The Spirit of Place

Panelists
Jess Edwards (chair)

Professor Jess Edwards is the Head of the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University. His main areas of interest are both the literary aspects of geography and the geographic aspects of literature, with his early published research concerned with the early modern period when a recognisably ‘modern’ cartography first emerged. His first book dealt with seventeenth-century discourses on geometry, mapping and surveying, and work up to around 2014 explored contributions to seventeenth and early eighteenth-century geographic culture by John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Daniel Defoe. He’s also interested in twentieth and twenty-first century travel, place and nature writing, and in what might broadly be described as the public life of literature.

Joe Fenn

Joe Fenn is a writer from Salford whose work explores the intersection of abstract theory and daily experience. His essays, criticism and creative work have been published internationally, including by the University of Iowa. He is a graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University’s MA in Creative Writing programme, where he specialised in nonfiction and worked closely with the Centre for Place Writing. He works at Manchester’s Portico Library where, among various roles, he is host of the Portico Podcast’s ‘Rewriting the North’ series.

Rachel Andrews

Rachel Andrews is a PhD Candidate at the School of Irish Studies in NUI Galway. Her doctoral work, which incorporates a practice-based element, investigates the significance of unmarked burial sites in the Irish collective memory and culture. She has presented her academic work internationally at conference panels on memory studies, on mapping, and on spatial justice. Her creative and journalistic writing on unmarked burial sites has been published in the London Review of Books and in Gorse literary journal.

Sharron Kraus

Sharron Kraus is a composer, musician and writer who takes inspiration from place, folklore, folk music and psychedelia. She recorded an album of soundscapes inspired by her surroundings whilst living in Mid Wales as well as a song cycle drawing on themes and characters from The Mabinogi and has collaborated with an array of musicians and writers including poet Helen Tookey and writer Justin Hopper. Her podcast ‘Preternatural Investigations’ explores portals onto magical aspects of the natural world. She holds a D.Phil. In Philosophy from the University of Oxford.

Abstracts
In Place of Worship

Ex-churches come in all manner of forms. Some remain only in absence, empty lots and public parks serving as photo-negative memories. Some survive but stand derelict, while others have been repurposed as homes, bars, bookshops, telecom masts and rock-climbing centres. In a creative-critical, essayistic mode utilising textual study, archival research, immersive field work and personal introspection, this presentation asks questions such as: what makes place sacred? What remains of the sacrality of place after it has been repurposed?  And, what do the newfound uses of these spaces tell us about our society and values?

Recovering: Mapping the Spatial Presence of Ghosts at an Unmarked Burial Site in Co. Cork

This illustrated talk will document Rachel’s mixed ethnographic and artistic ‘deep mapping’ of an unmarked Famine Graveyard on the outskirts of Cork city, Ireland. The project is contextualized through the consideration of deep mapping and feminist cartographies, along with other works in contemporary Irish culture that have also sought to map traumatic space. 

Real and Imagined Places

Sharron’s presentation will explore the possibility of getting to know a place by immersion in an imagined version of it and working creatively with it, and what this can tell us about the interplay between places and our imagined or remembered versions of them. Her focus is Chactonbury Ring on the South Downs in West Sussex.

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