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Stirbitch: Performing the Vanished Polis

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Prof Jane Chapman.

This talk is open to the public and may be podcast

In 1199, King John granted a fair to the Leper Hospital on the Cambridge margins. Within a century Stourbridge Fair had outgrown its host to comprise the most significant event of its kind in medieval Europe: an international epicentre for material transaction. Its development would serve as an analogue of the movement from an economy of subsistence to that of surplus and, by the Nineteenth Century, the business of pleasure. Today the site yields no sign of this temporary polis other than the Leper Chapel’s husk and a few survivals in local street-names. Patchily documented, it comprises an acute instance of culture without archive. A seven-century continuity of the carnivalesque has been deleted. Drawing upon a film-in-progress, this talk will appraise the site as a mnemonic to reflect upon relationships between the spatial performance of social life, habitat and cultural memory. It will explore how an imaginary of the Fair can yield insights into the affective ties between people and the land’s physical contours.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Humanities Society talks series.

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