City of Words – St. Petersburg

I came across an extremely neat map today in the New Yorker which has finally put psychogeography in a relatable perspective for me – a literary map of my hometown, St. Petersburg, Russia, made up entirely of the words of its poets and writers, many of them embedded in my mind and my understanding of the city:

(perhaps my favourite quote, upper left – “the most abstract and artificial city in the world”)

Ironically it’s psychogeography that was a bit abstract and artificial to me throughout this course to be honest. I think part of it has to do with the fact that the way we engaged space in the course and the kind of space we engaged has really been difficult for me to relate to. I’ve never been to Paris. I’ve traveled little in my life. And I still don’t quite understand North American urban space. The map, meanwhile, puts a lot of this in perspective – where Kitchener/Waterloo and North American urban space in general for me are a map of melancholia, St. Petersburg is a kind of deep, sublimely interesting depression – in many ways a sublime city to the mind of someone raised within its cultural traditions.

Some rather chilling coincidences with my own personal mapping of the city – the location where I was born has the word “Child” across it. Vasilievsky Island, where I was born and lived most of my life, is both very prominently positioned and often referenced in words. But most interesting is perhaps the way death permeates a lot of the language on the map – much as it does the entire city’s mythology and  history.

And in any case, a very neat map. It speaks to me as a long-time resident of that place and a reader of that literature.


One response to “City of Words – St. Petersburg

  1. Hi there,

    Could you say a little more about how you see North American urban space as a map of melancholia? I find that idea really intriguing and I’m interested to see how you came to that conclusion…particularly through a foreign lens.



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