Crafting “Literary Sense of Place”: the generative work of literary place-making

Meg Mundell

Abstract


This paper examines the how of literary wheres. As makers of literary works, creative writers are tasked with evoking place on the page. While the nexus of place and literature is increasingly recognised as fertile scholarly ground, the specifics of how writers actually “make” literary places remain opaque and under-researched. I seek to address this gap by exploring how literary place is constituted through creative practice. Focusing on the work of Australian writer Tony Birch, I document a range of generative tools creative writers may use to produce what I call “literary sense of place”. Drawing on interview-based case studies and key concepts from human geography, I analyse how these practitioners harness various “off-page” modes of enquiry to evoke place compellingly in textual form. While my main focus is creative practice, I also examine the resultant literary texts to help illuminate how process manifests in content. By profiling a range of “place-oriented experiential techniques (POETs)” – including site visits, memory, direct encounters, sensory attentiveness, “vicarious emplacement”, socio-cultural understandings, and happenstance – I present a fine-grained account of literary place-making from a practitioners’ perspective. I conclude that producing literary place is a generative, cumulative and associative process, in which writers mobilise a rich array of lived sensations, emotions, memories, understandings and actions. In foregrounding these “backstage” modes of creative labour, this paper helps clarify how writers deploy both personal and shared experiences to render literary place in resonant ways.


Keywords


literary geography, place-making, literary sense of place, writing place, experiential techniques, sensory research, Tony Birch

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References


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