About Laura Hart

I'm a thinker. A cat fanatic. An introverted extrovert. I'm brilliantly in tune with myself and extraordinarily out of tune with the world. I write to understand.

The Greenwich Royal Observatory



The excursion to the Greenwich Royal Observatory was interesting in many ways than just one. First, the actual finding of the Observatory and the long trip through London to it was an adventure in itself; however, the hike up the giant and steep hill was one worthwhile, not simply for the view but for the exposure to history as well. I was not sure what to expect when I arrived at the Royal Observatory, but being able to overlook the city of London was incredible and made the whole world beneath me appear so small. The world felt even smaller as I waited in line to straddle the Prime Meridian, standing with one foot in the East and one in the West and again thought of the many conversations we had been having in our classes regarding who is able to inscribe meaning to something. The Prime Meridian, or the 0 degree longitude of the world, made me again question who was allowed to choose that this place, in England, would be the center piece of the entire world. I find it amazing that this system of longitude and latitude is universally accepted and still in use today. Every inch of the world is measured either East or West from this line, making its placement extremely important and impactful on the entire world and how we view our concept of placement on the world. In speaking of relation of who we are in various spaces, and being able to map exactly which spaces we are embodying, we essentially are using the Prime Meridian to determine this every day. As we move, our longitude and latitude alters, which if reflected based on measurements from the Prime Meridian and the Equator. Therefore, these lines have dramatically come to influence how we view our spatial identities.21454_10201164072838889_1005489938_n

This line, that in any other placement of the world we could cross without even noticing its invisible barrier, has come to be a tourist attraction in the Greenwich Royal Observatories. The actual line and physical statue representing it are gated off to the general public and require paying for tickets in order to stand near or on the line. Again, this is another example in London and our modern world in general, where something historically significant has been preserved and then pushes the public to spend money to see it in order to continue to preserve this landmark. This is how meaning comes to be ascribed to things, as is becoming more and more clear to me, anything that is deemed worth preserving must have a significant dollar value, otherwise, like the London Docklands, the area would be torn down and reconstructed into something worth a large sum of money. While these spaces are archetypally the same thing, a plot of land that we are capable of inhabiting, we as human beings have come to ascribe certain meanings and value to these places which then allows us to preserve them and consider them sacred or historically valuable.

Interesting Links:

Brief history of the Greenwich Prime Meridian of the world

Who determined it?



The Museum of the London Docklands


“The only thing, one comes to feel, that can change the routine of the docks is a change in ourselves”

-Virginia Woolf, The London Scene

I expected the docklands in London, as described by Virginia Woolf, to be ridden with sewage and a foul scent. As the docklands were not told to be an area of upper-class or wealth, and were thus forgotten and littered with garbage and the black smoke of factories. While I did imagine a small change in cleanliness and a little bit of restoration to have been implemented upon the area, I did not expect to see anything less than “dingy, decrepit-looking warehouses” that “huddle on land that has become flat and slimy with mud. The same air of decrepitude and of being run up provisionally stamps them all” (The London Scene “The Docks of London” 7).  I expected factories, broken windows, some dirty Victorian architecture with low ceilings and signs of being overlooked for years. Clearly, upon entering the docklands, I was not prepared for the restoration that had consumed the area.

Upon exiting the tube, I looked up to see a massive dome-like structure engulfing the escalators leading up to ground-level. The glass reverberated light inward, beaming like crystal from the water’s reflection playing off its plates. I squinted as I walked, not rode, up the escalator into the warmth being emitted from the sun. My lower-jaw immediately parting from the upper as my eyes struggled to understand that enormity of the buildings that surrounded me, and the sea of suits and luxurious, business-like dresses that bustled to and from buildings that looked too modern for the quaint London I was used to in Bloomsbury. The air was rich with food and completely vacant of the sewage that Woolf had spoken of in her essay. Fountains and statues were sprinkled among the city and the melody of many different languages and accents appeared cheerful and intelligent as it was emitted from all of the people surrounding me. The streets were clear of dirt and shined with the meticulous care that they must have received in order to become the greatness that they were.

Learning of the reconstruction that the land had undergone within the Museum of the Docklands was fascinating, my favorite part being the model of the “Sailor’s Town” that we were able to walk through. The town, of course, embodied more of what I expected to see upon my arrival in Canary Wharf and it was interesting to see the juxtaposition between what Woolf likely saw when she was writing the essay and what I saw now. Being able to turn such a dismal and sewage ridden part of the city into the spectacular spectacle that it is today, I believe, is a true portrayal of London’s ability to rebuild all parts of itself from the ashes. While the docklands may not have been preserved for what they were, like structures such as St. Paul’s and Highgate were, London was still able to save an area and turn it into something great, while utilizing the museum to commemorate what it was and archive what it had grown from.

Interesting Links:

London Docklands, past to present

History of Canary Wharf

Properties for sale in the Docklands

Highgate Cemetery


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“I blinked during that moment and it’s gone. I don’t know which is worse — to have missed it or to know there is nothing to miss”

-Tracy Chevalier, Falling Angels

While reading Bernardine Evaristo’s novel, The Emperor’s Babe, we noticed an allusion to a famous poem by Rupert Brooke titled, “The Soldier.” In Evaristo’s novel, Septimus states “If I should di, think only this of me, Zuleika, / there’s a corner somewhere deep / in Caledonia that is for ever Libya” (Evaristo 148-149). This quote is a play on Brooke’s poem, in which states: “If I should die, think only this of me: / That there’s some corner of a foreign field / That is for ever England” (Brooke 1-3). While visiting Highgate Cemetery, I could not help but keep these paralleled quotes in mind, because they speak of the importance that even the dead have on incorporating Englishness. The spaces that we occupy in death remain to relay a tale of who we were in life, and regardless of where we die we carry with us our heritage and legacy. Our tour guide informed us of many of the ways that people utilized the spaces their loved ones rested in to tell the story of who they were in life, using money to construct beautiful tombs and gravestones or entire rooms to show off the person’s wealth for years and years to come. I found it interesting that even in death we are still concerned about social status and paving a way to lead people to remember someone by how much money they had. This seems interesting in light of what many of our class discussions have been on: who chooses what is preserved and who inscribes meaning on these things? Of course, in the cemetery we are considering people, rather than things, but the question remains the same. Those with money are the ones who are capable of being remembered, by constructing lavish tombs and burial sites that allow the memory of themselves and their loved ones to be carried on for years to come. Whereas, those with less money, are more likely to be buried with only a small gravestone in their own backyards. However, these people without money still represent Englishness, they are still a part of its history and the identity of the nation, because one cannot have rich people without have poor people in comparison.

I also found it interesting that people carried this hierarchy with them in death by creating these heterotopias, or sacred spaces that were preserved and untouched, where time continues around it but all time has stopped within it. In death we all become equals, because we are no longer making money or living in different places, but rather we all inhabit the same place, which is the ground: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Each body decays in the same manner, and yet people still felt the need to mark this ground with social power that the person found in life. Although no human life is more or less important than the next, some people can simply afford to make their name known to more people, even after they have entered their final resting space. However, no matter where these people were buried they are no more or no less a part of England than those who could afford to be put on display even in their passing.


Interesting Links:

Headstones in Highgate

Hauntings in Highgate

The Highgate Vampire Video

Walking Tour of Highgate

There But For The


“Google is so strange.  It promises everything, but everything isn’t there.  You type in the words for what you need, and what you need becomes superfluous in an instant, shadowed instantaneously by the things you really need, and none of them answerable by Google….Sure, there’s a certain charm to being able to look up and watch Eartha Kitt singing Old Fashioned Millionaire in 1957 at three in the morning or Hayley Mills singing a song about femininity from an old Disney film.  But the charm is a kind of deception about a whole new way of feeling lonely, a semblance of plenitude but really a new level of Dante’s inferno, a zombie-filled cemetery of spurious clues, beauty, pathos, pain, the faces of puppies, women and men from all over the world tied up and wanked over in site after site, a great sea of hidden shallows.  More and more, the pressing human dilemma: how to walk a clean path between obscenities.”

-Ali Smith, The But For The


There But For The is a novel by Ali Smith that relies strongly on word-play and a removal of the reader from directly hearing from characters in order to learn about them. Smith focuses strongly on this overarching question of what composes our identity. In the beginning of the novel, Anna is trying to speak to Miles through the door, asking “are you there?” and partaking in conversations such as: “knock knock, she said. Who’s there? Who’s there? There were several reasons at that particular time in Anna Hardie’s life for her wondering what it meant, herself, to be there” (Smith). This focus on questioning where we are and who we are in relation to the spaces we inhabit is echoed throughout the book, continuing with statements such as “I was there. There I was” (Smith). Without getting much interaction with Miles himself, his character is relayed to the readers through Anna’s perceptions of him. Smith is making a commentary here about what composes our identity, because clearly our identity is not formed solely by how we view ourselves and attempt to compose ourselves, but also relies heavily on how other’s see us and who we become when we enter certain spaces. This concept juxtaposed with Miles locking himself in a stranger’s bedroom creates an interesting creation of his character because he has placed himself in a space that he does not belong which allows him to be isolated entirely. Generally, when forced into a space with someone we consider an “Other” would cause feelings of resentment, but Miles becomes a sort of celebrity, with everyone learning about him from a removed source.

Virginia Woolf poses the same questions regarding what it means to be “there,” questioning in her essay “Street Haunting,” “Am I here or am I there? Or is the true self neither this nor that, neither here nor there, but something so varied and wandering that it is only when we give the rein to its wishes and let it take its way unimpeded that we are indeed ourselves?” Smith seems to be playing with this same question, believing that the “self” is not a stagnant being, but a fluid mixing together of multiple essences. How we act and who we are in the public space depends on which space we are in and thus which role we are assuming. However, these roles can be altered depending on which perspective one takes on the situation, whether one is the “I” or one is a third-party, looking in and available to placing judgment on this person based on prior schemas. This allows our identity to never be framed in one light, as who we are to us will never be precisely the same as who we are to those placing judgment upon us, and who we are will always alter depending on which space we enter. We find that the character who is the closest to understanding Miles throughout the novel is the nine-year-old who relays “The.” This is an interesting concept as well, because one usually associates the understanding of things and being able to relate to people with maturity; however, it is Brooke’s innocence and removal from the rest of the world that allows her to best relate to Miles.

Interesting Links:
The New York Times review of There But For The

Who is there? What makes our identity

An interview with Ali Smith



“Fat chance you’ll ever break out of here”


Formely is a collection of poems infused with images created by Tamar Yoseloff and Vici MacDonald. The photos are a collection of pictures from different places in London taken by MacDonal, which Yoseloff then added poetry to. The poems create a space around the pictures and bring meaning to each of the photos that were taken.  The speakers created in the poems embody a variety of different types of people, rather than following one character through all these spaces. Yoseloff evokes a plethora of different speakers, both ones who are partaking in actions created in these spaces and ones who are making a commentary of the actions. In “Quickie Heel Bar,” Yoseloff creates a speaker that makes a commentary to women who are trying to coerce male attention by making themselves look like sexual objects. The speaker states “Ladies, here’s the shit: / your skirt’s so tight you can barely walk, / your stillies clack clack like a ticking clock” (“Quickie Heel Bar” 1-3). The speaker believes that women should not degrade themselves by wearing clothes that make them uncomfortable just to feel worthy of a male’s attention. The backhanded comments made throughout the poem allude to the idea that these women are too smart to be dressing and acting in these manners just to fit in. However, in “Limehouse Cut” the speaker then embodies a person who has been hurt by a significant other  and feels the need to try to live up to something in order to impress that person. The speaker states, “I haunt abandoned lots, urinal stalls, / anywhere that bears your mark (the flick / of the switch and then the dark, the quickie fuck)” (“Limehouse Cut” 3-5). In this poem, the reader sees the opposite side of the field that “Quickie Heel Bar” was looking at. The speaker is hurt and “stuck / in the past” (“Limehouse Cut” 8-9), instead of feeling empowered in this space the speaker feels belittled and trapped. By speaking from the perspective of both these characters, Yoseloff is showing that we all have the chance to embody these different types of people, the hurt and the powerful, but it appears to depend on the mindset. However, many of the poems do tend to embrace the feeling of being trapped within a space. In “Whitechapel,” for example, the speaker states that “the trees imprison me, rigid wardens. / I match them in my stillness” (1-2) and goes on to states “they carry omens / in their leaves. I cannot leave” (4-5). The need to break free of spaces shows that we attribute spaces to certain mindsets. However, London’s ability to be broken apart and placed back together is echoed through the structure of the poems, Yoseloff portrays this “through the recycling of lines from the first 13 sonnets in the final poem, [showing] the transformative power of the city” (“Town Called Malice – Formerly by Tamar Yoseloff and Vici MacDonald” John Field). The ability to change speakers, perspectives, and stances of power are echoed in the city’s ability to fall apart and be repaired into something greater.

Interesting Links:

Reviews and quotes on Formerly

Some of Vici MacDonald’s other work

Formerly exhibition

Bloodshot Monochrome


“Big Ben’s quarter chime

strikes the convoy of number 12 buses

that bleeds into the city’s monochrome”

Bloodshot Monochrome by Patience Agbabi is a collection of raw and visceral poetry. She approaches her poems from personas that tend to attract a lot of condescension from the public, and utilizes these characters to force the reader to identify with and realize that the speaker is not that unlike them. As many of the books and poems we have been reading have suggested, human beings are constantly attempting to categorize and separate themselves in the spaces that they inhabit; however, our most primitive desires are almost the same. All human beings search to be loved, accepted, and find some sort of power in the identity they were assigned, whether that character is black or white, gay or straight, male or female. For example, in Agbabi’s poem “Yore Just My Type,” the speaker is a gay male who is being used by someone that he met on the internet. While in today’s society, gay relationships tend to receive a lot of stigma, Agbabi makes this speaker relatable by first making the poem a persona poem. This persona poem assumes the first person narrative throughout it, which places the reader inside the head of the speaker. By human nature, when we read we ultimately seek to identify with at least one character, and most likely this will be the one using the word “I.” Agbabi also incorporates a contemporary discourse by using colloquialisms that many use in informal texting conversations: “Yore just my TYPE. I promis more than good SEX” (“Yore Just My Type” 10). Using this type of discourse and applying it to the speaker’s desire for physical intimacy makes the persona easy for the reader to relate to and evokes a sense of sympathy for the speaker as they are constantly evaded by the male they are interested in. The reader continues to feel connected with the speaker, relating to his rejection as this is something we have all experienced and we all fear. Agbabi ends the poem with the speaker’s revenge on the male who hurt him and closes with the statement “is it too late / for me to text him to make another date? / I do. this is what it says: FUCK YOU!” (“Yore Just My Type” 49-51). The reader is able to celebrate this victory of revenge with the speaker, and the gender, race, and sexual identification of the speaker becomes irrelevant because Agbabi is able to put the speaker and the reader on par with one another, she makes them equal by forcing them to understand one another through relatable situations.

In an interview Agbabi stated that in her poems she allows her characters to speak for themselves and walk a tightrope of appropriateness. She claims that she “wanted to see what happened if [she] let the characters speak for themselves rather than edit them.” This allows her poems to be more versatile and embody a broader range of people and ultimately makes her texts more accessible to more readers. The spaces that Agbabi inhabited while writing her books also effected how she chose to write about the world and the people in it. Agbabi lived in London for some time and stated that living in a large city “broadened my horizons and expectations of a partner. I’ve been out with men and women, black and white which may not have happened had I been living in a small village in the middle of nowhere. I found London stimulating as a writer.” Therefore the spaces that she allows her characters to inhabit in her poems are influenced by the spaces that she inhabits in real life. The diversity of her own surroundings have influenced her to write with such diversity as well.

Interesting Links:
More of Agbabi preforming

What is a Monochrome?

How do readers relate to characters?

City of the Mind


“He has become, it seems, nothing but a pair of eyes, seeing this.”

City of the Mind by Penelope Lively gives a unique perspective in which the reader is able to view the city of London, not just through the mind of a native, but through the mind of an architect. This allows the reader to gain the perspective of the buildings, which are generally inanimate objects overlooked as simply small facets of the characters world meant to give aesthetic value. However, when we regard buildings as being able to have a perspective, we are able to see the city in a new light, breaking into the privacy of the many vectors that occur in public spaces and getting an unbiased view of how people interact in public spaces for hundreds of years. The city then is no longer laid out neatly into organized plots of spaces, but becomes a web of interconnecting lives layered over years stemming from the time the buildings were constructed all the way to the present. This is reflected through Lively’s keen ability to connect different eras and characters seamlessly, to show how all of our emotions and desires have archetypically remained the same, and that every human being desires to be loved, noticed, and to have a place in this massive world. The stars, like the buildings, are also key to Lively’s character development, as they are emissions of light that have overlooked the city, and all cities, for hundreds of years as well, in the same way as the buildings. The reader is reminded that each night we walk under the same stars, and each day into and around the same buildings, as people hundreds of years before and hundreds of years after us have and will do. Thinking of ourselves in such small terms in juxtaposition of the layers of time which are created in even just one space in our life, is an extremely humbling consideration; however, just to know that our thoughts, fears, and desired are echoed in every human being around us is comforting because it unites the human race, rather than separating it.

Lively unites the characters she chooses to create in her novel by reflecting similar situations in layers upon one another. These situations are typically ones that are defining moments in the characters’ lives. These moments are evoked by a character experiencing their entire future shift, or the possibility of it, and altering their entire world as they previously knew it. At the end of chapter thirteen, Lively depicts a scene where Jane runs into the road and is nearly killed by an oncoming car. Matthew explains hat “he lives, in that flash, the whole of it-her broken body, the ambulance, the hospital, the faces of strangers, tomorrow and tomorrow and the rest of life” (Lively). This is a defining moment for Matthew, while his daughter was not killed, he still has a flash of a possible future, and how fragile life is and how quickly it can be changed. This moment is then echoed in the following chapter, when the air raid warden states “in twelve hours nothing happens; in ten seconds, a street explodes into fire and dust” (Lively). Again, Lively uses this moment to portray the fragility of life. This chapter ends with the warden’s daughter dying, “he stands there. He has become, it seems, nothing but a pair of eyes, seeing this. He knows only this here and now, this sight. And it comes to him, in a long moment, that there will never be at time when this has not been” (Lively). Again, Lively emphasizes the moment that can come to define these characters, and how even though many years have passed in between the existence of each, the same things remain important and death and the fragility of life is still a constant fear. How fragile human life is, though, is ironic in juxtaposition with the buildings that surround them, which surpass their lives and overlook all of these tragedies.

Without human beings and these life-defining moments or even mundane daily activities, the buildings and brilliant architecture and spaces are simply hollow shells. The spaces that human beings inhabit only become noteworthy and meaningful because we bring the meaning to those spaces. In Virginia Woolf’s essay “Street Haunting,” she states “when the door shuts on us, all that vanishes. The shell-like covering which our souls have excreted to house themselves, to make for themselves a shape distinct from others, is broken, and there is left of all these wrinkles and roughness a central oyster of perceptiveness, an enormous eye” (Woolf). That is to say, the central eye within each of us is what gives meaning to these places, this eye is what allows us to understand and inhabit the places that surround us. Lively shows that the spaces we inhabit, no matter how beautiful, would be nothing if there were not people to consider them beautiful or to inhabit and experience and exist within them.


Interesting Links:

Virtual Tour of London, can you map where we were?