We Are Place Writing
Here are paths, offered like an open hand, towards a new way of being in the world.
Gareth Evans & Di Robson, Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and Its Meanings (2010)
It seems, broadly, good to be stopped by a place. And this is one way a place comes into being. Our attention to them makes places significant.
Tim Dee, Ground Work: Writings on Places and People (2018)
Over the past decade, place writing has been a term that has increasingly entered both creative and literary critical discourse. To date, though, the label has not been subjected to extensive scrutiny. Immediately, the questions proliferate. Some of these questions relate to the reader’s identification of place writing as a mode of literary expression. What are the cardinal characteristics of such work? Is place writing to be exclusively associated with creative non-fiction? Or is the label a generic categorisation that could also be applied to fictional and poetic and dramatic texts? Further questions inevitably relate to content. What are the dominant thematic tropes in contemporary place writing? How do writers use literary form and language to reconfigure and/or reinscribe extant understandings of place and non-place, emplacement and placelessness?
This session will explore these questions – and many others – by bringing together four major voices in contemporary place writing: high-profile writers whose richly varied creative and creative-critical practices exemplify the heterogeneity of the difficult-to-define field. The session will begin with short presentations in which Paul Evans, Rachel Lichtenstein, Minoli Salgado, and Jean Sprackland will each offer brief reflections on the role that place plays in their respective creative practices. These initial presentations will then provide the foundations for a roundtable discussion – to be chaired by David Cooper – on the nature, possibilities, and limitations of contemporary place writing. Topics to be covered will include the value of creative collaboration; the affordances of digital technologies; and the synergies, and tensions, between creative and critical practices.
This roundtable, therefore, will move towards a definition of place writing. Saliently, the roundtable – which, if possible, we would like to be recorded - will also be a launch event for the Centre for Place Writing: a new interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange centre rooted in the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Organiser: David Cooper
Jean Sprackland (all Manchester Metropolitan University)