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Introduction: early modern dis/locations.

NOT FAR INTO HIS SEMINAL 1974 WORK, The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre makes the following claim about space, and how we understand it in the modern West:

The fact is that around 1910 a certain space was shattered. It was the space of common sense, of knowledge (savoir), of social practice, of political power, a space thitherto enshrined in everyday discourse, just as in abstract thought ... the space, too, of classical perspective and geometry, developed from the Renaissance onwards on the basis of the Greek tradition (Euclid, logic) and bodied forth in Western art and philosophy, as in the form of the city and town.... This was truly a crucial moment.

Lefebvre argues that this "shattering" "crucial" moment appeared in an array of discourses, practices, and "systems of reference," such as "the town, history, paternity, the tonal system in music, traditional morality and so forth." (1) Hinting at Einstein, Lefebvre asserts "traditional time and space* .. were disappearing" (300); referencing the Bauhaus, Paul Klee, Picasso, and Frank Lloyd Wright, he contends aesthetic space "opened up to perception ... just as it did to practical action" (125), painting became "no horizon, no background" (301), and architecture shaped matter "to be no more than an envelope for space" (303). Evidently, dislocation in or from pre-existing structures or representations of space, "the collapse of the old points of reference" (308), emerges from this kind of analysis as a quintessentially twentieth-century phenomenon: "the space of modernity" (302). Later theorists have corroborated Lefebvre's view, even if their terms have altered (in this case, from "space" to "place"), and although they suggest these changes are ongoing and contemporary, not just modern:

We can no longer understand "place" just as a place on a map, or where one is situated as a physical body. Even if a person stays in one place, the idea of "his" or "her" place seems to be collapsing; each place's dynamics, meanings, and possibilities are affected by regional and global relations. Places aren't just territorial, they are also political; some are more empowered than others to decide who belongs and who doesn't. Places are contested, intersecting, and uncertain, clearly shaped by power relations and human intents. (2)

Is it strange to begin a collection of essays on early modern dis/locations with a sequence of claims about how modern or contemporary dislocation is? Maybe not. In recent years, following the lead of thinkers like Lefebvre, a range of theorists have debated the complex cultural meanings and constructions of space, place, location, and dislocation? Perhaps the most insistent motivation for looking at place and placelessness has come from the modern or contemporary moment's increasingly globalized conditions, conditions which impel dislocations, reshape locations, and jeopardize the identities of those located and dislocated. But we cannot understand where we are now (our locations), or where we are moving from or to (our dislocations), without considering how people thought about where they were, or were moving between, in the past.

Several commentators--including participants at the "Early Modern Dis/ Locations" conference held at Northumbria University in January 2010have observed that one particular era in the West's past can be seen as especially important to this understanding: the early modern period. (4) This was an era in which perceptions and representations of sites and mobility, place and placelessness, shifted significantly. There were many reasons for this, some of which figure in this cluster of essays: developments in statehood and national identity, exploration and colonialism, textual and cartographic practices, and socioreligious conflict. The period's demand for shifting populations to produce and distribute goods and resources impelled urbanization. So too did enclosure, the parceling up and commodification of rural commons. Yet such processes of accumulation and the expropriation of particular locations produced dislocation: early modern capital depended upon an "economy of mobility." (5)

Suitably, Lefebvre himself recognized this, and accepted that in sixteenth-century Europe, '"something' of decisive importance took place" regarding the production and experiencing of space: "The West was ... turned upside down." Lefebvre admits that this "something" was not "a datable event, nor an institutional change, nor even a process clearly measurable by some economic yardstick." Lefebvre does locate the change, though: "The town overtook the country in terms of its economic and practical weight." Cities were "conceptualized" "given written form" and "described graphically"; "representations of space" developed from "river and sea voyages" were used to map "urban reality" (268-69). We might extend Lefebvre's claims to argue that what was happening to spaces in Western Europe involved and affected diverse spaces, and not just those in Western Europe. Rethinking, rewriting, and remaking towns and cities meant doing the same to the country, and such processes were informed by places beyond the bounds of both, from the cosmos to the colonies. If they ever had been, locations were not local. To cite Lefebvre, by being "intercalated, combined, superimposed," social spaces exhibited "hypercomplexity" (88).

The "Early Modern Dis/Locations" conference sought to address this complexity. Some papers talked about religious spaces, actual, and metaphysical. We learned how one border linked to, or could signify, others: "To be physically on the edge is also to be spiritually on the edge." (6) Different contributions proved the power and significance of particular places or discussed authors with interests in specific sites. Some papers explored how the definitions of locations could give way to indefinition, as the margins of the domestic environment, the court, theater, home, or nation collapsed. Considering dislocations, some contributors focused on the phenomena, people, and things pushed or slipping through these often permeable boundaries--music and noise, the poor, the rich, exiles, soldiers, abused wives, and servants.

The work generated by the conference and manifested here proves that when we start to look more closely at how spaces, places, and locations were experienced and "conceptualized" in the early modern period, we necessarily complicate Lefebvre's claims, as well as understandings of place and space. Yes, classical models for structuring space were, as he asserted, given greater power "from the Renaissance onwards." Yet at the same time spaces and the ways they were conceptualized evinced comparable (though clearly different) pressures and shatterings as in later periods. Hence the coinage "dis/locations," figuring both placement and displacement, situatedness and flux; hence too the preference for "early modern" over "Renaissance,' implying the present's relation to the past (though this is hardly uncomplicated).

The contradictions involved in this complexity found various forms in that past. They were encapsulated, for example, by a world map in a 1513 edition of Ptolemy's Geography. As a map, the image showed us locations, naming and identifying the known environment. It also demarcated spaces, dearly distinguished between continents with color, and privileged or centered certain places instead of others. These features reminded us that representing locations is not ideologically objective or neutral: maps "make ... statements about the territory they put on open display." (7)

To Bernhard Klein, Ptolemy's map was itself "locked in the classical paradigm of a human sphere structured around the 'middle of the earth; the Mediterranean." Such maps conveyed "fanciful and theocentric symbolism." (8) Yet Ptolemy's map also lacks what Klein describes as "a focus, an omphalos," when compared to earlier renderings of the globe, such as the medieval mappa mundi, centred on Jerusalem. So, for all its tradition, much was still innovative in Ptolemy's map. As a "world-picture" of its time, how could it be otherwise? Klein points out that "the geographers of the sixteenth century ... could no longer ignore the challenge posed by travel narratives and voyagers' tales to the authority of a scholarly world still in the thrall of a classical epistemology" Even as it delineated boundaries, this particular map had fascinating edges: the world was shown to be subject to powerful forces, illustrated by images of anthropomorphic winds, at once human and nonhuman, natural and synthetic, substantial and immaterial. It isn't too much of a leap of imagination to suggest this map mapped the changeability of its world, and itself. It showed terra firma but also betrayed its own fragility, transience, mutability, and mobility. This was a visual technology with built-in obsolescence. In other words, what seems fixed was not. As Klein remarks, "maps undermine, as well as affirm, a straightforward visual code of unrestricted visibility, and the topographical surface they purport to describe is subject to an interplay of visibility and shadow that hides and obscures while claiming to reveal and lay open." So Ptolemy's map portrays its epochs paradoxical dis/locations, and the problems of representing these became self-evident to other commentators, such as Samuel Daniel, writing in 1603:

We must not looke upon the immense course of times past as men over-looke spacious and wide countries, from off high Mountaines, and are never the neere to iudge of the true Nature of the soyle, or the particular syte and face of those territories they see. Nor must we thinke, viewing the superficiall figure of a region in a Mappe that wee knowe straight the fashion and place as it is. (9)

Added to this, of course, was the recognition that people could discover places that were actually "no place"--unmappable, unidentifiable locations with impossible dimensions. The title, content, and images of Thomas More's seriously playful Utopia can be seen as inaugurating a whole discourse of mutable solidities and certain uncertainties. Hans Holbein's image of the island for the 1518 edition is an unfeasible figure: a rendering of Utopia's "sort of crescent" shape, like a mutable moonscape, that is supposed to be "about two hundred miles across," yet, impossibly, "a circle five hundred miles in circumference." (10) This discourse of an exotic but also very local impossibility would later find an eloquent stylist in Montaigne, who records in his Essays the existence and dislocation of another visitant from far-off places, a descendant of More's Raphael Hytholoday:

I had with me for a long time a man who had lived ten or twelve years in that other world which has been discovered in our time, in the place where Villegaignon landed [Brazil], and which he called Antarctic France. This discovery of so vast a country seems to me worth reflecting on. I should not care to pledge that another may not be discovered in the future, since so many greater men than we have been wrong about this one. I am afraid that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and that we have more curiosity than understanding. We grasp at everything, but catch nothing except wind. (11)

Montaigne's closing line blows us back to the winds bordering and troubling the Ptolemaic map. But Montaigne's point here is not simply to observe geographical uncertainty, the shifts in worldview that his age endured. Nor is he blankly condemning the material acquisitiveness, the appetite to dominate, that impelled colonial exploration. Instead, his essay uses these observations as a way to embark on a discussion of the implications of such shifts and uncertainties for ethics and philosophy, what it meant to be civilized or savage, and so what it meant to be human.

In the early modern period, uncertainty about locations and dislocations would produce humane reflections such as Montaigne's, but it would also provoke violent reactions. These reactions would enforce absolute truth, in the face of what seemed like growing spiritual chaos or moral relativism; and they would arrest the mobility of people and ideas, in the face of what seemed like errant spatial, social, and ideological transgression. But mobility could not be stopped: dislocation was written into the identity of the early modern world, and how people saw and experienced it. No force of reaction could silence or curtail this. Hence there is the apocryphal story of Galileo's parting comment to the Inquisition, when he was on trial for promoting the Copernican view of the heliocentric mobile cosmos: "Eppur si muove" [Yet it does move], he is supposed to have said. (12) Apocryphal or not, Galileo's pronouncement "opened up" and thereby "dissolved" earlier conceptions of a "hierarchized ensemble of places," constituting "an infinite, and infinitely open space": "a thing's place was no longer anything but a point in its motion." (13)

Hence while religious authority might police spaces and what was said about or in them, spiritual fervor could also burgeon in dislocation. The mid-seventeenth-century religious radical Anna Trapnel records a moment when a judge interrogates her after she has traveled to London to preach. The Judge wants to stop her preaching anywhere other than in her home county (and so anywhere but London). Trapnel records the Judge's unease, and her own defiance:

I seeing they were very willing to be gone, I said, "Have you done with me?" Answer was, "I might now go away," but I said, "Pray what is it to break the good behavior you have bound me to? I know not what you may make a breaking of it: is it breaking the good behavior, to pray and sing?"

Justice Travel said, "No, so I did it at the habitation where I abode"

"It's well," said I, "you will give leave it shall be anywhere." (14)

What makes this exchange so fascinating is that it confirms what Trapnel already knows: her preaching has power beyond place. Her voice, like Galileo's universe, is boundless, and such is the vitality of her words, she can preach and communicate just as well at home as anywhere else.

As Trapnel and Galileo realized in different ways, demarcating a location, or locating something, involved excluding, relocating, or dislocating something else, whether that something was material, physical, or discursive. So the mapmaker Francesco Beccari observed in the "Address to the Reader" attached to his 1403 portolan chart: "It was several times reported to me ... by many owners, skippers and sailors proficient in the navigational art, that the island of Sardinia which is in the Sea, was not placed on the charts in its proper place ... Therefore, in Christ's name, having listened to the aforesaid persons, I placed the said island in the present chart in its proper place where it might be." (15) To locate Sardinia correctly requires dislocating it from its incorrect location. To consolidate this locating, and to establish a practical representation of Mediterranean waterways, Beccari invokes authorities human and divine. Such invocations substitute one set of locating powers for others, counteracting and displacing past cartographers. And if making sense of places required displacement, then some locations could impel dislocation, as these lines from an English poem of 1563 convey:
   O blessed of God, thou pleasant isle,
      where wealth herself doth dwell,
   Wherein my tender years I passed,
      I bid thee now farewell.
   For fancy drives me forth abroad,
      and bids me take delight
   In leaving thee and ranging far,
      to see some stranger sight,
   And saith I was not framed here
      to live at home with ease,
   But passing forth for knowledge sake
      To cut the foaming seas. (16)

Written by Barnabe Googe following a trip to the continent in 1561-62, this poem elevates the speaker's homeland (and preceding lines indulge in some generalized xenophobia to make the elevation more obvious). Reading Googe, one wonders why anyone would want to leave England, for nowhere else compares. Yet the speaker signals dissatisfaction with England. He has fantasies ("fancy") that are unfulfilled and provoking. What makes him yearn? Not just foreign lands: it is as if the fact of his Englishness compels him to leave England. He has not been "framed here" to live "at home with ease." Restlessness and uneasy homelessness are part of what structures his national identity. This ambiguity is caught in the poems form, which juxtaposes a steady, rooted regular meter with an irregular rhyme scheme. Like that of his compatriots, Googe's unsettlement was more than personal and poetic: he undertook an administrative career in Ireland, with all the benefits and costs this entailed.

We might identify a contrasting instance of the ways early modern texts represented located, as well as dislocated, subjects in an essay by Francis Bacon:

Travaile, in the younger Sort, is a Part of Education; In the Elder, a Part of Experience.... It is a strange Thing that in Sea voyages, where there is nothing to be seene but Sky and Sea, Men should make Diaries; But in Land-Travaile, wherein so much is to be observed, for the most part they omit it; As if Chance were fitter to be registered, then Observation. Let Diaries, therefore, be brought in use. (17)

Like Googe, Bacon suggests travel broadens your horizons. But unlike Googe's restless poetics, Bacon's prose is convinced of the stabilizing role of texts in relation to overseas travel. According to Bacon, diaries allow you to organize your thoughts, your mind, your time and your self. They stop the imagination wandering, even though the body is in motion. Such texts make a record of a journey, and make that record productive, not just random: the journey becomes useful because you textualize it. Implicitly, Bacon acknowledges that overseas exploration might threaten a dislocated, mobile self's self-control. But diaries permit you to regain control of, and regulate, that self. Colonial expansion involved disciplining other places and people. But it also requires self-discipline. As all such examples attest, texts which we now call literary were instrumental in achieving expansion and discipline alike:

Well over half of the sixteenth-century "Globe" was composed of geographical entities which were yet to become "inhabited" (some, of course, being purely fanciful, never could be). For habitation to take place such places needed to be imaginatively possessed, which is to say moralised and mythologised. Poets were needed to make the brave new world feel lived in, and livable in. (18)

Texts inform and are informed by spaces and people in them. Franco Moretti has observed that "geography is not an inert container, is not a box where cultural history 'happens, but an active force, that pervades the literary field and shapes it in depth." Moretti terms the study of this "literary geography" "the study of space in literature; or else, of literature in space." (19) For their part, geographers have their own designation for this interdisciplinary understanding--"cultural geography"--understood as practices for "making sense of people and the places that they occupy, an aim that is achieved through analyses and understandings of cultural processes, cultural landscapes, and cultural identities." (20) Not just texts alone, of course, achieved or represented the social meanings of space. A vast range of tools were employed in giving places and spaces meaning: itineraries, perambulations, chorographies, cards, "maps, atlases, geographic texts, implements, even architectural spaces, designed for the displaying of maps or related types of 'world-image.'" (21) Clearly, this fact requires anyone investigating the early modern production of space to make their investigations interdisciplinary. In turn, we might argue that being interdisciplinary is a form of necessary dislocation, or at least a relocation:

Interdisciplinarity is not the calm of an easy security; it begins effectively (as opposed to the mere expression of a pious wish) when solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down--perhaps even violently, via the jolts of fashion--in the interests of a new object and a new language neither of which has a place in the field of the sciences that were to be brought peacefully together, this unease of classification being precisely the point from which it is possible to diagnose a certain mutation. (22)

In the characteristically breathless rush of images and metaphors of Roland Barthes' prose, we can see that being interdisciplinary means recognizing entrenched positions, the intense territoriality of modern social, cultural, and intellectual life. But it also involves realizing these positions and territories can be disrupted, mutated, made uneasy, so that we can be shocked, pleasantly surprised, or enlightened, when we move beyond and between the "place" and "field" of our own discipline and expectations.

Though their focus is primarily literary, the three papers gathered here evince these concerns in various ways. All share a concern with or refer to the mechanisms of making and representing locations and dislocations: maps, chorographies, material and ideological boundaries, and literary texts themselves. Lisa Hopkins's paper builds on her exploration of Shakespeare's and England's border regions to discuss two sorts of locations which featured in the early modern English theater that were associated with the divine: ruins and high places. Ruins often signified failure in the period, but people nevertheless wanted to see them, both on and off stage. Ruins in plays functioned not only as signifiers of loss or absence but also as places where the living meet the dead. This is particularly true of two kinds of ruins, prehistoric megaliths and religious houses of the sort which had been dissolved at the Reformation. Megaliths especially were associated with the earliest inhabitants of Britain, and so too were high places. The final section of Hopkins's argument suggests that for Shakespeare as for other dramatists a particular resonance and aura of the numinous and liminal appears to have attached to cliffs and high places.

Like Hopkins, Kristen Deiter trains our attention on a specific location: the Tower of London. The Tower functioned as a monument to repression, and resistance to it. It was, like Hopkins's cliffs and high places, an ambiguous, liminal site, between states of being, where people might be buried alive or put to death. All twenty-four extant English history plays representing the Tower of London from 1579 to around 1634 destabilized, contradicted, and/or challenged the received image of the Tower as a symbol of royal power, refashioning it as an icon of opposition to the crown and government. Deiter explains how two nondramatic representations of Lady Jane Grey's 1553-54 imprisonment in the Tower--a pair of fictional letters in Michael Drayton's Englands Heroicall Epistles--built upon and reinforced the Tower's oppositional significance by reconstructing the Protestant martyr Grey and her husband, Guilford, as prisoners who defy and criticize their queen, Mary I.

Looking at another little-discussed text from the late 1590s, Paul Frazer situates Thomas Dekker's Old Fortunatus in relation to various locations in the tumultuous sociopolitical context of its 1599 production. Highlighting Dekker's interest in the linked instabilities of social, geographical, and professional (dis)placement, Frazer explicates how the dramatist and pamphleteer framed the "places" of stage and court in and around a play that was intimately informed by the social and spatial mobilities of the early modern English capital. Dekker's writing conveys a persistent preoccupation with his own professional identity, an identity that he attempted to fashion through engaging with the work of his illustrious contemporary, Christopher Marlowe. Frazer's reading of Old Fortunatus concludes with a consideration of Dekker's commentary on the Earl of Essex's role in Ireland. Dekker's coded discussion of one of the most politically sensitive events and places of the age reminds us of the ambiguous license given the late-Elizabethan dramatist, and the crucial dependency of playwrights on urban and colonial places beyond the early modern stage.

The final word about what follows might best be given to Raymond Williams, who is still a guiding influence on how many scholars understand the realities and representations of place: "We begin to think where we live." (23) Williams describes individual and collective intellectual development: our first thoughts as people and as communities are conditioned by our earliest contexts. But he also hints at how the places where we live are made and changed by how we think, and, by extension, by how or what we represent.

Northumbria University


(1) Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (1974; Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 25. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(2) Jody Berland, "Place," New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society, ed. Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg, and Meaghan Morris (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 257.

(3) See, e.g., Denis Cosgrove, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (London: Croom Helm, 1984); Tim Cresswell, In Place/Out of Place: Geography, Ideology and Transgression (U. of Minnesota Press, 2000); Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (U. of California Press, 1984); David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996); Doreen Massey, Space, Place and Gender (London: Polity, 1994); W. J. T. Mitchell, Landscape and Power (U. of Chicago Press, 1994); Saskia Sassen, Guests and Aliens (New York: New Press, 2000); and Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (London: Harper, 2004).

(4) For perspectives on this in the context of the British archipelago, see, e.g., Jerry Brotton, Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World (London: Reaktion, 1997); Craig Dionne and Steve Mentz, Rogues and Early Modern English Culture (U. of Michigan Press, 2004); Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: Elizabethan Writing of England (U. of Chicago Press, 1992); Donald Kimball Smith, The Cartographic Imagination in Early Modern England: Rewriting the World in Marlowe, Spenser, Raleigh and Marvell (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2008); Bernhard Klein and Andrew Gordon, eds., Literature, Mapping, and the Politics of Space in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge U. Press, 2001); Andrew McRae, Literature and Domestic Travel in Early Modern England (Cambridge U. Press, 2009); Steven Mullaney, The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (U. of Michigan Press, 2007); Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr., The Drama of Landscape: Land, Property and Social Relations on the Early Modern Stage (Stanford U. Press, 1998).

(5) Patricia Fumerton, Unsettled: The Culture of Mobility and the Working Poor in Early Modern England (U. of Chicago Press, 2006), 147.

(6) Lisa Hopkins, Shakespeare on the Edge: Border-Crossing in the Tragedies and the "Henriad" (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2005), 63.

(7) Bernhard Klein, Maps and the Writing of Space in Early Modern England and Ireland (Basingstoke, England: Palgrave, 2001), 8.

(8) Edward S. Casey, Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps (U. of Minnesota Press, 2002), 175.

(9) Klein, Maps and the Writing of Space, 18, 28-29, 92, 91.

(10) Thomas More, Utopia, trans. Paul Turner (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003), 49.

(11) Michel de Montaigne, Essays, ed. J. M. Cohen (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), 64-65.

(12) Norman Davies, Europe: A History (London: Pimlico, 1997), 508.

(13) Michel Foucault, "Different Spaces" Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology: Essential Works of Michel Foucault, ed. James D. Faubion, 2 vols. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000), 2:175-86.

(14) Anna Trapnel's Report and Plea, or, A Narrative of Her Journey from London into Cornwall (London, 1654), 28.

(15) Quoted in Casey, Representing Place, 185.

(16) Barnabe Googe, "Going towards Spain" Barnabe Googe: Eclogues, Epitaphs, and Sonnets, ed. Judith M. Kennedy (U. of Toronto Press, 1989), 100-1.

(17) Francis Bacon, "Of Travaile," The Essayes or Counsells, Civill and Morall, ed. Michael Kiernan (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 56-58.

(18) John Gillies, Shakespeare and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge U. Press, 1994), 35-36.

(19) Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (London: Verso, 1998), 3.

(20) William Norton, Cultural Geography: Themes, Concepts, Analyses (Oxford U. Press, 2000), 3. On definitions, implications and critiques of the term "Cultural Geography" see Pamela Shurmer-Smith and Kevin Hannam, Worlds of Desire, Realms of Power: A Cultural Geography (London: Edward Arnold, 1994), 215-24.

(21) Gillies, Shakespeare and Geography, 58.

(22) Roland Barthes, Image Music Text (London: Fontana, 1977), 155.

(23) Raymond Williams, "The Idea of a Common Culture" Resources of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism, ed. Robin Gable (London: Verso, 1989), 32.

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Author:Hansen, Adam
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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