Works Cited

Des Espace Autres. Trans. Jay Miskowiec. France: Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité, 1984. Print.

Rabinow, Paul. “Space, Knowledge, Power.” Cultural Studies Reader. Ed. Simon During. 134-141. Web.

Smith, Laura. The University of Chicago. University of Chicago, Winter 2003. Web. August 1, 2013.

Woolf, Virginia. “Literary Geography.” The Essays of Virginia Woolf. Ed. Andrew McNeillie. Palgrave, 1986. 32-35. Print.

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Green: Historically Significant Tourist-y Places

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Sort of a funky name, but it describes this category of excursions quite well! Green pins stand for the places in London everyone at home told me I “haaaad” to go visit in order to satisfy my “inner tourist.” These places included Big Ben, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower Hill, the British Library, the Globe Theatre, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace.

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The British Library

Some of the places that I visited I wasn’t sure what the significance of the place was (such as Tower Hill and Parliament), and others I visited because I felt they were important to being an English Major, such as the British Library and the Globe Theatre. In Virginia Woolf’s “Literary Geography,” she writes that some people choose to be “scientific in our pilgrimage and visit the country where a great novelist lived in order to see to what extent he was influenced by his surroundings,” and I tried to do just that by visiting these significant places in London. I took notes in the tourist-y places and tried to see what attracted not only authors but the massive amounts of tourists that frequent them.

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Taking a look at my map, I notice that the only pin on the board that’s north of where I stayed in Connaught Hall marks the British Library. Really, the only pin on the map that’s north?! Mhmm. Again, as an English major and bookworm, it makes sense that the highest point on my map is the British Library (for more about the British Library, browse through my other posts!). Since I went a bit more in depth in another post, I won’t dwell on the British Library here, but the library turned out to be a place where an immense amount of knowledge is held, yet it’s not easily accessible to anyone. You must have permission granted by a library card (which is not easy to get, believe me) and know exactly what you’re looking for. I’m looking for inspiration in this library, how am I supposed to know where to find it? Isn’t part of learning not knowing what to expect and finding it along the way?

DSC_0710Another excursion I promised myself I’d go on was to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I’ve always been such a big fan of his work and couldn’t wait to see Macbeth performed in it’s natural habitat! I spent $40 in the gift shop alone, bought tickets for two different nights just in case I couldn’t make one of the shows, and finally took my seat in one of the balconies to the right of the stage. Thinking back on the experience, I can’t help but hear Woolf’s conclusion to “Literary Geography,” which reads “a writer’s country is a territory within his own brain; and we run the risk of disillusionment if we try to turn such phantom cities into tangible brick and mortar…No city indeed is so real as this that we make for ourselves and people to our liking; and to insist that it has any counterpart in the cities of the earth is to rob it of half its charm.” We don’t know a lot about William Shakespeare; the playbook that I bought at Macbeth explained how part of the original text of Macbeth was lost and there is only one real account of someone seeing it performed at the Globe. Why then was it so imperative for me to see the show in what I called “it’s natural habitat”? The Globe has been completely restored and isn’t the exact stage that Shakespeare and his contemporaries would’ve performed on or been around, yet it was restored to try to preserve what it could of the original theatre. How come I spent so much money to experience something that only faintly lived up to the significance it has historically?
Every place that is marked with a green pin is considered a crucial part of England and the idea of Englishness. The people filling up the space around these places were snapping dozens of photos with them smiling near the building. But how many of them really know anything about the historical significance? Do they stop and think about why these places are still so important today? Circling back to Woolf’s “Literary Geography,” these places that I’ve read about in literature or seen in a movie inspired me too take a step back and look at my surroundings, not just what’s blatantly screaming for attention. My notebook was filled with manic scribbles about how people interact with these tourist-y destinations and what that says about Englishness. Yes, I did snap some photos of myself (I had to satisfy the inner tourist, didn’t I?) but I left with much more than I expected to.

White: Pubs and Restaurants

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Ah, pubs. Possibly my favorite part of London! White pins on the map stand for the pubs and restaurants I frequented during my trip. Because I obviously had to eat every day and went to countless restaurants, the places I specifically marked were pubs that the group went to more than once during our stay and the main location we ate around (we didn’t really stray more than a block or two from Brunswick to eat). There are five white pins on the board, all conglomerated in one central area, not very far from where I stayed. Why is this? Why didn’t I take the Tube to some swanky restaurant across the map? First, let’s take a step back and examine the places I actually visited.

Our group visited three main pubs: The London Pub, Lord John Russel’s, and The Rocket. Most nights we would try to hit up all three of the pubs, starting at the Rocket, stop over at Lord John Russel’s for a pint, then end at the London Pub. Each place had something unique to offer! The Rocket had nice drink specials (and I usually ordered nachos to have some food in my stomach, just in case the night was long. Also, I just really love nachos), Lord John Russel’s was the friendliest and felt like the most “local” pub, and the London Pub was the place where the single ladies of the group could get there flirt on with some Australians while on their Contiki Tour. Out of all of the places I visited while studying abroad, the pubs are where I felt the most at home and also the most enjoyable aspect of Englishness (more of that later).

DSC_0703The other white pins marked the Bloomsbury Hotel where I went for afternoon tea and Brunswick Centre. Most of the places I went to eat were located in or around the Brunswick center. The place seemed to have a bit of everything! There was a burger place, sushi, Indian, sandwich shops, an Italian restaurant, whatever you wanted to eat was right there. I got to try all sorts of food without have to travel all across London (or the world, for that matter. Not that I’m not planning on traveling to the actual places and trying actual Indian, French, or Italian food), which was convenient. My friends from home had told me how great exploring the international food was in London, for it’s an international city. It was true; I had so much fun!

Looking at all of the different pins on the board and how local I stayed for food and beer, two questions pop into my head; Why did I stay so local for food, was it because everything was so conveniently located? If food is such an important part of life (and my life specifically, for I’m an aspiring foodie!), why did I not travel outside of my central location to find and enjoy it? The pins on the outskirts of the map are for religious buildings, museums or some other form of tourist-y things. These places of power and knowledge are out of the way, yet seem to be more important than beer and food. I said earlier in this post that I enjoyed myself more when I was in the pubs than traveling far to see some museum, and it seems that I was sucked in by the reputation of power and importance that the other categories had than experiencing London like I could have.

Yellow: Parks and Squares

All of the yellow pins on the board mark the parks, gardens or squares I visited: Russel Square, Hyde Park, St. James Park and Tavistock Square. One of my favorite things about London is that every few blocks there is a park or a square for you to sit in. Every park I went into or passed by was well kept; some had fountains that children could play in or to add soothing noise to the air; others had elaborate gardens with colorful flowers. All of the parks had places to sit and relax, which was such a great way to escape the loud, crowded streets of the city.

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What intrigued me the most was what else was inside or around the parks. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the words “sublime” and “beautiful” as “beautiful” as “(1) excelling in grace of form, charm of colouring, and other qualities which delight the eye, and call forth admiration, (2) affording keen pleasure to the senses generally, (3) impressing with charm the intellectual or moral sense, through inherent fitness or grace, or exact adaptation to a purpose, and (4) relating to the beautiful; aesthetic.”  The OED defines the adjective “sublime” (in terms of “things in nature and art”) as “affecting the mind with a sense of overwhelming grandeur or irresistible power; calculated to inspire awe, deep reverence, or lofty emotion, by reason of its beauty, vastness, or grandeur.” Some of the parks I visited I felt were beautiful, some of the parks I considered sublime.

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Tavistock Square, located right outside of my dorm, was one of the beautiful squares on my trip. The layout was simple and open; a few benches lining the walkways, trees that weren’t too tall. Everything was green or brown. There were a few statues in the corners of the park but, because of where they were located, they weren’t overbearing or obtrusive. One tree that I always sat across from had a small plaque underneath, telling us that it was a “peace tree.” The main purpose of the park was to act as a place of rest and relaxation, and there weren’t any obvious statements of power or control that I saw. Russel Square was a similar story; it was a bit bigger and louder, for it had the fountain that little children splashed around in. People laid out on the grass to try to tan, friends gathered around benches or tables at the small cafe in the park. The presence of the cafe was again unobtrusive and didn’t take away from the overall beauty of the square. These two parks were beautiful and not sublime for it brought “keen pleasure to the senses” from it’s simplicity and function; it was appealing to the eye in a subtle way.

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St. James and Hyde Park, on the other hand, were examples of the sublime. When I went to Hyde Park, I walked around the Rose Garden and by some of the bodies of water in the park. The Rose Garden was filled with dozens of types of flowers, all very well kept with bright colors and interesting shapes. There were overhangs with vines and more flowers growing on top, fountains of naked women, all located on a winding path with several options of which way you want to experience the garden. It was overwhelming at times to choose the right path that would take me to the part of the garden I wanted to see.

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St. James Park was also very large; what made it sublime was the view of Buckingham Palace through the trees. At first the sight appeared to be beautiful due to it’s charm, but the longer you stared at it the more it became obvious that it was sublime. Much of what the palace stands for, the monarchy and power and privilege, is felt by seeing this view of the palace from a distance. It is a reminder that even when you are trying to relax and escape the day’s pandemonium, you cannot escape the power that royalty has, nor will you ever attain it. St. James Park and Hyde Park are sublime because they are overwhelming and meant to leave you with a sense of awe, gawking at the power they present. Overall, parks were quite an important part of Englishness and the London experience.

Blue: Museums in London

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Museums!

Blue pins represent the museums I visited throughout the two weeks of my trip. There are four blue pins on the map: The British Museum, Museum of London, National History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Four famous museums catering to various ages and visitors, all defining space and Englishness with their contents.

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The Museum of London and National History Museum were both geared to a younger audience. The main exhibit I experienced in The Museum of London used students (both younger and older) to help create and make the experience more contemporary. Glass cases were filled with historical facts next to bottles of sriracha sauce and cell phones, showing us what we would potentially trade nowadays. The National History Museum was packed with young and set up to be easily accessible to children. Everything was colorful and very visual; many of the exhibits had audio and video to explain it’s significance instead of the traditional signs to read. Children could interact and learn from most of the exhibits. To be honest, I felt out of place and awkward in that particular museum. I didn’t fit in or learn anything I didn’t already know.

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British Museum

The British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are examples of the heterotopias that Michel Foucault describes in “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias”:  “Museums and libraries have become heterotopias in which time never stops building up and topping its own summit, the idea of accumulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place, this whole idea belongs to our modernity.” The Victoria and Albert Museum is a heterotopia because it houses an immense amount of art (over 4.5 million objects!) from around the globe. Objects are placed next to each other that weren’t intended on being categorized together, but are preserved there to be on display for museum goers. Time and space have been broken down, controlled and ultimately erased by how the museum is laid out.

The British Museum, in my opinion, is the best example of a heterotopia. Historically significant artifacts are owned by the museum (the Parthenon sculptures, the Rosetta stone, sarcophagi, etc.) and on display for everyone to see. There is a piece of history from just about every important time period, all kept under one roof. Again, time is no longer linear when one walks through the museum, creating a heterotopia. Though I only visited four (five museums in total, but one isn’t mapped) the amount of museums and their importance defines Englishness. All four of the museums are there to show museum goers the power of the British and to teach people things that the British find important. The National History Museum and Museum of London might be geared towards a younger audience, but they are still displaying the power relations to the children. The Museum of London displays an incredible amount of preserved, animatronic, and reconstructed animals, showing off the technology and the knowledge the museum has (and London, of course). Same goes for the National History Museum, with it’s futuristic feel and high-tech displays. These museums perpetuate the image of the all powerful England that has everything; new technology, ancient pieces of history, more knowledge than anyone else has. A museum goer is meant to experience the museum and be awestruck and overwhelmed by the presentation. My experience in these museums was both enjoyable and critical. Once I caught on to what felt like the “real” purpose of the museums, I saw them in a different light. If you ever get a chance to visit any of these places, think about what the museums are really saying :P!