Memory Maps: Practices in Psychogeography

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
24 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA W8F912 Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment

Module description

Memory Maps is concerned with writing on the landscape of this region - the ways the wilder reaches of Essex and Suffolk have been depicted. On field trips (if available and appropriate), we will have the chance to explore these literary landscapes and experience these worlds for ourselves.

A new genre of literature has been emerging very strongly: moving between fiction, history, traveller's tales, and memoir, it explores the spirit of place. Writers bring in personal associations and experiences, as well as stories attached to locality. Sometimes called psycho-geography, it has roots in the English essay tradition, and in sixteenth and seventeenth century meditations by Thomas Browne, for example, and Robert Burton and his Anatomy of Melancholy. The tradition has been most vividly taken up and given a new contemporary twist by other writers in the eastern stretches of England: Ronald Blythe, who has lived and written about the area for several decades; W.G. Sebald (his book The Rings of Saturn is set along the East coast) and Iain Sinclair, who has followed in John Clare's footsteps, also partly in the region (The Edge of the Orison, 2005).

Module aims

1. To introduce participants to a wide range of writing and other text (prose, poetry, art, architecture) centring on place - and specifically on Essex and Suffolk and neighbouring counties ('the East')

2. To introduce participants to new research on how text may be read and understood by reference to how 'place' functions within a range of texts and genres

3. To emphasise that memory mapping includes a set of discovery procedures, including reading, critical reflection and crucially participation in those processes that 'make spaces places'

4. To examine critical instances where history (diachrony) intersects with the present (synchrony) in the act of observing (i.e. gazers apprehend depths as well as surfaces - but how can both depth and surface be satisfactorily understood and described?)

5. To provide a space, in workshop or other settings, for the development of a substantial and innovative piece of written work which may combine critical with the creative

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will have:

1. questioned a range of writing relating to 'the spirit of place'
2. examined critically non-written text relating to representations of 'the East'
3. developed practical skills in the field of description
4. furthered your understanding not simply of how others have seen place but how others have used place (for forms of worship, defence, flight and political defiance)
5. completed an innovative and substantial piece of written work and will have had the chance to workshop the ideas which underlie it

Module information

Preparatory Reading: (copies of these books will be needed for the module):

This list is indicative and may be subject to change.

Canton, James. Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (Oxford: Signal, 2013)
Coverley, Merlin, Psychogeography (2nd revised edition, 2010)
Sebald, W.G. The Rings of Saturn (London: Vintage, 2002)

Supplementary reading:

Clare, John. The Journal; Essays; The Journey from Essex (edited with an introduction by Anne Tibble) (Manchester: Carcanet New Press, 1980)
Conrad, Joseph. The Heart of Darkness (1899 - any good edition)
Macfarlane, Robert. The Wild Places (London: Granta, 2007)
Sinclair, Iain. The Edge of the Orison: In the Traces of John Clare's Journey out of Essex (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2005)
Solnit, Rebecca. A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2001)

You might also like to look at the V&A website:

The skies, trees, ponds, rivers and light of Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk still resemble closely the vision of some of the country's greatest artists, in spite of ecological, social and historical changes. It is one of the oldest inhabited parts of the British Isles, a landscape marked and shaped by human presence, history and activity, from the pastoral hinterland to the estuarian bustle, including light and heavy industry. Several of the artists who have lived and worked in the area have not confined their interest to the clouds and streams alone: horse-trading, shipping, historical connections to trade and empire, bridge-building and car works figure in their vision. The archive of Recording Britain, kept at the V&A, with works by Michael Rothenstein, John Nash, Kenneth Rowntree, as well as pastoral woodcuts by Eric Ravilious, enrich the picture greatly.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 2-hour seminar


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Creative work (3,000 words) and commentary (2,000 words) OR Critical Essay (5,000 words).    100% 

Additional coursework information

Coursework assessment information: Option 1 Creative work of around 3,000 words, accompanied by a commentary of around 2,000 words. Option 2 A critical essay of around 5,000 words.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr James Canton, email:
James Canton and Elizabeth Bennett
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Tim Atkins
University of Roehampton
Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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