Centre for European Studies
Water in the City of Words: Epidemics, Entropy and the Environment
These seminars will investigate the city's uncanny Other: Water. Cities have always been founded near bodies of water to enable consumption, drainage, trade, movement of people and communication. With industrialisation and increasing urbanisation water became increasingly scarce in the cities, polluted and ridden with microscopic carriers of epidemic diseases. In our own time, water is often figured as a dystopic figure in current and futuristic environmental discourses provoked by unsustainable urbanisation. These seminars will discuss the different ways in which water may be perceived as both an undercurrent and a flood in urbane eco-fictions from fairy tales to science fiction with references to the literary history of epidemics (Boccaccio, Thomas Mann and Defoe) and the cultural histories of urbanity and environmentalism from the nineteenth century to the present day. The first seminar will focus on nineteenth-century Scandinavian eco-fictions preoccupied with urbanity, water and disease (including social and cultural diseases): H.C. Andersen's tales "Vanddraaben" (A Drop of Water, 1848) and "Dryaden" (The Wood Nymph, 1868), and Henrik Ibsen's play En folkefiende (An Enemy of the People, 1882); the second seminar will focus on more recent dystopic environmental fictions set in London such as J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World (1962) and the film adaptation of Richard Doyle's Flood (Flood, 2007), and the HBO TV-series Treme depicting the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.
Hans Christian Andersen, "Vanddraaben" ("A Drop of Water", in The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories, transl. by E.C. Haugaard, Robert Beard Books , 1990, pp. 354-355.
Hans Christian Andersen, "Dryaden" ("The Wood Nymph", in Fairy Tales, transl. by TiinaNunnally, Penguin Classics, 2005, pp. 381-404).
J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World, Harper Perennial, 2008 (1962)
Henrik Ibsen, En folkefiende (An Enemy of the People, transl. by James McFarlane, Oxford UP, 2009).
Tony Mitchell, Flood [DVD], Lionsgate, 2007 (based on a novel by Richard Doyle)
David Simon, Treme [DVD], Warner Home Video, 2011
Allan Conrad Christensen, Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Contagion, Routledge, 2005
CheryllGlotfelty and Harold Fromm (eds), The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, U of Georgia P, 1996.
Richard Lehan, The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History, U of California P, 1998.
Christopher Prendergast, Paris and the Nineteenth Century, Wiley-Blackwell, 1995.
Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City, Chatto and Windus, 1973.
Simon Scharma, Landscape and Memory, Harper Perennial, 2004.
Vanessa R. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris, U of California P, 1998.
Philip E. Steinberg and Rob Shields, What is a City? Rethinking the Urban after Hurricane Katrina, U. of Georgia P, 2008.
Tony Tanner, City of Words: American Fiction, 1950-1970, Jonathan Cape, 1976
A Selection of Related texts:
Karen Blixen (Isac Dinesen), “The Deluge at Nordeney”, in Seven Gothic Tales, 1934.
Boccaccio, IlDecamerone (Decameron, 1351-53)
Albert Camus, La Peste (The Plague, 1947)
Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (1772)
Knut Hamsun, Sult (Hunger, 1890)
Peter Høeg, ”Medlidenhed med Børnene i Vaden By” (”Pity for the Children of Vaden Town”, in Tales of the Night, Harvill, 1998)
J.P. Jacobsen, Pesten i Bergamo (The Plague in Bergamo, 1881)
Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (1902)
Thomas Mann, Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice, 1912)
Lars von trier, Epidemic [DVD], 1987
José Saramago, Ensaiosobre a cegueira (Blindness, 1995)
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil (1925)
Roman Polanski, Chinatown [DVD], 1974