Bath’s Student Community Partnership are running an afternoon of bite-sized talks relating to the latest research on environmental sustainability. Speakers are from the University of Bath and Bath Spa University and represent a range of academic disciplines.
The programme is attached and below.
The event is part of the Bath City Conference and is free to attend, no booking required. Please feel free to drop-in at any point throughout the afternoon.
Sheryl Medlicott, a student on the MA in Literature, Landscape and Environment, is presenting research, as are Graduates of Bath Spa University who studied on the third year module ‘Writing and the Environmental Crisis, Jessica Milton and Aaron Lembo. Do come along to hear about the exciting research and activity taking place in Bath Spa University, and BSU’s collaborations with Bath University.
The MALLE Research Seminar Series presents guest lectures from Bath Spa University members of research staff and MALLE tutors. Current MALLE student, Hannah Polland, reports on a special mapping event.
On the evening of March 10th, Dr. Tracey Hill and Dr. Nicky Lloyd presented their current research and discussed how mapping has played a role in their projects. While these projects differed, both speakers examined the value of historical maps in relation to the literature that was being written at the same time.
Dr. Tracey Hill’s presentation centered on the role of spectatorship in early modern London. Tracey has discovered that life in early modern London, especially in the area of Cheapside, was heavily influenced by spectating. Cheapside was filled with many forms of spectating including the royal entry and public punishment, to name a few. But the large and busy street was shaped by the different types of spectators: the people on the street and the people viewing from the upper windows, which created a distinction between a solitary and communal form of spectatorship.
Tracey explained that while these spectators were often characterized as ‘nosy women’, the different depictions of Cheapside and other locations in literature show a great variety of spectators that was not totally gendered and could be quite communal at times. Tracey also discussed how spectatorship began to change with the introduction of coaches. Coaches drew much attention with their aristocratic airs and they created a privacy that made spectators all the more curious. Dr. Tracey Hill had many other interesting points during her presentation. It is interesting to consider how humans take so much joy in watching others and how we may have altered rural and urban landscapes in order to accommodate this still beloved pastime.
Dr. Nicky Lloyd’s current project examines the work of Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan and how this woman’s writing influenced Romanticism and the Irish National Tale. Lady Morgan is the author of The Wild Irish Girl and several other novels. She published these novels during Ireland’s incorporation into the United Kingdom in the wake of the 1801 Act of Union. While Nicky’s research on this author is extensive, her presentation focused on the potential influence of Lady Morgan’s writing on Irish identity during this transition.
Nicky considered the role of maps and travel networks in consolidating the union, citing a portion of The Wild Irish Girl where English travellers and a local Irishman dispute the poor road conditions of Northern Ireland. This portion of the novel displayed the heavily satirical style of Lady Morgan that critiques the colonial politics of mapping. This portion also addressed one of the major concerns of the Irish National Tale: the connection between landscape and Irish pride and ownership. Lady Morgan writes of the mapping and improvement of the Irish landscape and the dismay that this instilled in the Irish people. Nicky addressed this author’s unique voice and how her style articulated Ireland’s changing landscape during a time when Irish identity was contested and fragile.
Between March 2015-2016, the British Academy funded a series of events entitled Landscaping Change: Exploring the transformation, reconstitution and disruption of environments through the arts and humanities and social science. MA in Literature, Landscape and Environment student Sheryl Medlicott attended the conference, and has prepared this report.
From the 29 to 31 March 2016 I attended the Landscaping Change conference at Bath Spa University. The conference, convened by Samantha Walton, tutor on the MA Literature, Landscape and Environment, with support from Bath Spa University and the British Academy, brought together writers, artists and humanities scholars to consider the meaning of place for those who live, work or visit there and the effects felt when places change.
Many of the papers were directly relevant to the subject matter of the MALLE. A particular example was Terry Gifford’s response to Mark Cocker’s criticism of new nature writing in the New Statesman. He argued for the need for new nature writing to address global warming and the Anthropocene, with reference to Timothy Clark’s recently published (2015) Ecocriticism on the Edge. As I am currently taking the Ecocriticism module of the MA, it was exciting to be present for the discussion of these contemporary ecocritical issues and will undoubtedly benefit my studies.
It was also interesting to see the variety of ways in which papers were presented, reflecting different types of academic and creative work: from close textual analyses, such as the explorations of ecofeminist poetry from Veronica Fibisan, Nancy Jones and Lucy Summers, to performances such as Jonathan Prior and Samantha Walton’s ecopoetic sound collaboration and Steven Hitchins’ reading from his work The White City, and reports such as Rebecca Schaaf and Juliann Worrell Hood’s presentation on their ‘Lines of Desire’ interdisciplinary art and geography project. Keynote speaker Christopher Jelley took a particularly interactive approach, introducing us to the concept of ‘word-harvesting’, where we noted down words that came to us during his talk to later turn into lines of poetry that he digitally ‘pinned’ to the campus location in Newton Park.
As a MALLE student, just a few months into my part-time degree, this was my first experience of an academic conference and it proved to be invaluable, both in terms of the discussion and volume of ideas I encountered and the insight into academic life.
The British Academy have just announced that Landscaping Change will have follow on funding for 2016-2017. To find out more about the ongoing project, visit our blog.
Follow the conference as it happened on our Storify
This post written by student Hannah Pollard.
On the morning of the 5th of November the Landscape, Literature, and Environment Course members went to Tintern Abbey. Our coursework revolves around the word ‘place,’ among others; Tintern Abbey has defined place in many ways throughout the centuries.
Tintern Abbey was originally a home for Cistercian monks and surrounded by the beautiful Wye River forest and hills, it is easy to see why this was once a place for peaceful meditation. The Abbey was later viewed by the writer and priest William Gilpin and he felt it was a prime example of the picturesque. Later, William Wordsworth also viewed the Abbey and wrote a poem ‘several miles’ away, his poem beautifully describes the presence of the Abbey and its haunting combination of nature and mankind.
But, when we arrived at Tintern Dr. Sue Edney asked all of us to set aside our previous knowledge of this place, to let go of the words we had previously read, to not read the informational signs, nor take any pictures, and simply interact with this place as if seeing it for the first time.
This exercise really let the place of Tintern be something completely distinctive for each individual. I felt that my connection with the Abbey and its forms of human and nonhuman nature was much stronger when I let go of the expectations I might have had, whether because of the true history or because of an author’s description. I found a certain imaginative energy in letting the areas of the place be exactly what they were in that moment rather than what they may have been historically. Also, one of the simplest tasks, to not take any pictures, was so much more freeing than I had expected.
We re-entered Tintern Abbey after this first 15 to 20 minute exercise and none of the previous rules applied. During this portion I found myself wanting to retrace the steps I had taken the first time but I couldn’t recapture the feeling and connection that I had had with the place. I would attempt to take a picture and capture the awe and beauty of a large window; instead of stained glass the beauty of the space was through the changing leaves, soft grey fog, and dewy grass. However, none of the striking beauty that I had seen in the first exercise could be seen through my camera lens (the lighting was wrong, the angle wasn’t right, etc.), again I couldn’t capture the same feeling.
These exercises yielded different results for each of us. Some might have found the second more rewarding and some might not have felt much of a difference. But, the exercise showed the power of a place, regardless of history or whether a place may be considered picturesque. The power of Tintern Abbey’s ‘place’ can be as simple as an individual’s perception.
In the module, The Country and the City in History, we’ve been looking at the influence of Virgil’s Georgics in eighteenth-century literature, and the theme of change and decay came up fairly frequently in our discussions. Indeed, the ‘Preface’ to Daniel Defoe’s A Tour ‘thro the Whole Island of Great Britain emphasises this aspect as key to understanding Britain in the 1720s:
The Fate of Things gives a new Face to Things … plants and supplants Families, … Great Towns decay, and small Towns rise; … great Rivers and good Harbours dry up, and grow useless; again, new Ports are open’d, Brooks are made Rivers, … navigable Ports and Harbours are made where none were before, and the like.
Defoe’s particular emphasis on change in the British nation can be seen by the simple expedient of counting up how many times he uses the word ‘new’ in the Preface (thirteen times). Even more striking is to see this visualised (using Voyant):
On the face of it, Defoe pays equal attention to rise and decay, but – like Virgil’s Georgics – the aspect of dynamism in the nation’s landscape that Defoe gets most excited about is one of vital newness. (For another reading of mutability in the Tour and the city of London, see my post ‘Defoe, Google, cities and Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore’.)
 Defoe, A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain (London: printed, and sold by G. Strahan, … MDCCXXIV ), p. iv. [ECCO, 5/12/15].
Introduction to the project from MALLE Tutor and Lecturer in English Literature: Writing and Environment, Dr Samantha Walton.
Changes in landscapes inevitably impact on local communities. Whether they are caused by environmental events, regeneration and conservation initiatives, or development spurred by business, changes to the material fabric of place can disturb the experience of those whose sense of identity and feelings of belonging may be entangled with that place. Through the support of the British Academy’s Rising Star Engagement Award, over the course of 2015, I will be hosting a series of events around Bristol and Bath which aim to foster critical discussion and performative evaluation of landscapes and places under processes of change.
As 2015 European Green Capital, Bristol City Council has launched a range of green regeneration policies and activities focused on enhancing the city’s infrastructure sustainably, improving access to natural environments that sustain health and wellbeing, and enhancing habitats for wildlife. Although the Green Capital is, in my opinion, a fantastic initiative which aims to make environmental issues publically engaging and essential to policy and local politics, at a grassroots level responses to the changes the city has undergone over the course of the last year have been mixed. The ‘Landscaping Change’ events will connect writers and artists with early career researchers and, most importantly, local community groups seeking to influence policy to ensure that changes to environments work for local wildlife and connected ecologies and for local people.
On the 15th October I hosted the first of the Landscaping Change events, which focused on the theme of Earth. MALLE Student Sheryl Medlicott attended and has written a report of the event.
Starting the MALLE; Landscaping Change at the Arnolfini
As a Bristolian and new student on the MA Literature, Landscape and Environment I was thrilled to be invited to an event at the Arnolfini in Bristol by one of the MA course tutors, Dr Samantha Walton.
It was a fantastic evening exploring our relationship with soil, and the first in a series called Landscaping Change. The events are being curated by Samantha, who has created programmes bringing together academics, artists and campaigners.
The theme of ‘connections’ emerged in several ways throughout the evening and resonated with me personally as I start this course, meet new people and start to read around subjects raised by the MA.
Maddy Longhurst spoke about how the Blue Finger Alliance came together through their deep respect for the grade one agricultural soil at the Feed Bristol site. Interestingly, the initially combative relationship between the group and town planners (their eventual evictors from part of the land) has become more collaborative, enabling the Alliance to continue to advocate for the site.
Elizabeth-Jane Burnett read poetry expressing how she relates and responds to the terrain when she is running, with memorable imagery of diamond studded blades of grass bending upwards and the soil as a sea teeming with protozoa.
Amy Cutler’s quick-talking presentation on forests and the language we use to define them gave as much of an overview of her work as possible in the time available. It was highly inspirational for a new student.
Miche and Flora of Touchstone Collaborations then co-opted us into reconfiguring the room and we ended the evening sat in groups, holding leaves, encircled by red wool discussing what ‘ecology’ means to us. The most common answer was connectedness, which rather brings things together nicely.
Report written by Sheryl Medlicott
The value of connecting those interested in local environments from very different backgrounds and perspectives comes from the recognition of how rich and layered what we call ‘place’ really is. A place is—in simple terms—a physical area demarcated in some way, but how we demarcate that place is cultural, personal and political. Do we define the place by its usage (which is subject to historical change), or its meaning to the people who live there (who may move in or out of the area, or whose views may be excluded from dominant narratives of that place)? Is place to be defined geographically according to the river that waters it, or in a wider context; by bioregion perhaps? How will such ways of thinking of place withstand alterations to the water table caused by damming or deviating a river, or indeed through far-reaching climate change events? While the main focus of ‘Landscaping Change’ is to explore the values of place at a local and personal level, the environmental and social challenges Bristol currently faces are also being faced by communities in nations across the world, in the context of climate change and devastating threats to green and blue environments and the cultures that depend on them. These series of events hope to spark discussion about these challenges by organising collaborative and multidisciplinary discussion of pressing issues: building green economies; understanding how sustainable development can meet local cultural needs; and advancing environmental legislation which ensures nature’s recovery and enhances human wellbeing.
It is my hope that the ‘Landscaping Change’ events will help affirm the role of subjective and creative responses to environments and will bolster and enrich debates about the value of place-making in discussions concerned with enhancing relationships between nature and society.
To find out more see our website, and join us at our next event on 19th November where Jethro Brice, Marianna Dudley and Owain Jones will consider ‘Water’. Also see the British Academy’s own blog Where We Live Now, which explores thinking about place and policy.
Writing and place is obviously a key part of the MALLE course. For the last two years, one of the MALLE tutors, Dr Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi, has been leading a public engagement project (with a colleague from the University of Exeter), which has worked with schools and museums in Devon to give a specific regional slant on writing the environment. The project, ‘Science at the Seaside: Pleasure Hunts in North Devon’, seeks to introduce a range of groups to rich history of nineteenth-century literary and scientific writing about the North Devon coast, and the role of figures like Charles Kingsley, George Henry Lewes and Philip Gosse; it was inspired by one of the field-work opportunities with regional heritage organisations on her MALLE module, Writing the West Country. You can read more here about the project and her experiences on it.
In February 2015, students from BSU went on a trip to the Poetry Pin Project in West Somerset. We’re delighted with the news that a MA student Lucy Summers and MA tutor Prof. Terry Gifford will both have the poetry they contributed on that day published in the poetry collection resulting from the project, A Walk Down the Rift (Fly Catcher Press, 2015). MALLE tutor Dr Samantha Walton reflects on the trip and the publication.
On a bright and uncharacteristically warm day in February, a group of MA students and BA students from Bath Spa took a walk down the rift with Chris Jelley, the leader of Poetry Pin. Poetry Pin is a geo-located poetry project based in the divided landscape around Hinkley Point. Face the sea, and to your left rugged coastlines extends for miles, tall cliffs spotted with nesting birds and below, long fingers of sandbars touched by the returning tide. To your right, the bulk of fresh earthworks being raised by lorries so enormous they look like toys, rolling across a landscape being reshaped around the boxy white bulk of Hinkley Point C. Its owners, EDF energy, describe it as ‘the first in a new generation of UK nuclear power stations’. During 2014 and early 2015, the Poetry Pin Project invited walkers, writers and readers to follow a trail around this morphing landscape and to respond to what they saw, heard and felt on the way. According to the Poetry Pin website:
Hinkley Point and the Shurton Bars landscape are on the verge of immense change, they sit on an axis, poised to witness the shock of the new colliding with the old. This landscape is dynamic, full of flux and change, jostling with heat and sleep in equal measure. This place is ready for ideas to spawn, it is a place where new writing can be born.
When I took the MA and BA group to meet Chris for a focus walk along the trail, I was stunned by the effects of the rare and bright early morning winter light on the hills and fields. But every turn of the head revealed a contradiction. Orchards whose trees’ branches were grey and glimmering with frost were cut with the burning white hull of the reactor. Fields turned over by plough ready for planting seemed like miniatures of the mass-earth moving taking place just the next hill. As we followed Chris along the route paced out by Poetry Pin, I discovered that one of the great strengths of the project—and one of the reasons it had nurtured such varied writing—was the open approach of the organiser. Chris explained to us all the observable ways the landscape had changed since he had been walking the path, but didn’t pass comments on the rights or wrongs, losses or gains of the process. This commitment to impartiality is affirmed on the website, which states that:
Poetry Pin is a creative space, it has no agenda than to support creativity, it is neither pro or anti nuclear and views or opinions expressed through this portal are those of the authors.
Such lack of bias achieved just what it set out to do: to support creativity, and create a space for the diverse impressions, strong opinions and individual responses of writers along the rift to be recorded. As our phones and iPads pinged into life at a certain spot where a poem had been located by a past walker, we experienced the landscape at a past moment, through a different eye, opening up a range of responses and perspectives which could be complex, impressionistic, personal, or challenging. Although our group had only walked the path once, the poems revealed the changes to the landscape in layers. Reading let us peel those layers back and experience the place like locals who had watched the change. There was something spectral about the landscape we looked on, and also something paradoxically familiar. The writing of hundreds of strangers had made us intimate with the place.
Although it’s no longer possible to submit poems to Poetry Pin, the project does have a real legacy. For the next year, you can walk the trail and reveal the poems as you go on a device with data connection. A selection of poems added to the trail will also be published in a book, A Walk Down the Rift, to be published by Fly Catcher Press in October. At the MALLE, we were delighted to find out this week that our MA student Lucy Summers and a tutor on the course, Prof. Terry Gifford, will both have poetry they submitted to the project that day published in the final collection. These were poems written just as we settled on rocks on the beach after the long walk through fields and past the drone of construction. There was little time for editing and none at all for re-drafting. There is a freshness and immediacy to the poems we read on the walk down. I’m looking forward to reading Lucy’s and Terry’s contribution in the collection. They have added another layer to the place, and another way of looking.
We are fantastically pleased that Dr Samantha Walton – module leader and tutor on our MA – has been awarded one of the British Academy’s Rising Star Engagement Awards for ‘Landscaping Change: exploring environmental regeneration, conservation and placemaking initiatives using arts and humanities research methods’. These awards are given to “distinguished Early Career Researchers to actively engage in career development through organising interdisciplinary events for other Early Career Researchers.” See the reports on the British Academy’s news page and in the Times Higher Education article. Dr Samantha Walton’s proposal is for a conference at Bath Spa University’s Newton Park Campus and, to coincide with that city’s European Green Capital Award, a number of events in Bristol. The aim of this project is to “showcase scholarship, new writing and local arts and social initiatives in order to examine how recent environmental interventions have been informed, and could in future be enriched, by arts and humanities approaches, such as theories of placemaking and co- creating change.” A website will also be created that will be “a forum for reflection on how and why we value different environments … and what their meaning is in the lives of people and communities.”
In this post, one of our students, Kerstin Grunwald-Hope, reflects on a recent field trip to London run by Dr Tracey Hill for the strand ‘Early Modern London’.
After taking the train from Bath to London and then the tube to Farringdon, the sound through a gully grate of the ancient Fleet River, now part of the London sewer system, rushing past under our feet was our evocative introduction to the remnants of early modern London.
During our visit to the London Metropolitan Archives, we were given an interesting talk by David Luck, senior archivist, about the extent of the collection, the procedure of how to order and view original material from the archives and how to use the online and paper catalogues. Tracey then showed us prints of the famous Agas map as well as beautiful maps by the renowned Dutch map makers and engravers Braun and Hogenberg and Visscher, all depicting in stunning detail the 16th and 17th century City of London. To finish our visit in the archives, we had some free time to undertake our own research and if possible find out when exactly the Fleet River was covered over (first in 1733 from Holborn Bridge to Fleet Street and then in 1766 from Fleet Bridge to the Thames).
During our walking tour of Clerkenwell, we passed through St John’s Gate which now houses the Museum of the Order of St John where we saw exhibits telling the story of the Order from its origins in 11th century Jerusalem to its current involvement with St John Ambulance. We also were able to see the actual well which gives the ward of Clerkenwell its name. It is now embedded in a modern office-type building and can only be glimpsed at through a glass wall.
We then made our way back to the City to our hotel near Liverpool Street with Tracey pointing out buildings, symbols and remnants of early modern London as we went. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we had dinner at Ye Olde Watling Pub. The pub is claimed to date back to 1668 and to be built from old ships’ timbers by Sir Christopher Wren. The upstairs rooms, where we had our meal, are said to have been used as a drawing office during the building of St Paul’s Cathedral and to have catered for Wren’s workmen after the Great Fire.
The next morning, we walked to Bishopsgate for a visit to the church of St Helen and John Stow’s church St Andrew Undershaft. After having seen many drawings and photos of John Stow’s memorial, it was great to finally see it in the flesh in St Andrew Undershaft.
The depiction of Stow in a writing position is very rare for such memorials. It was also interesting to learn that the feather that the statue of Stow holds is a real feather and is replaced every few years. The ultra-modern surroundings of the churches such as the glass-fronted Gherkin and Shard formed a fascinating contrast to the two small stone church buildings with their intricate ornateness – little glimpses of history in a jungle of towering glass and metal.
We then went the Church of St Magnus the Martyr which houses a beautiful model of the old London Bridge, providing a great visualisation of the shops, houses and chapels that used to crowd the bridge. This chaotic mix made the bridge almost impassable and most people preferred to rely on the watermen to ferry them across to the other side of the river. St Magnus the Martyr also pinpoints where the old London Bridge used to touch the land on the north side of the river before the bridge was moved.
On our walk along the Thames, we passed the enormous Fishmongers’ Company Hall which demonstrated their continuous wealth and influence as one of the most important livery companies of the City of London. We also saw Queenhithe Dock which is the only remaining Anglo Saxon dock in the world and contributed to the development of medieval London. We then visited St Olave’s Church where Samuel Pepys erected a memorial to his wife who died at the age of 29 of a fever.
After lunch, we visited the Guildhall Library and had the chance to view and handle original manuscripts and early printed books. Tracey explained how information gained from manuscripts such as account and minute books play a vital role in contributing to literary research by for example contradicting prevailing assumptions about the involvement of playwrights in certain Lord Mayor shows. The manuscripts were beautifully written in secretary hand. The printed books included a 1640 collection of Ben Jonson’s work, all four early modern editions of Stow’s A Survey of London (1598, 1603, 1618 & 1633) and a 1597 edition of Edmund Spenser’s The shepheards calendar.
As part of our final walking tour we went to St Bartholomew’s Church in Smithfield which was unfortunately closed but it was still interesting to see how much the streets surrounding the church had retained their early modern character.
We then visited the Barbican area where sections of the Roman as well as medieval layers of the city wall can still be seen. After our final visit to St Giles Cripplegate which was Munday’s, Milton’s, Defoe’s and Speed’s local family church, we headed back to Paddington by tube for our train back to Bath.
All in all, a highly informative and fun field trip which really brought the authors and their works of the Early Modern London module to life and contributed enormously to my understanding of the location and period in question.