‘In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work…’ (Sebald, Rings of Saturn)
To celebrate the launch of the new Place, Environment, Writing MA run collaboratively by geographers and writers at Royal Holloway, we’re back at the Roxy Bar and Screen putting on a special screening of Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald) (2012), alongside launch drinks, a short film by theEYE on Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta, and talks from Sir Andrew Motion, James Kneale, Heather Yeung, Jamie Andrews and Gareth Evans.
Patience (After Sebald) (2012, 82mins) is a stunning multi-layered film essay on landscape, art, history, life and loss by the acclaimed documentary film-maker Grant Gee (‘Joy Division’, 2007). It’s an exploration of the work and influence of German writer WG Sebald, told via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking his most famous book, The Rings of Saturn. Visually and aurally innovative, ‘Patience’ features contributions from Tacita Dean, Robert Macfarlane, Katie Mitchell, Rick Moody, Andrew Motion, Chris Petit, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner. It maps Sebald’s digressions, illustrations and itinerary across this half sunken coast through monochrome vistas, archival herring packing footage and diagrams, in an experimental and inventive documentary (see trailer). The film was commissioned as part of The Re-Enchantment, a three year national arts project by Artevents exploring our various relationships to place in the twenty first century. The film’s co-producer, Gareth Evans, now curator at Whitechapel Gallery, will introduce the film. Gareth is a writer, editor and film programmer who curated the Artevents project and also co-edited the limited edition book which came out of the project, Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and Its Meanings, copies of which will be available to buy on the night.
Ian Hamilton Finlay (2005, 26 mins) is a meditative short film created by Illuminations as part of theEYE series, exploring Finlay’s Little Sparta in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh. Part garden, part inscription, Little Sparta brings the space of text into the material landscape, mixing horticulture with poetry, myth and social metaphor. Ian Hamilton Finlay is an influential small press Scottish poet, co-founder of the Wild Hawthorn Press, and this film marked his eightieth birthday. Heather Yeung, co-organiser of W.A.L.K. (Critical Dialogues in Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge), will present the film. Heather has worked on both Ian Hamilton Finlay and Alec Finlay, exploring ideas of affective mapping and contemporary poetry, and she is currently editing a volume for Palgrave called Cosmopoetics.
Sir Andrew Motion will be coming along to the event to talk and read from his work. Andrew has a long-standing reputation as a writer with many collections of poetry, fiction, and critical works on writers including Edward Thomas and John Keats. He has worked as an editor for the Poetry Review and for Chatto and Windus, and was Poet Laureate from 1999 until 2009. His most recent book, ‘Ways of Life: On Places, Painters and Poets’ considers the interlacing of English language and landscape, and he teaches on the new collaborative Royal Holloway MA. James Kneale (UCL) will also be talking about the new open-access website Literary Geographies which he co-runs with Sheila Hones, a collection of thematic bibliographies and other resources reflecting the evolving genres of literary geography. James is a geographer lecturer at UCL who specialises in the represented and material geographies of science fiction and utopia narratives. Jamie Andrews, head curator of the British Library’s Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands exhibition, will be talking about the motives and selections of this major national exhibition on the topic of British landscape and literature (ending 25th Sept). On display are 150 material works – manuscripts, first editions, drawings, etchings, photographs and overseas loans, from the 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Seafarer’ from the Exeter Book to John Lennon’s ‘In My Life’ (see curator’s introduction). The exhibition also includes a number of video interviews with contemporary writers, including Graham Swift, Alice Oswald, Simon Armitage and Robert Macfarlane, available online here.
This evening is celebrating the launch of the Royal Holloway MA ‘Place, Environment, Writing’, a unique collaboration between cultural geographers and creative writers which focusses on the key question of how we relate to the environment (from wild to urban) in the modern world through fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The programme develops the writing skills of students through an understanding of creative place-based writing as well as a grounding in theoretical explorations of environment, place and landscape, through workshops and supervisions led by the writers Jo Shapcott, Sir Andrew Motion, and Tim Cresswell (editor of Cultural Geographies and author of Place: A Short Introduction).