James Peacock discusses how cultural and literary criticism can help us to unpack Brooklyn’s complex cultural history

How did you come to write Brooklyn Fictions?

James Peacock, Brooklyn Fictions: The Contemporary Urban Community in a Global Age (Bloomsbury, 2016).
James Peacock, Brooklyn Fictions: The Contemporary Urban Community in a Global Age (Bloomsbury, 2016).

There are two strands to this answer – three, if I’m being really honest. First, it evolved quite organically from my previous research on Paul Auster and Jonathan Lethem – both contemporary writers strongly associated with the borough. Having written articles and monographs on them which explored, at least in part, their representations of Brooklyn neighbourhoods, it made sense to embark on a multi-author project which dug more deeply into these representations. Looking at my research as a whole, I realise that the importance of place and the relationship between the individual and the community have been connecting themes. The second inspiration for the project was more personal. While I was studying for my Ph.D., my wife and I lived in Leith. Once a separate town, now part of Edinburgh, Leith retains a fiercely independent streak and a sense of identity in opposition to the fancier city up the road. Even though it has been undergoing gentrification for many years, and despite the fact that it has Michelin-starred restaurants and some very expensive new apartments, Leith still values a down-home, honest authenticity many of its residents feel the centre does not have. When I began to understand that the relationship between Brooklyn and Manhattan was very similar, I saw some wider potential in writing about these ideological constructions, with Brooklyn as a suitable case study. Thirdly – and here’s the confessional moment – I visited New York City for the first time in 2005 and (though it’s not very original to say this) fell in love with it. I cannot deny that a research project which might take me there a few times was an attractive prospect. (more…)


Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts


This is the fourteenth in a series that brings together the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that has caught my eye over the past seven days. Including: Toni Morrison offers her take on the US election; a new edition of Barthes Studies hits the virtual shelves (free-of-charge); and a look at poet Arthur Rimbaud’s little-known work behind the camera. Take a look, and feel free to share! (more…)

Free Public Event • 6 December 2016, Cardiff University
Design and Photography: Rhys Tranter
Design and Photography: Rhys Tranter

This year, Professor Diana Wallace (University of South Wales) will be presenting the Assuming Gender Annual Lecture at Cardiff University. The lecture will explore a tradition of Gothic historical fictions stretching from Sophia Lee in the eighteenth century to Sarah Waters in the twenty-first century. Conscious that women have often been left out of traditional historical narratives, Wallace suggests that Gothic historical fiction offers a mode of writing which can both reinsert women into history and symbolise their exclusion. (more…)

Call for Papers • 4 July 2017 • MERL, University of Reading

Twentieth-Century British Periodicals: Words and Art on the Printed Page, 1900-1999

woman-and-home-periodicalCurrent scholarship on twentieth-century periodicals is moving beyond the study of the ‘little’ magazine and avant-garde publications. Many mainstream and specialist periodicals, including tabloids, broadsheets, illustrated newspapers, illustrated magazines, fashion magazines, ‘slick’ magazines, women’s magazines, art periodicals, trade and specialist periodicals, pulps, reviews, and political and campaigning magazines have yet to receive sustained critical attention.

This interdisciplinary one-day * conference, coordinated by Dr Kate Macdonald (University of Reading) and Emma West (University of Cardiff), will bring together scholars and collectors to discuss the magazines, newspapers, journals, dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies, monthlies and quarterlies of British cultural life in the pre-Internet twentieth century. The focus of the discussion will be on the producers and consumers of these ephemeral products, to attempt to map out their networks. By focusing on both words and images, this conference aims to bring the specialist collector and the art historian to the table, to share knowledge of commercial and artistic figures and movements with publishing and book historians. (more…)

Call for Papers • Salzburg University, 17–21 July 2017
Brian O'Nolan/Flann O'Brien
Brian O’Nolan/Flann O’Brien

The International Flann O’Brien Society is proud to announce Acting Out: The IV International Flann O’Brien Conference, an international conference on the theme of performance, theatricality, and illusion in Flann O’Brien’s writing, hosted by the Department of English Studies at Salzburg University, 17-21 July 2017.

In recent years O’Brien’s writing has been foregrounded as an integral site for testing the rise of new modernist studies, as it troubles critical commonplaces about modernism itself by virtue of its ephemerality and parochial energies. Recent publications of out-of-print English and Irish-language columns, short stories, non-fiction, dramatic works for the stage, and teleplays for Raidió Teilifís Éireann have not only made O’Brien’s broader canon accessible to a new generation of scholars, but have also highlighted its importance to an understanding of modernism which ‘has grown more capacious, turning its attention to previously neglected forms’ (Rónán McDonald and Julian Murphet). (more…)