Alba Newmann Holmes
I am currently working on a book project entitled On the Map: Twentieth-Century American Poetry and Cartography, in which I examine the ways poetic structures, like cartographic structures, organize knowledge—how they can claim territory or order experience, while leaving necessary openings for uncertainty, interpretation, and discovery. As the title suggests, this project is interdisciplinary in scope, bringing together materials and methods from literary studies, cartography, geography, rhetoric and critical theory. For my LARC summer project, I hope to work on the development of the third chapter of the manuscript, focusing on the poetry of Langston Hughes. This chapter concentrates on poems that name the streets of Harlem, arguing that these create a psychogeographic map of the neighborhood and of Hughes’ personal geography more broadly. Psychogeography was championed by the Situationists, a mid-century group of Parisian artists and urban planners interested in the ways in which human experience informs our sense of place, and of cities in particular. They sought to intervene into traditional cartographic productions, to create maps that reflected urban residents’ actual interactions with place. I will use the notion of psychogeography to consider Harlem as a space in which African American poets, artists, and musicians were engaging with and reconfiguring their own sense of the city, through their artistic productions. I’d love to work with students or faculty who are interested mapping, urban planning, geography (the cartographic end of the spectrum) and/or those who are interested in the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance.