Paper Covers Rock: Urban Archaeology in Michael Redhill’s Toronto Novel "Consolation"

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Paper Covers Rock: Urban Archaeology in Michael Redhill’s Toronto Novel "Consolation"

Heritage is a hard sell in any great metropolis, as urban planning, city-building and construction sites promote a cityscape that screams innovation, development and rebirth. Toronto, an old frontier village established as a town in 1793, promotes itself as a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city, yet it is also “overwhelmed by the fantasy of creative redevelopment from both the top down and the bottom up,” Laura Levin and Kim Solga argue. Often accused of neglecting and trying to conceal its past, the modern day Toronto has moved towards embracing the city’s many stories by turning attention to heritage preservation and local archeology. Nevertheless, urban archaeology, which is the key notion in understanding Michael Redhill’s novel Consolation (2006), proposes a problem to city officials, to the city as a corporation and citizens as shareholders since its discoveries and finds are often priceless and immeasurably valuable. Who gets to decide on the fate of Toronto’s most precious social document lying in the bed of dirt under the construction site of the new sports arena? What is forensic geology? Why is contemporary Toronto fiction dedicated to the late Jane Jacobs? These are some of the questions I will address in my discussion of the city novel Consolation which, as its author states on the book’s last page, is a “work of fiction based on fact.”

In addition to exploring my topic through relevant theories in literary urban studies, I employ a practice called Deep Locational Criticism which embraces the use of techniques from disciplines which share a grounding in empirical study. This method and activity, developed by Jason Finch (2016), mixes local history, cultural geography, industrial-age archaeology and photography, making a deeper understanding of the novel’s intra- and extra-textual world possible. By placing location at the centre of my analysis I wish to offer a glimpse into Toronto’s fascinating urban past – accessible to us through texts, physical experience and a little imagination – and to the city’s promising future.
Aikajakso23 elok. 2017
Tapahtuman otsikko(Im)Possible Cities: The First International Conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies
Tapahtuman tyyppiKonferenssi
SijaintiTampere, FinlandNäytä kartalla
Tunnustuksen arvoKansainvälinen