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IEHN Network Meeting - Charles Travis - 22 September 2010

IEHN Meetings

22 September 2010, Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin.

The Fifth Meeting of the Irish Environmental History Network featured a talk by Dr. Charles Travis, entitled "The Writer as Geographer - Considering Literature, Landscape and Technology". Dr. Travis is a Lecturer in Geography, NUI Maynooth, and a Trinity Long Room Hub Research Associate. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Mark Hennessy, TCD, and an abstract describing the talk is included below.

In the Western tradition, ‘geography' (from the Greek for ‘earth-writing') has been a discipline with a strong visual component, but ‘for ancient Greeks, and to a lesser degree for Romans as well, geographia represents a literary genre more than a branch of physical science [1]'. Consequently, Herodotus and Strabo blended the deductive reasoning of science, with the imaginative and intuitive nature of poetry, when constructing their geographical narratives: ‘they sifted through a vast storehouse of traveler's tales in order to separate fact from fiction, then retold those which they thought credible enough to claim a reader's attention [2].' Initially ‘the geographer's science and storyteller's art . . . could not be fully detached from each other [3]'. In the first decade of the twentieth century ‘thinking in Science and Technology Studies has tended to dissolve epistemological distinctions between art and science [4]'. Science's claim to a universal truth has diminished in the face of postmodernity, and ‘modern artists have rejected aesthetics as the defining feature of their work [5].' Such an epistemological shift suggests that the spiral staircase of history is leading to an ontological ‘plateau' where once again ‘the geographer's science and storyteller's art, [6]' cannot be fully detached from one another. Consequently, representations of environmental concerns in literature and the mediating effects of technology in the humanities will be considered in this discussion on the role of the writer as geographer.

[1] J. S. Romm, The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought: Geography, Exploration, and Fiction (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) pp .3- 4.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Denis Cosgrove, ‘Maps, Mapping, Modernity: Art and Cartography in the Twentieth Century,' Imagi Mundi, Vol 57/1, 2005 (35-53) 51
[5] Cosgrove, ‘Maps, Mapping, Modernity' 51
[6] Romm, The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought, 3- 4.

The meeting was followed by the combined launch of Dr. Travis's new book, Literary Landscapes of Ireland: Geographies of Irish Stories, 1929-1946 (Mellen Press, New York) and the launch of A Digital Literary Atlas of Ireland, 1922-1949, which is available here on the Trinity Long Room Hub website. The Atlas is the outcome of Dr. Travis's Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Digital Humanities with the Trinity Long Room Hub (see here). Prof. Paddy Duffy, NUIM formally launched both.

Description of Literary Landscapes of Ireland: Geographies of Irish Stories, 1929-1946:

This study of literary geography examines the relationship between landscape and identity in the works of nine Irish writers who published English language novels between 1929-1946. Focusing upon the distinct experiences and depictions by these Irish writers, an engagement with Mikhail Bakhtin's 'Historical Poetics' sets the periodicity of early post-independent and partitioned Ireland in rhythm with the distinct senses of spaces of culture to which each writer's work give birth.

The meeting took place in the Trinity Long Room Hub building, Trinity College, Dublin, 5pm-7pm, 22 September 2010.


Last updated 13 September 2017 History (Email).