robertogreco + wgsebald   7

About Litmap
[See also:
http://barbarahui.net/litmap/ ]

[via: "This brilliant mapping of Sebald's The Rings of Saturn by @barbarahui shows/ tracks the multiple, frantic displacements of the journey, allowing you to zoom into the landscape but also see its global connections.
Key viewing for #TheReadingsofSaturn
Here: http://barbarahui.net/litmap/ "

https://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1016962352217018368 ]

"I created Litmap as part of my Comparative Literature PhD dissertation project. It's a digital map that plots all of the places that are mentioned in W.G. Sebald's novel, The Rings of Saturn.

Litmap is featured in the documentary Patience (After Sebald), directed by Grant Gee. You can also read about the project in this New York Times ArtsBeat post.

If you'd like to read more about the theoretical context for Litmap, following is something I wrote in 2009 to explain the project in the context of my dissertation.

Litmap was created with the goal of enabling humanities scholars to read literature spatially – a mode of reading which I believe to be crucial to understanding contemporary literature and textuality at large today. The Litmap application aims to leverage the strengths of the digital computing platform to present literary narratives in a way that opens up spatial readings of those texts.

If you'd like to read more about the theoretical context for Litmap, following is something I wrote in 2009 to explain the project in the context of my dissertation.

Litmap was created with the goal of enabling humanities scholars to read literature spatially – a mode of reading which I believe to be crucial to understanding contemporary literature and textuality at large today. The Litmap application aims to leverage the strengths of the digital computing platform to present literary narratives in a way that opens up spatial readings of those texts.

What is meant by spatial?

Taking up the call of spatial thinkers such as Henri Lefebvre, Edward Said, Edward Soja, and Doreen Massey, as well as literary “cartographer” Franco Moretti, spatiality is here conceived of in all of its conceptual complexity. This includes a consideration of the geospatial shape of the narrative, i.e. the contours that emerge when the place names mentioned in the texts are plotted on geospatial map image. It also includes attention to the more subjective, slippery—yet no less real—spatialities at work in each narrative, including the scale of global and local place, and the networks of colonialism, imperialism, migration, language, and media that exist across and between those places. The project seeks to represent and examine these networks as they exist in and around literature. Indeed, the network emerges as a crucial spatial paradigm for understanding contemporary narratives.

What is meant by geospatial?

By definition, geospatial is an adjective used to describe or denote data that is associated with a particular location. This is geographical space and place as conceived of in a positivist, empirical way. In other words, the earth is thought of as a spherical surface on which one can plot any location with a certain degree of mathematical accuracy using, for example, numerical latitude and longitude coordinates. The use of numerically precise data means that a range of geospatial calculations can be performed on a given geographical dataset. This is typically carried out via the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), or computer software specializing in the processing of geographical datasets.

Given the utility and free availability of geospatial applications like Google Maps and Google Earth, GIS technology and its attendant geographical representations are becoming rapidly entrenched in our cultural consciousness. Those of us who live in well-mapped locales and have access to networked personal computing technology are growing accustomed to viewing and navigating our surroundings via the use of these geospatial applications.

What is meant by network?

As with the concept of spatiality, the network is here conceived of in both concrete and abstract terms. It includes not only physical networks (wired communications networks, transportation networks, etc.) but also the colonial, imperial, migratory, and linguistic networks constituted by the movements of people, goods, and ideas across geographical space. Additionally, it includes imaginary networks such as those that exist in Stephen Hall’s novel The Raw Shark Texts in which people throw off both tangible and intangible linguistic traces of themselves, and are hunted down via this stream of bait by terrifyingly real yet otherworldly “primordial thought sharks.” In Hall’s novel, each person’s linguistic output is conceived of as a fundamentally material extension of the subject. Litmap allows the reader to map both the concrete geospatial aspects of the novel (“Hull, Leeds, Sheffield” (104)) and also the “un-space” that exists within its spatial imaginary: a labyrinth of tunnels underground, and a trip to a parallel thought world.

Networks are in the general sense “an arrangement or structure with intersecting lines and interstices resembling those of a net” (“Network, N,”). At the interstices exist the nodes of the network. This paradigm of the network is recognizable in many contexts. On geographical maps, the lines are the railroad tracks, roads, and flight paths; the nodes are the stations, villages, towns, and cities (i.e., geographical places) where those lines intersect. The Internet is of course a famous example of a communications network. An early Internet map shows connections between different locations “on the network”: the lines represent data wires, while the nodes are the locations at which those wires meet and the digital data they carry is processed.

The kinds of networks illustrated via Litmap are numerous, with each narrative containing one or often multiple networks, each of a unique configuration. Depending on the kind of spatial information given in each narrative, these networks are plotted with varying degrees of geospatial precision. Sometimes it is possible to map a piece of literature almost entirely down to the street level, while at other times the text requires much more subjective and abstract spatial renderings.

What is meant by place?

In keeping with spatial theorist Doreen Massey, I contend that places be defined as the nodes that are constituted by the intersection of multiple lines or paths of social networks. As she describes it:
[W]hat gives a place its specificity is not some long internalized history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus. If one moves in from the satellite towards the globe, holding all those networks of social relations and movements and communications in one’s head, then each ‘place’ can be seen as a particular, unique, point of their intersection. It is, indeed, a meeting place. Instead then, of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a large proportion of those relations, experiences and understandings are constructed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself, whether it be a street, a region, or even a continent. (28)

Thus places denoted by markers on map images are not fixed, immobile, bounded entities with unified histories, but rather dynamic, socially defined “moments.” While it is true that each latitude and longitude point would still exist on the map without an attached pin (or place), it is crucial to understand that these mathematically-defined coordinates do not give place its particularity, nor did that place as place exist a priori. Rather, it is the fact of the intersection of various social networks at that location which give it its very definition as place. As Massey argues, localities do have specificity, but – and this is crucial – they are defined on a far larger scale than that of their geospatially immediate bounded surroundings.

The built-in ability of digital mapping interfaces to zoom in for a local view and out for a global view, coupled with the ability to programmatically draw connecting lines between places based on certain predefined criteria, make for a platform inherently adept at representing the local-global, networked nature of space and place that Massey so compellingly argues for. The user of Litmap can therefore zoom in to examine the particularities of a place mentioned in a text and then zoom out to look at the way in which it is connected to other locations within that text’s spatial imaginary.

Works Cited
Hall, Steven. The Raw Shark Texts. New York: Canongate, 2007.

Massey, Doreen. "A Global Sense of Place." Marxism Today June 1991: 24-29.

“Network.” . Def. A.2.a. The Oxford English Dictionary. Web. 28 October 2009. <http://dictionary.oed.com/>."
litmap  barbarahui  literature  digitalhumanities  wgsebald  theringsofsaturn  maps  mapping  space  spatial  geospacial  networks  doreenmassey  stevenhall  geography  books  gis  henrilefebvre  edwardsid  edwardsoja  francomoretti 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Blind Spot | Blog—Jarrett Fuller
"Blind Spot, the writer and photographer Teju Cole’s new book, feels like a culmination of his intellectual work of the last few years. A master of shifting forms, Cole previously published two novels (Open City and Everyday is for a Thief) and an essay collection (Known and Strange Things), is the photography critic for The New York Times, and is prolific on Instagram where he showcases his photography. Blind Spot, a book that mixes text with his original photography, at once feels like a continuation of his previous work while also something completely new. How does one define Blind Spot? Is it a photo book or a novel? A travelogue or a poem? A memoir or a lyric essay? The answer, I think, is ‘yes’.

The photos — all shot on color film from Cole’s travels across the globe — blend seamlessly from Brooklyn to Berlin, Omaha to Africa. The images are quiet and largely devoid of humans, aside from a final striking portrait, recalling great street photographers like Stephen Shore and Louis Ghirri. The text — which shifts between narrative, memoir, criticism, poetry — sometimes refers to these photos while at other times remain independent. All of Cole’s familiar influences — Sebald, Berger, Calvino — are on display here.

The text reads less as captions as they do a voiceover — he’s said in interviews he sees the book as a documentary in book form — where another set of influences emerge. “I pray to Tarvoksy, Marker, Hitchcock” he writes in the middle of the book. Sure enough, the flipping between Cole’s text and image, one could see the book as homage to Chris Marker’s Sans Soliel. And as the photos start to reference each other, and fragments begin to connect, Marker’s more famous La Jetee comes to mind. There’s a playful reflexivity throughout — his writing reflects on his own writing process for the book, how he selected particular images, and what he hopes the book will be. In one passage he writes:
She asked, though these were not her exact words: Isn’t all the work part of a single piece? She asked, like someone patiently unlocking, with a pin, a pair of handcuffs: Aren’t all the photographs and texts, the fragments and experiments, even the things you say into a microphone, even the things you don’t say, aren’t they all installments toward a unified project? She said, though these are not her exact words: I have always felt that Open City was one way you approached the problem. You’re still circling the problem now, she said, obsessed, she said, and approaching it in other ways. You will probably always be returning to it, she said, making herself comfortable within the folds of my brain.

In a later passage, Cole invokes Calvino’s continuous city and his search of the threads that connect the places he visits. But he’s also looking for the threads that connect the images and the text. Calvino suggests that there is simply one big, continuous city that does not begin or end: ‘Only the name of the airport changes,’ he writes in Invisible Cities. The same can be said of Cole’s work — it’s simply one big, continuous journey — his intellectual interests and preoccupations recur — he finds new ways to display them, new ways to talk about them. Only the name of the book changes.

I read Open City, Cole’s first novel in 2015 during my last week in San Francisco, before moving to Baltimore for graduate school. My belongings were packed up and I’d lay on the floor in the middle of a nearly empty apartment reading. In the book, largely devoid of an obvious plot, we follow the narrator, Julius, as he walks through Manhattan. I started doing the same thing — after a period of reading, I’d put the book down, put classical music on in my headphones, and walk the San Francisco streets. This had been my neighborhood for the last three years but that week, with that music, and Cole’s prose rattling around in my head, I saw the city differently. That, I think, is the thread that ties Cole’s work together. He changes your pace, forces you to slow down. His writing is patient, his photography reserved. He makes you look, really look. This world moves fast. There’s always something new to read, new tweets, new emails, new books, new music. Last month’s news feels like a decade ago.

Blind Spot is a book about looking; about seeing what’s in the frame, about reflecting on what we see. Teju Cole asks us to slow down so we can understand our own blind spots. I saw San Francisco differently that last week, and as I finished Blind Spot this week, I started to see New York differently too. He taught me to see."
tejucole  jarrettfuller  2017  writing  photography  italocalvino  johnberger  wgsebald  chrismarker  film  walking  cities  urban  ubanism  place  landscape  noticing  looking  seeing  sansoleil  lajetée  blindspot 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: ‘My camera is like an invisibility cloak. It makes me more free’ | Books | The Guardian
"The final piece in Cole’s 2016 essay collection, Known and Strange Things, is a description of that traumatic occurrence. It is called Blind Spot. Next month, his first book of photographs is published. It is also called Blind Spot. Why, I ask him, did he reprise that title for a book that is, in essence, about a sustained way of seeing? “Well, there is some dark humour in the title that people who have read the essay will hopefully pick up on,” he says, “but, as I write in the afterword, there is also the fact that the act of looking is limited. We only see a small part of what we are looking at, so there is a constant blind spot even with the kind of attentive looking that photography entails. There are many resonances in that title – how difficult it is to see clearly, how difficult it is to tell a dream, how difficult it is to make pictures that are new in some way.”

How well Cole succeeds in all of this is difficult to say, not because his images aren’t strong – they are in a detached and rigorously formal-to-the-point-of-deadpan way that was pioneered by the likes of Stephen Shore in the 1970s – but because Blind Spot is not simply a book of photographs. Instead, each image is accompanied by a corresponding passage of prose. The book unfolds – and succeeds – as a deftly choreographed dance of words and pictures, with Cole’s characteristically allusive style of writing here condensed to what he calls “fragments”. Sometimes, but not often, the words refer directly to what is in the picture, but more often the photographs are conceptual starting points for musings on his now-familiar obsessions: memory, myth, culture, politics, race and dreams.

The associations, though, are often not entirely clear. A photograph of a telegraph pole on a deserted street in Selma, Alabama prompts a memory of a dream Cole had about crossing a street but never arriving at the other side, which, in turn, calls up a quotation on consciousness and time by the French phenomenological philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A street portrait of the back of a blond woman in New York City (see below), redolent of the work of Joel Meyerowitz, is matched with a fragment from Greek mythology concerning the painter Timanthes’s mysterious portrait of the grieving, veiled Agamemnon. This is, for want of a better phrase, quintessentially Cole-ian.

“I see it as a unified story,” he explains, “but one in which each fragment of prose is dense in the way that a poem is dense. There are thematic breadcrumbs scattered throughout the text, but, yes, it is oblique. It’s not meant to be obvious, but a more psychologically resonant series of fragments that detonate on some deeper level.”"



"Taken alongside his fiction and his essays, which range from the reflective to the polemical, as well as the photography column he writes for the New York Times, Blind Spot further enhances Cole’s already burnished reputation. He is a writer for our times, prodigious, wide-ranging and supremely confident in his reach. In Known and Strange Things, to give just a few examples, he discourses passionately on race in America, explores the poetics of Saul Leiter’s pioneering colour photographs and, in two consecutive essays, lauds VS Naipaul, the elegant writer, and nails VS Naipaul, the dreadful old reactionary.

If there is a personal touchstone for this kind of cross-fertilisation, it is surely the late John Berger, one of his heroes, though Berger, as I remind him, never took photographs. “I actually asked John why photography was not part of his practice,” Cole says, “In his case, to photograph a subject was to foreclose some part of what he could write about it. He saw it as an interference in his writing faculties. I don’t think like that about it. In fact, for me, taking a photograph of something often induces further thoughts on it.”

In the flesh, Cole is both charming and intense. When I met him briefly last summer at a party in Manhattan thrown in his honour by his editors at the New York Times, he was warm and inclusive, but, even in casual conversation, there is a palpable alertness about him that intrigues. He seems acutely conscious, too, of his own place in the intellectual firmament. In Known and Strange Things, he revealed that his antidote to insomnia was to “rise from my bed and watch Jacques Derrida talk”. In his deftly elegant takedown of Naipaul, there is also the distinct suggestion that a literary baton is being passed from the older master to the heir apparent.

Cole’s precocious literary talent must surely have been honed in childhood. Born in Michigan, he was taken back to Nigeria as a child by his parents when they had completed their studies. His upbringing, he says, was solidly middle-class and aspirational. His father worked in middle management and his mother was a school teacher; both instilled in him the notion that “the child had to do better in education than their peers”. When he travelled to America in the early 90s to commence his own college education, he felt he was returning home. “For sure, I had conflict and a certain nervousness, but not the kind that comes from thinking of oneself as an immigrant. I had a sense of my rights as an American. There was a period of adjustment – there still is – but the feeling I have sometimes of being lost in the world is more to do with my own personality than America.”

Cole studied art and art history at Kalamazoo College, Michigan – “a good liberal college with the kind of leafy campus you get in American campus novels” – and later tried and failed to apply himself to a degree in medicine, in part to appease his parents. That failure haunted him for a while and, he says, he suffered from a bout of depression around that time. “I had no money, no time to read or go to concerts and I felt starved of that. Plus, I was very cold in Michigan and isolated. For two years, I was struggling to do well when I was used to doing well. I do not want to dwell on it but, for a time, I was phenomenally not myself. All the things you hear about depression were there.”"



"
In Open City, his descriptions of his New York evince a keen, roving attentiveness reminiscent of the city’s great street photographers: Garry Winogrand, Meyerowitz and Leiter are presences in his prose alongside the more often cited Berger and WG Sebald. Cole, as he is keen to point out, has been taking photographs longer than he has been writing fiction. In Every Day Is for the Thief, the text is punctuated by Cole’s black-and-white photographs evoking the swaggering, chaotic thrust of Lagos, his childhood home.

In both novels, Cole’s writing style recalls Christopher Isherwood’s celebrated description of his own prose: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”

Cole cites the great experimental film-maker Chris Marker as perhaps the crucial influence in his novels. “In his great film, Sans Soleil, Marker moves between zooming out and watching the flow of life and zooming in to look at the pattern of the details of everyday experience. He is not telling you one thing about a place, but allowing it all to come in and making the connections visible. He is a major influence on Open City and even more on Blind Spot, where the subject itself is that kind of interconnectedness.”

In many ways, then, Blind Spot continues in the vein of Teju Cole’s fiction. This time around, though, he is the peripatetic narrator on an altogether more epic global journey through cities in which he is often a lone stranger. The experience of travel – by air as well as wandering alone on land – is central here. Since the success of Open City, Cole has travelled extensively – to literary festivals, teaching programmes, writer’s residencies and promotional events. As the novelist Siri Hustvedt puts it in her introduction: “Teju Cole really gets around.” Thus, each photograph and fragment of prose is grounded in a specific location: Auckland, Basel, Chicago, Lagos, Nairobi, New York, Paris and so forth. “In each place I have travelled,” he writes, “I have used my camera as an extension of my memory.”

The images, and the reflections that follow from them, are also a way of fixing moments that might otherwise be lost in the sheer overload of global memories he has stored in his head in a relatively short time. “Certain experiences became more vivid as I was walking around and thinking about what I was photographing,” he elaborates. “In central Bali, for instance, there was an afternoon that has survived very clearly and vividly in my memory but also in the false memory of the photographs I took that day. They are stilled moments, fragments from a much bigger experience, a film that could only have been captured with a camera attached to my head.”

Given that he takes his camera with him wherever he goes, how visible a presence is he when he shoots on the street? He laughs, anticipating the underlying thrust of my question. “Well, a solitary black tourist is not a common sight in Switzerland or Kathmandu or northern Italy or even in upstate New York,” he says, ruefully, “so, I am already a little strange. But, there is a way in which having the camera makes me more free. It is a kind of invisibility cloak, especially when you are on a strange street far from home. But, oddly enough, I was more free in Kathmandu than in Lagos. The first assumption everywhere is, ‘there is a black tourist’ – but, in Nigeria, that question becomes more complex. There is more suspicion.”"



"“One of the responses to all that is to do the work I do. My essays are not political in the main, but they are trying to advance a humanist argument. Likewise, my photographs are complex, but I hope, … [more]
tejucole  2017  johnberger  blindspot  photography  writing  howwewrite  opencity  chrismarker  fiction  experience  invisibility  sanssoleil  christopherisherwood  garrywinogand  wgsebald  depression 
june 2017 by robertogreco
W. G. Sebald - Wikipedia
"Sebald's works are largely concerned with the themes of memory and loss of memory (both personal and collective) and decay (of civilizations, traditions or physical objects). They are, in particular, attempts to reconcile himself with, and deal in literary terms with, the trauma of the Second World War and its effect on the German people. In On the Natural History of Destruction (1997), he wrote a major essay on the wartime bombing of German cities and the absence in German writing of any real response. His concern with the Holocaust is expressed in several books delicately tracing his own biographical connections with Jews.

His distinctive and innovative novels were written in an intentionally somewhat old-fashioned and elaborate German (one passage in Austerlitz famously contains a sentence that is 9 pages long), but are well known in English translations (principally by Anthea Bell and Michael Hulse) which Sebald supervised closely. They include Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz. They are notable for their curious and wide-ranging mixture of fact (or apparent fact), recollection and fiction, often punctuated by indistinct black-and-white photographs set in evocative counterpoint to the narrative rather than illustrating it directly. His novels are presented as observations and recollections made while travelling around Europe. They also have a dry and mischievous sense of humour.

Sebald was also the author of three books of poetry: For Years Now with Tess Jaray (2001), After Nature (1988), and Unrecounted (2004)."
wgsebald  memory  writing  forgetting  toread 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson - review | Books | The Guardian
"Henderson's project: a spellbinding book that seeks to astonish us with the sheer intricacy, diversity and multiplicity of life forms that share our planet. In what he modestly calls a "stab" at a 21st-century bestiary, he fuses zoology, literature, mythology, history, paleontology, anecdote and art through 27 brilliantly executed essays…"

"These are essays in the original, Montaignesque sense of the word, and range freely over whatever topic takes the author's fancy."

"In 1959 CP Snow delivered his famous Rede lecture on "The Two Cultures", in which he lamented the gulf between intellectual elites fluent either in the sciences or in the humanities, but all too rarely in both. Fifty years on, the landscape seems as divided as it was in Snow's day. It's a gulf of which the likes of Leonardo could not have conceived, and one that Henderson – an English graduate turned science writer – seeks to bridge. We have a great deal that we can learn from one another…"
gavinfrancis  anniedillard  toread  books  laurencesterne  sirthomasbrown  enlightenment  philosophy  art  anecdote  paleontology  history  mythology  literature  zoology  julesverne  darwin  italocalvino  robertburton  wgsebald  cv  essays  micheldemontaigne  writing  borges  multid  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  leonardodavinci  bestiary  casparhenderson  2012  cpsnow  animals  montaigne  charlesdarwin 
december 2012 by robertogreco
BLDGBLOG: Lights among the ruins
"In twenty years' time will I be out holding up some pathetic light among the ruins of a destroyed city, wondering where my wife is, dying of thirst, deaf in one ear, covered in radiation burns?

Or is that just a peculiarly American form of pessimist survivalism? Or do I just read too much Sebald?"
future  disaster  pessimism  survivalism  history  war  environment  economics  wgsebald  books  cities  society 
october 2007 by robertogreco
Cordoning Off the Past - New York Times
"Sebald's work reads like a lamentation or a dirge, as though existence itself were no more than a way station on the journey from dust-to-dustness (''We lie prostrate on the boards, dying, our whole lives long'') and he had long ago said his goodbyes. His books are all depictions, in one way or another, of the ashen premonition of loss; and they might be said to take place in a state of permanent déjà vu, in which a geographic site that is reconstructed from ''mountains of rubble'' or an emotion that is dredged up from the ocean floor of psychic debris seems no more than a revisiting of something that was glimpsed once before, in a far-off time or place."
dejavu  philosophy  literature  memory  wgsebald  camus  writing  life  fiction  germany  history  books  war  geography  place  albertcamus 
september 2007 by robertogreco

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