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Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 2 The City as Text GEOG | Imagining Toronto Department of Geography Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies York University Winter Term
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 2 Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting. Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1987
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 3 The city as we imagine it, the soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare, is as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate on maps. Jonathan Raban, Soft City. London: Collins Harvill, 1988.
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 4 [Toronto is] a city that exists in no ones imagination, neither in Toronto, nor in the rest of the world. … Toronto is a place people live, not a place where things happen, or, at least, not where the sorts of things happen that forge a place for the city in the imagination. Bert Archer, Making a Toronto of the Imagination. in uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto. Toronto: Coach House, 2005.
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 5 A key difficulty in constructing the citys metaphors is the handling of meaning from one generation to the next, or across barriers of birth, class and circumstance. For a large part of its history, Toronto has been in a state of near-amnesia, seeking desperately for its own memory. Germaine Warkentin, Mapping Wonderland. Literary Review of Canada, 13(10):
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 6 Nothing in a city is discrete. A city is all interpolation. Dionne Brand, Thirsty. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 7 The literature is still catching up with the city, with its new stories. Dionne Brand, quoted in Vanity Fair, 2005
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 8 The Imagined City Cities are more than physical places: they are also spaces of representation and the imagination. Tension between creativity (openness, imagination) and repression (bureaucracy, authoritarianism, alienation) Challenges of sensory overload, order and disorder, body and machine, Challenges of autonomy/alienation; anonymity/anomie; identity/otherness; difference The citys bombardment of the senses The city as a place where the self (and the Other) comes into being The city of pleasure; anxiety and fear; wonder; self-realization The city as a site of fantasy; of memory The global city; urban diasporas
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 9 Reading the Imagined City Many geographers can be charged with being looters of literature. (Lamme, Speaking with the same voice: Geographic interpretation and representation of literary resources. Geojournal, 38(1): 41-48) The student of place … has often turned to the overt messages in the texts by analysing both the reliable facts and the insightful, imaginative fictions produced by literary minds. But literature can be an even more powerful vehicle, and Raymond Williams has warned against the degrading assumption that literature is merely a second-hand communication of reality. … It is much more. (Osbourne, Fact, Symbol, and Message: Three Approaches to Literary Landscapes. The Canadian Geographer, 32(3): )
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 10 Urban Epistemologies: Some Ways of Seeing Realist: fact/fiction; descriptive; ideographic; regional novels (from the era of regional geography) Social construction: Edward Sojas thirdspace Class fictions: David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre Discourse and power [postmodern fixations]: Foucault, Derrida Postcolonial approaches: Homi Bhabha, Edward Said Humanist and phenomenological approaches (Yi-Fu Tuan, David Seamon, Gaston Bachelard) Feminism and gendered approaches (Judith Butler, Doreen Massey, Iris Young) Psychogeography [the flaneur ; the derive ]: Guy Debord ( Society of the Spectacle ); de Certeau ( The Practice of Everyday Life )
The City as Text Im looking for a poetry of engagement, poetry that directly and materially utilizes the civic space and its energies. […] I seek a poetry that is vital, alive in responding to the city dynamically and dramatically, and one that urges its readers to move off the page to create meaning in the poemand constructs a meaning that is activated only when the reader has engaged with the city in a like manner. A poetry that rereads the streets, the signage, the geography and cultural atmosphere of Toronto in its very structure. That is, not a poem that is about the Humber River, but a poem that attempts to become, in its rhythm, language, sound effect, the Humber. Not a poem describing walking through Kensington Market, but a poem that creates the psychological experience of walking in Kensington through verbal dissonance, register shifting, typography and juxtaposition. (Stephen Cain, Annexing a space for poetry in the new Toronto.) Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 11
Dionne Brands Toronto Anonymity is the big lie of a city. (3) What floats in the air … is chance. … Any minute you can crash into someone elses life … (4) [O]n the sidewalks, after theyve emerged from the stations, after being sandpapered by the jostling and scraping that a city like this does, all the lives theyve hoarded, all the ghosts theyve carried, all the inversions theyve made for protection, all the scars and marks and records for recognition – the whole heterogeneous baggage falls out with each step on the pavement. Theres so much spillage. (5) Lives in the city are doubled, tripled, conjugated – women and men all trying to handle their own chain of events, trying to keep the story straight in their own heads. At times they catch themselves in sensational lies, embellishing or avoiding a nasty secret here and there, juggling the lines of causality, and before you know it, its impossible to tell one thread from another. (5) Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 12
Week 2 13 January 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 13
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