t shrink, as many sociologists complain, it’s just always being on trip, in the same way as postmodern cities are quintessentially uncentered.
Júlia Demeter (ex Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest)
Planning Theatres – Turning a City into a Capital
The paper examines the first theatres in Pest−Buda (the present Budapest) between the 1770s and 1837, i.e., the beginning of the period when the mostly German speaking city became the Hungarian capital. The efforts for establishing a permanent Hungarian theatre were much influenced by Schiller’s idea of moral theatre combined with the notion of patriotic theatre. Theatre was considered to be the most effective means of spreading and developing national language and culture; thus, attending the performances was a must for the young intellectuals working in Pest. The city attracted more and more people. Founding a theatre was not just a financial issue (though money was an important factor, of course) but deciding the site, the size and the style of the building was closely connected to the urban future of the city, to the social content of the audience, etc.; thus, it marked the framework of (new) public spaces. The planners, the generous sponsors, and the investors well understood their responsibility and laid the foundation of a busy, modern downtown.
Cezara Dragomir (University of Bucharest)
The City as Means of Identity Construction in Băiuțeii, by Filip and Matei Florian
Băiuțeii, by Filip Florian and Matei Florian, is a book that is made up of childhood memories shared by two brothers, Matei and Filip, that they exchange as letters. They grew up on Băiuț Alley in the Bucharest neighbourhood called Drumul Taberei, and their stories revolve around–and are a testimony of–how growing up on that particular street and neighbourhood forged their identity. Bucharest thus becomes a tool, not only a background. The times are the 1980s but this is not a typical communist set story that has become so fashionable in the past years. The eleven-year gap between the two brothers and authors leads to different perspectives on the same situations, but which they have, however, lived and experienced differently due to their subjective memory of the past. Collective and individual memory thus have a double effect in this story: they shape the identity of the two characters, who, in their turn, shape the identity of the city by identifying themselves with it.
John Dunkley (University of Aberdeen)
Haussmann and Zola
Paris in the mid nineteenth century was, despite some earlier piecemeal gestures towards redevelopment, still basically a medieval city. Napoleon III, who had been impressed with London, used Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine from 1853, to carry out the vast plans for its redevelopment which would enable it to become a modern European city. These entailed prolonged reconstruction on an unprecedented scale. This paper broadly outlines these plans and the diverse reactions to the disruption and achievements of the Emperor and his Prefect. It focusses particularly on the consequences and reactions to the reconstruction of the city as they are transmitted through some of the naturalist novels of Emile Zola. Although La Curée (tr. The Kill) is generally taken to be the novel which most clearly encapsulates the workings of Haussmann's plan, other novels modify the picture and reveal the complexity of the reactions of different sections of the population according to the effects that the wholesale architectural, topographical and social changes had upon their lives.
Simon Edwards (University of Graz, Austria)
Wells, Orwell and Suburbia: Modernism, Urbanity and Carpet Bombing.
John Carey’s brilliant 1992 study The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia 1880-1939 is an indispensable guide to all of us who have had grave reservations about literary Modernism. After the horrors of Nazi-ism its complicity with the politics of mass extermination and total war was politely occluded in the formation of a post WW2 academic canon to include Lawrence, Joyce, Yeats, Eliot, Woolf, Forster, Conrad and Pound. Each chapter of this book ought to be seminal as it exposes these writers and their less ‘distinguished’ contemporaries as fantasists of ethnic cleansing and an always less than benign autocratic rule. These are not just blips in the history of ideas, as we may be reminded in the case of the staggering ease with which the very term ‘ethnic cleansing’ returned, as if a wholly neutral usage, to general discourse during the break-up of the former state of Yugoslavia.
On the occasion of this conference on the Paradigmatic City I shall want to examine one of the key categories in Carey’s polemic: the suburban. Anathematised as it was throughout the period (and still is) it is worth examining the ways in which apparently non-modernist, leftist novelists – H G Wells and George Orwell – reserve some of their profoundest contempt for the inhabitants of outer London – relishing the prospect of its systematic destruction – as possibly, and prophetically, it will transpire in forms of aerial warfare (cf. The War of the Worlds; Coming Up For Air). As well as richly deserving its fate, the suburban becomes the anti-paradigm of both the City as the source of cultural power and authority and the countryside as site of an organic authenticity of being. Wells’s early fiction emerges from a late 19c matrix of utopian and dystopian writing (Morris, Jeffries, et al), while, shockingly, Orwell’s work carries curious echoes of Fascist ideology.
The Fabian and social democratic principles which make up the acceptable face of these two writers arguably contribute to some of the failures and disasters of post war building programmes, not only in Britain, in the drive to create a ‘modern’ global quasi-urban fabric which most of us inhabit while dreaming of an inaccessible ‘elsewhere’. This is the ground on which literature and the holiday brochure/website meet and clash.
Christoph Ehland (University of Paderborn, Germany)
Monumental Capital: Memories of a Nation Before Brexit
In March 2016 all media-hell broke loose when Top Gear’s Chris Evans raced a muscle car through Whitehall in London. His inner-city stunt – performed in close proximity of Lutyen’s Cenotaph – was seen by some outraged commentators as an act of desecration of one of the nation’s most sacrosanct places. Apologies were quickly issued by BBC directors who were bowed down with sorrow, and even the notoriously irreverent Chris Evans felt obliged to publicly regret his sacrilege. The commotion around the Cenotaph affair aptly illustrates the moral exclusion zone that surrounds places of collective memory in the British capital.
This paper aims to explore these ideologically sensitive zones in the centre of London. In doing so, it will concentrate on the more recent additions of monuments and statuary to the city’s commemorative landscape. The discussion will focus on the cultural practices instrumental in claiming significant parts of Westminster, Whitehall and Hyde Park Corner as places of national memory. It will contextualise the monuments that have been erected over the last decade in the wider history and politics of commemorative activities in these places. With regard to this, it will not only reveal an alarming degree of national self-absorbedness prior to the Brexit referendum, but also illustrate the extent to which monuments can serve as a powerful tool in national memory.
Patricia Erskine-Hill (NADFAS lecturer, UK)
The Making of Venice, from Swamp to Serenissima
This illustrated talk describes the genesis of a city, much of it shrouded in folklore and myth, but wholly believable in the light of historical facts. Why was it founded, how was it built – on water, astoundingly – and what gave it the strength and pliability to endure for over 1,000 years? Venice stands apart from the other city states of Italy for its distinctive commercial, artistic and literary output, and it shines now as a beacon from the past, recognizable to a returning sixteenth century native in a way no other city is.
Maria Fengler (University of Gdansk, Poland)
The Picture of Dublin in Dermot Bolger’s The Journey Home
At once central and peripheral, metropolitan and colonial, Dublin always had a complex relationship with the island of which it is the capital. These tensions only intensified after Ireland regained independence. Dublin’s very urbanity and cultural hybridity contrasted with the experience of the mainly rural population and with the republican view of Irish identity, which located essential Irishness in the rural west. At the same time, Dublin grew rapidly, its suburbs swallowing the neighbouring countryside and old rural communities.
These tensions underlie the vision of Dublin presented in Dermot Bolger’s The Journey Home (1990). Employing the noir convention, the novel follows its alienated young protagonists, brought up in the ‘limbo’ of Dublin suburbs, as they escape from the corruption of the city to the rural west. Meanwhile, flashbacks chart the experience of the generation of their parents, for whom the suburbs meant both ‘exile’ from their native communities and a promise of opportunity and social advancement. In the social realities of the economic slump of the 1980s, however, the dream of better life fails to materialise, leaving the children stranded in the nightmarish wasteland of Dublin, unsuccessfully trying to find their identity and a sense of belonging.
Flavio Gregori (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice)
Anomic City: Early Eighteenth-Century Satiric Descriptions of London
The paper will consider the hustle and bustle of the early metropolis as represented in the London descriptions of early 18th-century satire. I shall focus on Jonathan Swift’s two ‘Descriptions’ (‘of a city shower’ and ‘of the morning’) and John Gay’s ‘Trivia, or the Art of walking through the Streets of London’. The aim of the paper is to demonstrate the interlacing of the satiric genre(s) adopted by Swift and Gay (and others) and the anomic quality of the metropolis, where chaos may turn into order and vice versa.
László Gyapay (University of Miskolc, Hungary)
Buda Presented as the Symbol of National Might and Decline: Dániel Berzsenyi, To the Hungarians
The contrast between ancient might and present decline was a key issue of late 18th and early 19th-century Hungarian literature. The juxtaposition of glorious past and disgraceful present is a central motif of three of the nationally most important Hungarian poems: Ferenc Kölcsey’s Hymn (1823), which became the national anthem, Mihály Vörösmarty’s Appeal (1836), which is considered as a second national anthem and Sándor Petőfi’s National Song (1848), which may be regarded as a kind of revolutionary symbol of the nation. Berzsenyi’s ode, strongly inspired by Horace’s Ad populum romanum, occupies an equally prominent position in the Hungarian canon. In the poem, national might is closely associated with the stronghold of Buda and its decay foreshadows the tragic fate the Hungarians, which is presented especially threatening by recalling the decline of Carthage, Babylon and Rome. The paper takes into analytical account the reception of the poem, whose obvious tendency is the often passionate struggle with Berzseny’s possible gloomy interpretation of national history.
Gábor Gyáni (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for the Humanities, Institute of History, Budapest)
The Metropolis as a Symbol for Modernity
The metropolis as a ‘primate city’ gains its disproportionate size and enhanced importance by sharply separating itself from, and standing above, all other cities in the area. However, it maintains close ties with giant cities, the ‘world cities’; they thus form an interregional and supranational communications networks. The metropolis at the same time, as physical representation of an entire universe of her own age (Jerusalem, Rome, Paris, New York) represents and even expresses the essence of any actual civilization. Accordingly, the metropolises are taken as symbols for the true modernity since from at least the mid-19th century onwards.
Christoph Houswitschka (University of Bamberg)
Rome and its Successor: Ancient London in Bernadine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe (2001)
This paper reads a contemporary verse novel, Bernadine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe (2001) as a story of seduction by power. Rome is the Empire’s capital, London will inherit it. Zuleika is a black girl who has a stormy love affair with Septimus Severus, the first black Emperor visiting London to defend Hadrian’s Wall. Zuleika is seduced by the power of Empire not realising that she will perish. Zuleika’s body turns into an object of the Empire that is used and discarded of. The novel constructs the post-colonial and gender aspects of the black female body’s involvement with the Empire not as the story of a victimised individual, but as Zuleika’s body complicit with imperial power representing knowledge. The Emperor’s babe is invested in the exploitative structure of Empire hoping to benefit, but eventually being wasted thus partaking in London’s rise to power.
Raúl Ianes (Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA)
Madrid in 1898: at the End of the Century and the Empire
This presentation will address the situational and cultural role that Madrid assumes at the end of the XIX century with the loss of the last Spanish colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico, hilippines, Guam) to the United States after el desastre of the war of 1898. Once the capital of an empire ‘where the sun never sets’, Madrid, in the centre of Spain and the new world, becomes the humble capital of a minor European power. This reflection upon that passing from one urban and world rank to another, focuses on the phenomenon from a cultural and literary perspective, highlighting the substantial and defining elements that characterize the new urban role of the Spanish capital.
Mihaela Irimia (University of Bucharest)
Sailing from Byzantium
Held as a symbolic repository of cultural identity in South-Eastern European cultures, Byzantium has witnessed a series of sea changes, from its geographic take-over of the Christian Orthodox identitary badge to the complex legacy it has left across the Old World. Referred to as the Second Rome, after the official settlement of Christianity as the one leading religion in Europe, it stood up to confrontations and clashes with its symbolic other and acted as Roma Nova very much in the same way in which Troynovant did for London, in the attempt to secure a mythical origin to the latter. Troy – Rome – the City as recurrent identitary marks/names are dealt with in the present paper, which considers the literary fate of Byzantium in Yeats’s poems of the same referential nature and in the Romanian 20th poet Ion Barbu. In so doing, the paper looks into the special case of Hisarlɪk, a village that would have never been heard of, had it not been for the historic excavations related to Troy, in which ancient cultural pride came to the fore as covered in layers of unknown history. Hence the title ‘Sailing from Byzantium’, that is away from onetime glory into down-to-earth history.
Dragoş Manea (University of Bucharest)
Harap Alb continuă and the Aesthetics of the Historical Fantasy City
This paper analyzes the most popular publication on the recent Romanian comic book market, HAC – Harap Alb continuă (Harap Alb Continues, 2012–) – as a case study for the post-communist refashioning of national mythology, in the wake of Ceausescu’s ultranationalist dictatorship. Harap Alb Continues is the ongoing work of a collective of young independent comic book creators from Bucharest who successfully capitalized on the blurriness that exists between the comic book superhero and the traditional fairytale hero in order to produce an adaptation that blends figures from Romanian folklore and the American superhero tradition. The comic is a fascinating example of a completely glocalised product, considering that it is a Romanian fairytale adapted in a manner that relies on the aesthetics of superhero comics, full of muscular heroes and hourglass-shaped heroines. It became an instant hit and the best-selling serialized comic in a country where graphic narratives are still viewed with scepticism. In conversation with Henry Jenkins, Marie-Laure Ryan, and Astrid Erll, my paper attempts to analyze the strategies used by Harap Alb continuă in the process of constructing historical fantasy cities – a construction that draws on Romanian nationalist mythology, while paradoxically employing the aesthetics of mainstream American comics.
Mirosława Modrzewska (University of Gdańsk)
The Capital of Kashubia by Huelle
The city of Gdańsk, a Polish Baltic port town which is now part of the tri-city (Gdańsk-Sopot-Gdynia) is culturally recognized as the capital of Kashubia or Cassubia (Kashubian: Kaszëbë, Polish: Kaszuby, German: Kaschubei, Kaschubien), which is the Eastern Pomerania (Pomerelia) region of northwestern Poland. The Kashubian language, recognized as a separate language in northern Poland and a Polish dialect in other parts of the country, is a living language of Kashubians cultivated and developed by writers and intellectuals. One of the most important Gdańsk writers referring to Kashubia in his works is Paweł Huelle (born in 1957), an author writing in Polish but for a global addressee, and translated into more than twenty languages. In his novels and short stories, Huelle creates a mythologized narrative of a historic city of Gdańsk with a complicated past in which ‘Kashubian’ used to mean ‘neither properly German’ nor ‘properly Polish’. His latest novel, Śpiewaj ogrody (Sing the Gardens, 2014) reveals elements of ‘mystical realism’ and historical fiction already seen as belonging to ‘new Gdańsk mythology’ co-created with other Gdansk writers, such as Stefan Chwin. Part of this mythology is the Kashubian language with its culture and legendary past which is an important tissue in Huelle’s fiction consisting of a mixture of languages and cultures characteristic of Gdańsk.
Wojciech Nowicki (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin)
The Town Eclogue: Mock-Pastoral Representations of London in Eighteenth-Century Poetry
Three hundred years ago, London was the most dynamic city, as much attractive as forbidding to the local or to the visitor, an emblem of urban progress on the one hand and of urban pollution on the other. This paper examines the seamy side of London, as it was represented in the genre of the town eclogue, which is a species of eighteenth-century poetry which transformed the classic pastoral landscape inhabited by innocent dwellers into a squalid townscape whose cartography was marked by off-putting auditory, olfactory and tactile sensations. The sheer accumulation of these sensations turned the public spaces of London into a series of non-continuous heterotopias, fascinating though difficult to negotiate. Material for analysis will come from two poems by Jonathan Swift, A Description of the Morning and City Shower as well as from John Gay’s Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London.
Liviu Papadima (University of Bucharest)
Bucharest, Iaşi (Jassy) and the Assertion of Romanian Modernity
All the way to their Union as a single state entity initiated in 1859, the two Danubian Principalities, Wallachia and Moldavia, had their own capital each: Târgoviște and Suceava, respectively, as princely cities, then Bucharest and Iași (Jassy).
Starting from evidence of the time, whether documentary and/or fictional, the present paper looks into how the two metropoles came to develop their ‘self-awareness’ in the former half of the 19th century, as well as how this led to dilemmas once Bucharest was chosen as unique capital of the United Principalities.
In so doing, it will take into account the general elements stemming from the part played by them as metropolitan localities, as well as area-specific and mostly cultural differentations. Thus, the theme of the Capital in relation to the rest of the country is frequently approached in mid-19th century Moldavia in a pre-eminently explosive manner via an explosive, if short-lived literary genre: the physiology. Bucharest, instead, is thematized within wider narrative structures, especially after the Union, via an emerging Romanian genre of the time: the novel, more precisely the mystery novel, which proved a successful subgenre in European literature as such.
Ágnes Klára Papp (Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Budapest)
The Poetics of the Provincial Town
One of the main issues of metropolitan research is the role of 19th-century representations of metropolitan lifestyles and big cities in the formation of the outlook and subjectivity of modernity. However, big cities are not the only paradigmatic places of modernity. The provincial town in the works of Flaubert and Chekhov is as much part of the discourse of modernity as the myth of the metropolis. This paper aims at examining typical experiences of space and time in the small town arguing that the attitude displayed by this chronotope can be interpreted as an important counterpoint to the myth of the 19th century metropolis.
Stephen Prickett (University of Kent)
Picturing Jerusalem: New and Old
One of the most extraordinary features of post-classical Europe has been the way in which the spread of Christianity has mythologized the geography of a small middle-Eastern state. Jerusalem, the Palestinian city of David – and according to some historians already a myth – with the aid of the New Testament Book of Revelation, has became a symbol of perfection for centuries of British writers, isolated by the accidents of distance, war and language from any real knowledge of the unhappy earth-bound original. By the seventeenth century Bunyan’s Heavenly City in Pilgrim’s Progress (which, together with Milton’s Paradise Lost and the Bible itself, was one of the three books most likely to be found in any literate home) was the paradigmatic City of God. William Blake’s 1808 lyric, Jerusalem, from his poem, Milton (much better known than his obscure epic also called Jerusalem) set to music by Hubert Parry in 1916, is now probably the best-known poem in the English language. King George V is said to have wanted it as the British national anthem replacing ‘God Save the King’. As befitting such exposure, there is wide-spread disagreement as to the actual interpretation of the image.
George Rousseau (Oxford University)
The Implicit Emotion: Reflections on Cities Classical, Modern, Terrorist, and Digital
Ever since American historian Lewis Mumford published his acclaimed and monumental The City in History: Its Origins, Transformations, and Cultures (1961), more than a half century ago, the city has been configured according to architectural, aesthetic, cultural, geographic, and urban concerns, especially the spaces implicit in their arrangements and the particular organization of their sprawls. More recently, during the 1990s, a new subdiscipline unrelated to cities and often called ‘the history of emotions’ has arisen, tracing the development of the feelings in Western civilization and configuring their consequences for structures aesthetic, political, socioeconomic, and epistemological. The last – the epistemological component – has proved especially formative for probing how experience of the way ‘we have known the city’ has been shaped by how ‘we feel in the city’. This talk melds the traditional historical approach with the new affective inquiry to probe what effects, if any, the new history of emotions has for the older histories of cities. The approach construes ‘the city’, whether paradigmatic or capital or not (Athens, Rome, Paris, London, New York, etc.), as metaphoric and symbolic as well as literal and realist, and inquires whether histories of cities can shed as much light on histories of emotion as vice versa. The conclusions reached vivify how the new affective subdiscipline is enriched by considerations of selfhoods in particular urban spaces.
Andrew Sanders (ex University of Durham)
Between the Celestial City and the City of Destruction: Dickens's London
In his novel The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) Dickens appears to represent modern London as something akin to the City of Destruction represented by John Bunyan in his The PIlgrim's Progress (1678). The idea of the hellish city, which needed to be avoided, was generally alien to Dickens but many of his contemporaries harboured the idea that London was ultimately destined to find itself in ruins like those of Ancient Rome or economically and physically redundant, like Venice and Tyre. Elsewhere in his work, and particularly in Bleak House, Dickens uses the imagery of millenarianism to convey a sense of the dangers of imminent decay. Generally, however, he sees London as a compromised urban space, both energetic and diseased. It presents observers with evidence of vibrant life and of potential decay. Essentially, as his discussions of suburbia suggest, Dickens sought to praise and inhabit the 'middle ground' both politically and figuratively.
Leonor Santa Bárbara (CHAM/FCSH-UNL/UAç., Nova University of Lisbon)
From Athens to Alexandria
In the 5th century BC, Pericles considered Athens the most relevant of Greek cities, even more important than Sparta. As a matter of fact, Athens was then the centre of Greek culture, with religious and cultural festivals, such as the Panathenaea and the Dionysia. It also ruled over a maritime empire, which contributed to enrich and embellish the city. Besides all these, this was the century when Athenian democracy reached its peak. Two centuries later, Athens had lost all its relevance, while Alexandria by Egypt became the cultural centre of the Hellenistic world. This was followed by the development of a new conception of Greek, which had nothing to do with ethnic issues, but with the kind of education one received. Politically the world had changed and democracy was replaced by monarchies with a centralized power. Yet, these monarchies – not just in Egypt but also in the Seleucid Empire – protected knowledge and Greek culture. Kings had their philoi, poets, philosophers or writers, whom they favoured, in order to show the relevance culture had for them. This was the policy of the Ptolemies, especially the first three, who contributed to make Alexandria the centre of the Hellenistic world.
The purpose of this paper is to compare both cities – Athens and Alexandria – trying to show how Athens lost her power in favour of Alexandria.
Anett Schäffer (University of Miskolc, Hungary)
The ‘Cockney Venus’: City and Female Identity in Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus
In Angela Carter’s neo-Victorian novel Nights at the Circus we get to know London at the end of the 19th century, in 1899 from the perspective of a female Londoner. The protagonist of the story is Fevvers, a blonde winged aerialiste, the ‘Cockney Venus’, whose life and identity are inseparable from London. Fevvers’ place in London clearly shows the woman’s and the Other’s place in the English capital in the fin de siècle era. The men in the Victorian society were worried about women coming to cities and experiencing the freedom the urban life can offer. One of the main questions of city life in the era was: How can Victorian women function in the city? How does city life reinterpret or rewrite the important female characters of the period? Fevvers throughout the novel embodies many important urban and non-urban female characters of the era – the prostitute, the Angel in the House, the madwoman in the attic, the New Woman, the working woman, the flâneuse, and most importantly, the object of the male gaze – introducing alternative lives of Victorian women in the urban atmosphere and creating a female reading of city life.
Ákos Sivadó (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for the Humanities, Institute of Philosophy, Budapest)
From Organic to Numerical Representations: William Petty and Urban Life in Early Modern England
The general consensus regarding the first demographical study of urban population seems to take John Graunt’s Observations on the Bills of Mortality (1662) to be the initial assessment of a country’s populace based entirely on what we would now call statistical data. It was, however, Graunt’s close friend William Petty who attempted to formulate a systematic methodological program in order to gain insight into a city’s inner life and its potential future developments. The method was ’political arithmetick’, and the insight gained was numerical in nature. Petty’s vision of a science of social matters accounted for all sorts of human phenomena according to their ’number, weight and measure’ – and his treatment of urban life was no exception. Himself a trained physician, Petty occupies a special place in the history of ’urban planning’: he attempted to address matters of cities and states making frequent use of physiological analogies concerning human and political bodies, yet he also helped transforming the character of the knowledge we could potentially produce regarding towns, cities and nations. In his treatises, the details of urban life underwent a systematic arithmetical treatment, as he was laying the groundwork to establish numerical data as valid representations of life in cities and countries.
HansPeter Söder (University of Munich)
Picturing Europe as an Imaginary Museum
Before it was a political construct, Europe was imagined by visual artists. It was Jacob Burkhardt, who first drew attention to this visualization through his Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien. However, it was Nietzsche who further developed Burkhardt`s conception of European culture with his own outline of the Weltbild. Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas is another effort to ground European culture via symbolic imagery. Benjamin’s attempt to ground the work of art in a specific context in Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit can be considered an endpoint in this genealogy as he endeavored to come to terms with technological mobility of the work of art. All of these positions can perhaps be best appreciated through Malraux`s metaphor of the musée imaginaire as he sought to synthesize these ideas through his plan for a new kind of encyclopédie. In Malraux`s imaginary museum it is the opposition of text and image that continues to stimulate current intellectual debates, especially in France (in the recent work of Bernard Stiegler, e.g.). In the final analysis, Heidegger ́s question has not yet been answered satisfactorily: Is there an image of technological modernity?
Radu Stoica (University of Bucharest)
An Allegorical Construction of the (Post-)Colonial / (Post-)Communist Urban Periphery: A Comparative Reading of Dan Lungu and V. S. Naipaul
In an attempt to analyze the way in which the (post)colonial narrative find its equivalent in the (post)communist space, my paper shall focus on a comparative observation of the literary instruments employed by authors belonging to two completely separate (?) cultural areas, like Romania and Trinidad. Dan Lungu’s Hens’ Heaven (Raiul Găinilor) and V.S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street represent sarcastic depictions of life in the suburbs (a provincial Romanian town / Port of Spain), populated by lower-class ‘heroes’, marvellously sketched by a keen and witty ‘informant’ (the narrator). The latter witnesses the way in which propaganda, manipulation, stereotypes, distorted facts and nostalgia shape the construction of a liminal space imbued with elements of magic realism, which, at first sight, seems completely alienated from the colonial/communist centre. However, what lies beneath the superficial behaviour of all these characters is a struggle to find meaning and to construct an identity through the use of a highly fictionalized narrative discourse, at the outskirts of a town where even the most insignificant piece of news is reinterpreted, mystified and exacerbated. How the narrative discursive instruments are employed and how the parallel between the various constructions of the (post-) colonial/communist identity is drawn with the help of various literary devices shall represent the key element of my endeavour.
Jukka Tiusanen (University of Vaasa, Finland)
Helsinki's Architecture: Ambiguous Paradigms and the Making of Modernity
Paradigms are mixed and conflicted in Helsinki. After the conquest of Finland in the Fenno-Russian war, the Russian government wanted to locate the new capital of the autonomous Grand Duchy near to Russia, and giving Helsinki a St Petersburg-like monumental centre was part of a definite political program. The neoclassical administrative city centre, including the Lutheran Cathedral with its Scandinavian or Baltic-looking white and pastel surfaces, was designed by the German architect Ludwig Engel who continued his career in Russia, making this German style appear Russian, and the Helsinki centre certainly boasts many Russian-era buildings following this German paradigm. The ‘art nouveau’ style is here usually known by the German name Jugend or as national romantic because of heavy local adaptations like grey granite and the use of national symbols. That the neo-gothic and neo-renaissance buildings have foreign paradigms is clear since full-blown Gothic and Renaissance buildings are non-existent in Finland, yet the architects, like the Swedish-trained Theodor Höijer, adapt to a Northern style. Of the functionalist modernist architecture of Bauhaus, Alvar Aalto’s controversial Enso-Gutzeit ‘sugar-cube’ building, a clash between modern industrial business and traditionalism, partly hiding the view to the Eastern Orthodox Uspenski cathedral.
Ruxanda Topor (University of Bucharest)
Post-Soviet Kishinev: Struggling for the Reassertion of Romanian Identity
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the proclamation of independence in 1991, the Republic of Moldova is facing an identitary crisis. The annexation to the Russian Empire, with its ongoing process of Russification, has led to the effacing of the Romanian identity and to the empowerment of the Soviet ideology instead. The capital Kishinev, as the largest city in Moldova and the main political, economic and cultural centre, mirrors best the effects of acculturation. The city reveals signs of transition and struggle towards the reaffirmation of the (stifled) Romanian identity both in its physical aspects and in the mentality of its inhabitants. This paper sets out to examine important post-independence changes that indicate the urban landscape’s assertion of its Romanian identity, such as the renaming of streets, the removal and/or replacement of Soviet monuments, and the foundation of the Romanian Cultural Institute in 2010. Kishinev has also been the stage for notable public events and activities that promoted national values through poetry and music. Last but not least, the paper addresses initiatives taken as recent as 2016, such as the institution of Sfatul-Ţării 2 or the Unirea-TV station.
Dalma Török (Petőfi Literary Museum, Budapest)
Encounter with the Ideal: Narrated Cities in Between the Realm of Ideas and Experience
The presentation is aimed at drawing lessons from the materials collection process for the ‘Writers with luggage’, an exhibitions series, which proposed to evoke the Hungarian literary memory of European cities (Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Rome), that have shaped Hungarian writers’ work through a blend of artistic and life-experiences from the last quarter of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th. The presentation is organized around the following themes:
The myth of the West has traditionally framed the self-definition of Hungarian literature. What aspects of this myth are to be found in a comparison of the various textual images of these cities? What are the differences in the process of experiencing the familiar and the strange concerning these cities endowed with the symbolic and historically changeable function of centre? How does it impact the image of the narrated city that its field of creation is delimited on the one hand by the literary imagery inherited and on the other by the subsequent and sensory experience? Is there a methodological component of the museological approach of cultural transfer (namely within the medium of the exhibition) that can have relevance to this subject?
Ludmila Volná (Charles University, Prague; IMAGER University, Paris XII)
Prague: The Myth of Creation
In The Myth of the Eternal Return Mircea Eliade argues that in their attempts to establish themselves the ancient cultures kept to patterns that were firmly grounded in their most profound beliefs, and he finds similar patterns across those different civilizations. While borrowing this perspective the paper attempts to look at the myths that deal with the beginnings of the civilization which founded the city to be called Prague. The analysis will rely on three main sources, Chronica Boemorum (the most ancient Czech chronicle, 12th century), Chronicle of Dalimil (first chronicle written in Czech, beginning of the 14th century) and Alois Jirásek's Staré pověsti české, The Ancient Bohemian Legends (1894). What will be explored is the ways in which the myth represents the founding efforts of the concerned ancient people with reference to the Sacred (the central), and the interaction between the natural phenomena and the people's beliefs and their rituals.
Cornelia Wächer (Ruhr University, Bochum)
Paradigmatically Queer: Manchester’s Gay Village from Queer as Folk to Cucumber, Banana and Tofu
Manchester may not be paradigmatic in the sense of being a civilizatory focal point; it is, however, certainly paradigmatic as far as the queer imagined communities of England and beyond are concerned. Manchester’s Gay Village is a heterotopia in which queer identities can be celebrated and lose their status as ‘deviant’. At the same time, this heterotopia constitutes a ‘colossal closet’ (Knowles) and reaffirm the status quo outside. Moreover, the ‘new homonormativity’ (Bell and Binnie) of urban governance has utilised the Gay Village in marketing a commodified version of an ‘authentic’ other (Rushbrook).
Russel T Davies’s controversial TV series Queer as Folk (1999-2000) has played a central part in the forging of the queer subcultural identity of Manchester’s Gay Village, as well as in the representation of Manchester as a ‘cult city’. In 2015, Davies resumed his narrativisation of Manchester’s queer community with the sister shows Cucumber (Channel 4), Banana (E4), and the documentary series Tofu (4oD). The paper I propose for this conference examines the lingering influence of Queer as Folk and the impact of Davies’ new series in the field of tension between the narrative creation of subcultural identity and the commodification of queer spaces in the construction of urban identity.
 National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies