North: Special Issue of M/C Journal

Harding, Sandra, and Nile, Richard (2017) North: Special Issue of M/C Journal. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

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Abstract

People become "conscious of entering a strange country" when they travel North observed George Orwell. North is the cardinal point of the compass and the direction of the Northern Star. But it can also mislead on a deviation between Magnetic North and True North. And so, North is at times a metaphor and symbol. “I am but mad north-north-west” insists Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play while Sylvia Plath becomes unsettled “into a long blackness” of her North which the poet “cannot contain”:

North features as a place of escape or hiding in the films El Norte, Insomnia and Last Cab to Darwin. It represents a "land beyond" in Game of Thrones, “Minnesota nice” in Fargo, and Nordic Noir in Scandinavian screen cultures. Old Nordic sagas tell of the Pagan North where “Thor’s hammer swung to geography” as the Irish poet Seamus Heaney noted.

North marks separation across the US along the Mason-Dixon Line, while being “beyond of the 49th parallel” evokes melancholy attachment in the songs of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. "Nordicity" refers to degrees of Northern-ness as measured by polar values while Inuit song, orature and literature link the vast Arctic regions of Northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia and the improbably named Greenland. In China, North is signified by the Black Turtle and historic fears stretching back to the Qin Dynasty and the construction of the Great Wall. In Russia North divides between "Far North" and "Extreme North." It delimits the "hermit kingdom" of North Korea, Britain's province in Northern Ireland, and the North Island of New Zealand.

North defines our best efforts at direction but remains elusive. India has two Norths—the “North” to the North-West and the “North East.” North Africa terminates at the Southern Mediterranean and shares Egypt with the Middle East. The Far East is the Near North to Australia where "your compass spins frighteningly" as the poet Judith Wright observed. North in Janette Turner Hospital’s North of Nowhere South of Loss is the far North of Australia while her South refers to the deep South of the US. This North is Jeannie Gunn’s Never Never, Xavier Herbert’s Capricornia and Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria. It lies across the tropics—Aristotle’s “Torrid Zone”—which is South of the equator.

Seven centuries of cartographic convention has placed North at the top of maps—so North always points up—and thanks to the Mercator Effect constantly exaggerates, leading to the conceptualisation of the “Global South” as an alternative concept and term replacing the “Third World.” North is defined by South and has a location. It is precisely calculated at the Northern-most point of the globe where the lines of longitude converge. For all this exactitude, True North cannot be permanently marked above sea level because of the shifting polar icecaps. Yet it is here that North exists. And then vanishes. Every direction at True North becomes South … except for the compass needle which insists that North is South along 72.62 degrees longitude west to Magnetic North.

Item ID: 53815
Item Type: Book (Edited)
ISSN: 1441-2616
Keywords: North, cultural history, literary studies, cultural studies
Copyright Information: Copyright (c) 2018 Sandra Harding, Richard Nile. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2020 06:09
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200524 Comparative Literature Studies @ 10%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 80%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950504 Understanding Europes Past @ 10%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950506 Understanding the Past of the Americas @ 10%
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