Digital Re-Enchantment: Place Writing, the Smartphone and Social Media

David Cooper

Abstract


Contemporary place writing, in Britain and Ireland, is characterised by a phenomenological concern with the materiality of both the authorial self and the landscapes through which that body moves. This article, however, opens up literary geographical thinking by offering a post-phenomenological interrogation of the imbrications of place, the practice of everyday life, and the smartphone in a range of non-fiction prose texts. In examining these relationships, the article is structured around four main sections in two interconnected parts. The first half considers the literary representation of digital technologies. The opening section considers the role that enchantment plays in contemporary place writing – and introduces the sub-genre of the geo-memoir - before exploring some key writings (including Tim Dee’s anthology Ground Work: Writings on Places and People (2018) and Rob Cowen’s Common Ground (2015)) in which smartphones are framed as problematically distancing the self from place. In section two, the article interrogates writings – as exemplified by Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun (2016) - in which place is co-constituted through a knotty entangling of the material and the digital. The second part of the paper then shifts the critical focus to digital cultural production in the form of Twitter. The third section maps out a five-part typology of ways contemporary place writers employ the social media platform. Building on this, the fourth and final section examines how the Cumbrian shepherd, James Rebanks (The Shepherd’s Life, 2015), has used Twitter, accessed via his smartphone, to document the quotidian experience of being-in-place. Ultimately, then, this article is interested in a core literary geographical question: how have recent creative non-fiction writers integrated the smartphone within a wider re-enchanting of the places and rhythms of everyday life?


Keywords


Place writing; re-enchantment; geo-memoirs; smartphones; digital literary geographies; Twitter

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References


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