Literary Second Cities conference


Literary Second Cities

The Second International Conference of the Helsinki Literature and the City Network
Åbo Akademi University, 20-21 August 2015

Keynote speakers:
Professor Bart Keunen, Comparative Literature, Ghent University, Belgium
Professor Marc Brosseau, Geography, University of Ottawa, Canada

The conference ‘Literary Second Cities’, invites sessions on new approaches to the study of literary second cities in any historical period or part of the world. A session ideally consists of (at least) one chairperson and 1-3 papers, with a length of approximately 20 minutes for each paper. We invite sessions on subjects including, but not limited to, the following themes:

– the industrial city, as opposed to the cosmopolitan capital driven by finance and consumption;
– scaling the city, including comparisons between cities of different magnitudes;
– the provincial capital;
– lesser-known shadow partners of major cities
– former capitals and declined or marginalized cities;
– mobilities and secondary cities.

The deadline for the preliminary call for sessions is 30 November 2014. The language of the conference is English. Please send proposals (length approximately 300 words) to

A call for papers will follow in the course of November.

For more information contact:
Jason Finch, Åbo Akademi University (
Lieven Ameel, University of Helsinki (
Markku Salmela, University of Tampere (

The second international conference of the HLCN will be devoted to the topic of literary ‘Second Cities’ – the literature of cities that come second (or third, or fourth) to the ‘first cities’ within their national or supra-regional context, and that have remained largely understudied in literary urban studies. What, for example, can literary experiences of Chicago or Boston tell us about urban developments in American fiction, and how do literary Marseille or Lyon provide new perspectives on the role of Paris in fiction? And how do questions of urban scale reverberate in the literature of cities that are not undisputed centres? The search for answers to these questions contains the potential to revise a whole literary-historical tradition.
Work on the literary city continues to be disproportionately focused on the biggest and most glamorous of (Western) world cities: the likes of London, Paris and New York. The bonds between these cities and the literary canon have proved durable, and in a long-standing tradition of urban literary studies, modernity and literature are perceived as coming truly together in a few global metropolises. There are reasons to challenge such a selective focus in the twenty-first century. Paris may have been ‘the capital of the nineteenth century’, as Walter Benjamin famously stated, but today’s globalized late modernity is much less comfortable with such ideas of single, representative, ostensibly self-sufficient cities.

Find the full conference abstract at the conference website:


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