Loughborough University
Other Night 3 - TNorwood.pdf (207.71 kB)

The other night: Water and the nocturnal imagination on an urban night’s walk

Download (207.71 kB)
conference contribution
posted on 2020-10-08, 10:37 authored by Tamarin NorwoodTamarin Norwood
The city never sleeps. With expanded opportunities for leisure activity and the commensurate demand upon night workers, together with growing expectations for 24-hour public transport to meet this emerging 24-hour culture, night is increasingly resembling day. Meanwhile, in the philosophy of thought, the tropes of night and the nocturnal continue to reference a space of darkness and otherness: a place profoundly different from that which we inhabit in our everyday lives, with its own distinct freedoms and modalities of thought. Nocturnal thinking is associated with creativity (Levinas, Blanchot), insomnia with poetry (Cioran, Nesbitt); dreaming with inspiration and free association (Valery, Schwenger). However, such readings of the nocturnal experience rarely address the contemporary urban night, leaving under-examined the creative possibility of the white night, despite great potential for critical insight. My paper addresses this omission, asking: where do the modalities of nocturnal thought fit into the practical and imaginative exigencies of the urban night, with its noise, light, distraction, movement, risk, and thrill of possibility? The paper offers a critical reading of a series of nocturnal walks taken through an urban space (the bustling Bristol harbourside, during an artist residency at Spike Island arts centre in 2016), together with audio recordings of free-associative speech produced during those walks. By comparing the walking and the talking, this paper proposes two analogies as conceptual frameworks for understanding the unique nature of such urban nocturnal thought. First, it proposes a structural similarity between the meandering directions of walking and talking afforded by the darkness and unfamiliarity of the environment, which give rise to unique freedoms of thought. Secondly, it proposes that the metaphor of water effectively describes a slippery distinction between models of nocturnal and diurnal thought, by which the former can be conceived as thriving underwater; the latter at the surface of water. Finally, it argues that taken together, these conceptual frameworks build a bridge between the field of Urban Night Studies and modernist and phenomenological strands of creative enquiry oral presentation at conference concerned with the nocturnal imagination. From this bridge, it is hoped, we can look down into the depths of imaginative thought even as we survey the sparkling heights of the white night



  • Design and Creative Arts


  • Creative Arts


1st International Conference on Night Studies


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publication date





  • en


University of Porto, Lisbon

Event dates

2nd July 2020 - 4th July 2020


Dr Tamarin Norwood . Deposit date: 5 October 2020

Usage metrics

    Loughborough Publications


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager