LJMU English’s MRes student Charlotte Neely has had her paper accepted by the ‘Cityscapes: Media Textualities and Urban Visions‘ conference to be held at York St John University on 23rd April. The paper is entitled ‘Re-mapping Possibilities: The Immigrant Child’s Experience of New York’s Urban Ghetto’, and Charlotte will be speaking about Henry Roth’s 1934 novel Call it Sleep and how it can be illuminated by the theory and practice of psychogeography; the study of the influence of geographical locale on the mind and behaviour. This newly emerging discipline places particular emphasis upon playfulness and drifting within the urban environment, and she will draw upon its ideas to reinterpret the movements of Roth’s child protagonist David Schearl through New York’s Lower East Side during the years leading up to the Great Depression.
Charlotte’s paper will argue that, despite facing impoverished conditions and ethnic discrimination, David locates spaces of play that transgress boundaries and disrupt mechanisms of power. As the protagonist makes his impromptu journey through the city, he offers a candid representation of tenement life and portrays a child’s temperament and intuition. His innocence defamiliarises New York. Frequently finding himself lost and overwhelmed by unfamiliar territory, he wanders the streets; mapping the city as he experiences it. Paying close attention to Guy Debord’s theory of dérive, Charlotte will consider how a child’s reading of the city maps new possibilities within confined spaces. She will also look at ways in which spaces of play can challenge power relations and define a new order urban reality.
Charlotte, who graduated from LJMU English’s undergraduate programme last year, will be the second of LJMU English’s current Masters students to present at academic conferences this year. Her success at this stage of her studies is a particularly impressive achievement. She said, ‘When I found out my paper had been accepted I felt really proud of myself. It has given me a boost of confidence that I needed and made me even more excited about my research. Of course, with excitement comes nerves, but I feel really supported by my supervisor and am ready to accept the challenge’.
Charlotte’s dissertation will focus on representations of childhood poverty in early twentieth century New York.