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LIT 6934: Literature of Place: Florida

September 9 Class 3: Florida – Place Attachment

    Enid Shomer, Tourist Season
    Manzo, Devine-Wright, Place Attachment: Advances in Theory, Methods and Applications (introduction, Chapter one (Seamon) and Chapter six (DiMasso, Dixon, Durrheim) and a chapter of your selection from part one)
    DUE: Post #2

Class Objectives:

    Map exercise (in class)
    Discuss literature as constitutive element of place
    Focus on Tourist Season
    Discuss theories of place attachment (Manzo, Devine-Wright)

Notes and Discussion Questions:

    In the years since I first taught this class, my ideas about how literature functions in place have become more defined. Recently, I published an essay on place in a seventeenth-century novella called Oroonoko. I excerpt the relevant passage on how literature might function as a constitutive element of place for you to consider and discuss in class:

    “Borrowing from the discipline of human geography, “place” can be understood as a geographical location invested with meaning in a context of power, and most geographers link place to human meaning and experience. Place is both human product and consumption; it is also a way of being, rootedness and authenticity, as in concepts of home or “my place.” Concerns over the compression of time and space, as witnessed by global commerce, travel, and digital communications, have led geographers to conceive of place as always in process and never complete. Memory and cultural productions, such as literature, play fundamental roles in this continuing process of construction of meaning in place. While geographers have looked to literature for source material in analyzing regions, people and places, early conversations between the disciplines tend to read literature for representations of landscape or phenomenological description of regions. More recent theories of place as historical process, with layers of interactions and reiterated practices, suggest a more constitutive role for literary productions, like Oroonoko.

    By attending to the ways in which a Restoration text constructs place, we foreground more than setting. Indeed, seeing “place” as always in process, literature becomes a part of the cultural production of meaning in place, and as such provides access to analyzing the power dynamics that structure space, as well as the ways of knowing and being that belong to the humans in place. Literature offers a profound and detailed interaction – between the author and the geographical location – that potentially yields enormous information about the historical process of making a place; moreover, the act of reading this literature becomes a reiterated practice that is also constitutive of place. Thus the construction of place can be understood productively on at least two levels: within the Restoration text itself and in the contemporary interpretation of the text in the classroom. In Lawrence Buell’s phenomenology of subjective place-attachment, imagining place can be equally important to attachment as being in place. People can form attachments to place based entirely on imagining, from folklore and nursery rhyme to favorite novels. The fact that the imaginer does not actually see the place “hardly lessens the intensity of such storied or imagined places to induce longing and loyalty, and in some cases even to influence national behavior and the course of world affairs.” This has obvious implications for theorizing the impact of literature of place, in that a work like Oroonoko which constructs exotic locales for an urban audience, might foster an attachment to places and peoples unseen.”


Tourist Season by Enid Shomer

    Though the settings vary, this is a collection of short stories with a center of gravity in Florida. Read this with an eye toward place, keeping in mind the difference between locale, location and place, and thinking about the ways in which the stories might inspire or discourage Buell's sense of place attachment.

    Consider the title. How is this relevant to the place of Florida constructed in these stories?

    Consider the history. How do these stories reflect a flow of time and space? Do these stories evoke the familiar? How or how not? Whose Florida is represented here?

    Choose one story that makes the greatest impression on you and what you learn from it about place. Consider the social and political dynamics of place in the story. How does the author convey these? What thematic or symbolic purpose might it serve?

    Consider your reading of the story as a reiterated practice of place making. Even though I have assigned the story to you, your reading is a process of place making. How does the story (the collection) affect your understanding of Florida?

    What social, political, ecological problems become evident to you through this reading?


Place Attachment

    In Manzo and Devine-Wright's introduction, they provide information about the evolving concepts and concerns around the idea of place attachment. Why is such a concept important? To whom is the book addressed, and how might it be useful for us as students of literature and place?

    David Seamon's piece ties the phenomenology of place to the idea of place attachment. Why is place attachment a particularly difficult theory for a phenomenologist to endorse or explain? What is the difference between holistic, dialectic and generative perspectives on place attachment?

    He identifies six processes of place that "contribute to supporting or eroding the lived structure and dynamics of a particular place" (16).

  • place interaction
  • place identity
  • place release
  • place realization
  • place creation
  • place intensification

    "In regard to place attachment, all six processes contribute to the modes and intensity of emotional bonds with place."(19)

    Which of these processes is at work in the stories for today? How might they help explain the characters' behaviors? How might they help explain your response to the stories?

    In chapter 6 (Di Masso, Dixon, Durrheim), we are introduced to the methods and concepts involved in discursive pyschology as it relates to place attachment. Signficantly this field of research maintains that textual data (every day language) is the primary source of information about how place attachment forms. Of particular interest to us will be the idea of storytelling or emplotment (78) as a way for individuals, and more importantly, groups of people to form a coherent sense of place identity. By turning to discourse analysis, language becomes a central focus.

    It seems to me that literary analysis and the practice of analysing given discourse of a community share similar features and might make for a productive overlap.

    How might you adopt some of the insights and practices of discursive place analysis when analysing our literature of Florida?

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