This paper gathers critical reflections concerning the tessellation of methodological approaches and findings associated with the progression of the PhD thesis ‘The Legacy of the Water: A Comparative Study of the Urban and Literary Identities of Glasgow and Genoa’. The project examines social and spatial formations, comparing the urban development of the two post-industrial cities through the appraisal of late-twentieth-century works of literature. The interdisciplinary study relies on the understanding of, and engagement with, literary material alongside the theoretical and historical frameworks of the disciplines of urbanism and architecture.
The essay addresses aspects of the investigation of site-specific literary texts by way of the sensory analysis of locations which were identified as pivotal to the geographic dimension of the authors’ work. The physical engagement with the material reality lies at the foundations of an adaptive phenomenologically-oriented methodology. This is subordinate to this writer’s bodily intervention into the literary space, the superimposition of subjective and theoretical intuitions, and the seeking of experientially-derived knowledge.
A key aspect of the study is the undertaking of field research with a specific interest in the Genoese poet Edoardo Sanguineti and the Glaswegian writer Alasdair Gray. Discrete fieldwork activities were completed through a self-initiated SGSAH internship and a residency in Glasgow and Genoa respectively. These initiatives allowed for the scrutiny of key archival material held by two eminent cultural institutions: The Alasdair Gray Archive (Glasgow) and the Archivio Sanguineti (Biblioteca Universitaria, Genova). The on-site experiences gained by this writer are thus contrasted in comparative terms, highlighting the necessity for distinct methodological approaches to be implemented, and differentiating the nature of the collaborations established with the knowledge centres. The discourse interrogates the extent to which the antithetical character of the institutions has fundamentally shaped the theoretical scaffolding of the thesis’ core arguments. It also considers the limitations associated with the pursuit of research material, and the contribution of these difficulties to the continuous reframing of methods of inquiry determined by the ethical dimension and the spatial boundaries within which the study was carried out. Furthermore, it advances the notion of intentionality as an interpretative key deduced from on-site discoveries.
In the last instance, the paper illustrates the creative practices sustained across the duration of the research project. It suggests the potential for practice to be utilised as an essential device in the successful exploration of the experience of place, unveiling aspects of commonality between the authors’ creative operation and the manufacturing of etched and embossed prints by this writer. As such, the illustrated output is understood as an evolving body of work which continuously informs scholarly efforts.
The paper aims to illuminate the methodological possibilities associated with interdisciplinary studies, placing emphasis on the coexistence of intentionality and spontaneity. Therefore, it reinforces the advantages of the integration of an adaptive methodology while undertaking research activity.
Keywords: Interdisciplinary Research, Composite Methodologies, Adaptive Research, Intentionality, Archival Research, Fieldwork, Phenomenology, Urban Studies, Literary Studies, Urban Literature