Brian Lewis paper at Post-Traumatic Landscapes symposium

The Meridian

Brian Lewis

‘He wept because he could not prevent himself from departing on a trip when the need took him; he deserted family, work and daily life to walk as fast as he could, straight ahead…’

Mad Travellers, Ian Hacking

This presentation will open with a discussion of the ambulant automatism of the fugueur, with specific reference to Ian Hacking’s Mad Travellers (which reflects on a moment in European culture when ‘compulsive walking’ was recognized as a discrete illness).

It will then consider distinctions (and similarities) between the compulsive walking addressed by Hacking (movement through landscape impelled by trauma) and the speaker’s practice of immersive walking (movement through landscape impelled towards trauma). Through case studies, including accounts of ‘under-resourced’ long-distance walks undertaken by the speaker (culminating in a night walk from Hull to Spurn Point), the presentation will detail the effects of sleeplessness, hunger and exposure (and other ambient conditions) on the walker’s experience of the landscape.

It will also posit a relationship between a psychological estrangement from the landscape (by trauma accrued through walking) and physical immersion in the landscape, with reference to Burke’s concept of the sublime: a region defined by that which is “dark, uncertain and confused.”


Brian Lewis is editor and curator of Longbarrow Press, a Sheffield-based poetry publisher. His creative practice includes collaborations with poets on film and audio works that focus on marginal landscapes. He regularly undertakes extended walks in the east of England with the objective of depleting his physical and psychological resources.


Ph. Brian Lewis, 2013

Book your free place at the symposium (which will take place on May 22nd 2013, 10am-4pm) here.

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