A Workshop on Space

by ninashiel

My School organised a comparative workshop on space (of the non-cosmic kind) on Saturday. They had three sessions, one on Modernist city on Russian art and literature (Dr Corinne Fournier Kiss), one on Postmodern spaces in literature and architecture (Dr David Spurr) and one on gay and lesbian spaces in the urban landscape (Dr Mark Casey). The plenary on affective spaces was given by Dr Frederik Tyngstrup. I liveblogged the sessions on the CLAI twitter account, @complit_ie.

Although my project focuses on the ekphrastic approach, space is another important theoretical direction for me, so I was very glad to attend and found the sessions if not directly relevant to my work, then certainly very interesting. I observed that the sessions worked remarkably well together, despite the different topics and quite different approaches. Many MA students had been somehow coaxed to attend, but instead of just sitting quietly and shyly, they too took part in the quite lively discussions afterwards, which was great to see. I myself used to be very timid at workshops and conferences in the past, thinking that with my limited knowledge I had very little to contribute, so I was pleased to see that other people were not suffering from such things. That whole concept of contributing to discussions at events probably deserves a post of its own at some point.

I was particularly interested in the concept of ‘fourth dimension’ as presented by Dr Fournier Kiss in the context of the early 20th century Russian literature and art, namely how, likely influenced by theosophy, theology and theoretical physics (Einstein), at times, touches of something ineffable appear in text or visual images. Characters seem to touch the enormity of Something Else, call it the Void, the Abyss, or something in more positive terms, something greater. It seemed to me almost like a brief transcendental experience. The concept of the sublime came up later, at the post-plenary discussion. The sublime was mooted as a feeling that people can no longer experience. I don’t actually agree with this myself, but the notion that emotions are rooted to historical times and contexts is fascinating. The notion of the affect, as discussed in the plenary, made me want to link it somehow to the fourth dimension. Both seem to involve individuals being affected by something outside their full comprehension. This could further be linked with the experience of inspiration, which causes a writer or an artist to try to verbalise or re-imagine the original moment.