Comment by the speaker
Drawing on British urban novels of the late 20th century, the talk will explore literary cities as afterlife worlds that are constructed as externalisations of the characters’ mental vulnerabilities. I will set off from an interpretation of madness through a spatial and embodied lens, as a loss of one’s coordinates and a profoundly disoriented being in the world (‘not being all there’). Thence the exploration will proceed to Alasdair Gray’s 1981 novel Lanark: A Life in Four Books and its grappling with the urban afterlife as an emphatically dystopian avatar of Glasgow and its protagonist as a quester for identity as well as for the possibility of a rewarding life in a hellish environment. Finally, the analysis will turn towards the bleaker sites of neo-Gothic London as depicted in Patrick McGrath’s novel Spider (1990). In this instance, dwelling in London’s eastern quarters is laden with the experience of inanimateness and drainage of life of a psychotic character, effectively blurring the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead. Indeed, guiding me through the analysis of the novels will be a challenge to the notion of the afterlife as a(n) (urban) realm separate from the earthly, as well as to the city as a decidedly hellish or heavenly milieu.
About the speaker:
Marija Spirkosvska is a doctoral researcher at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture in Giessen, Germany. Her research sits at the interstices between literary criticism, urban studies, and psychology, and draws strongly on phenomenology and geocriticism. Her PhD project, entitled Disturbia: Poetics of Urban Psychopathology in the Anglophone City Novel (1980-2020) investigates perceptions of space during bouts of mental illness in the context of representation of urban modernity and aims at establishing a poetics of urban psychopathology in urban literature. She hold an MSc in Literature and Modernity: 1900 – Present from the University of Edinburgh.