Table Of Content
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Writing and the Politics of Space: An Introduction (Juan Antonio Suárez / David Walton)
- Part I Borders
- 1 Coercive Hospital Spaces in Pat Barker’s The Regeneration Trilogy (David Griffiths)
- 2 Metropolitan Isolation in Dystopian Literature (Ángel Galdón Rodríguez)
- 3 The Island Space in Film Adaptations of The Tempest: On the Invisibility of Borders (María Luisa Pascual Garrido)
- 4 The House: Friend or Foe? Buildings, Dwellings, and Home in Fiction (Clara Pallejá-López)
- 5 Thresholds of Abjection: Identity and Space in Tennessee Williams’s Fiction (Laura Torres-Zúñiga)
- Part II Networks
- 6 Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day: Sociopolitical Suspicion and Double Spaces of Espionage (Ana Rull Suárez)
- 7 ‘Perfect Cities, Permanent Hells’: The Ideological Coordinates of Urban Space in Postmodern Science Fiction (Ángel Mateos-Aparicio Martín-Albo)
- 8 They Aren’t the Big Bad Communists We Were Raised to Think They Were? The Representation of Russia in Contemporary Crime Fiction and Thrillers (Isabel Santaularia I Capdevila)
- 9 Charting the Liminal Geographies of Eastern Europe in Joyce Carol Oates’s Short Stories (Martyna Bryla)
- Part III Escape Lines
- 10 Bound and Unbound: Figurations of Time-Space in African American Authorship (A. Robert Lee)
- 11 Reconfiguring the Epic Space in Anne Waldman’s The Iovis Trilogy (Estíbaliz Encarnación-Pinedo)
- 12 The Literary Geography of a Border Zone: The Canary Islands in Ewing Campbell’s Afoot in the Garden of Enchantments (Tomás Monterrey)
- Notes on Contributors
- Series index
This volume has been long in the making and we have incurred, during its incubation and preparation, some debts. Our first thanks go to our patient authors; they have graciously endured the postponements imposed by our chronically busy schedules and have punctually responded to our queries and requests for revision. In the ungainly mix of rushing and waiting – scuttling to meet deadlines; waiting for editorial decisions and feedback – that inevitably characterize the rhythms of academic writing and publishing our authors – if we can be proprietary here – have been nothing but jolly fellow travellers throughout.
Some of the essays included here were first presented at the 16th International Conference of the Iberian Association of Cultural Studies (IBACS) held at the University of Murcia, 4–6 October 2013. We remain grateful to conference attendees, the personnel and administrators of the Facultad de Letras who contributed to the running of the event, to the many student volunteers who staffed the venue, to the intellectual stimulation generated by plenary speakers (George McKay, Jean Rendell, John Storey, and Chris Weedon), and generally to all presenters. We also owe thanks to the Fundación Séneca for a Jiménez de la Espada grant that helped to defray conference costs. We would also like to thank those authors who were not part of the conference but who agreed to write specially commissioned chapters for us.
At Peter Lang we want to thank the anonymous reviewers who provided useful feedback, and Laurel Plapp, for being a good-humoured, prompt, efficient, and attentive editor.
The research included in the volume was partly underwritten by Research Project 15397/PHCS/10, of Fundación Séneca-Agencia Regional ← ix | x → para la Ciencia y la Tecnología, CARM, and by Research Project FFI2014-54391-P, ‘Periferias de lo queer: Transnacionalidades, Micropolíticas’, of the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad-Gobierno de España. We thank both institutions for their support.
There is a moment in Plato’s Republic (2012: 237) when Glaucon refers to those who look up into space and says that everyone can see that astronomy induces the soul to look upwards in such a way that the mind is led away from the known world to another. Plato, thinking of perfect truths above mere seeing and observing, disagrees on the grounds that those who elevate astronomy into philosophy actually make the viewer look down, not up. Contrary to the Platonic enterprise, contemporary cultural and literary criticism tends to repeat this gesture of ‘looking down’ at the ground in order to extract from the exploration of real and imagined spaces not an intuition of their ideal form but a materialist understanding of their effect on daily life, social relations, and cultural representations. No longer regarded as a mere backdrop, neutral container, blank expanse, or fundamental perceptual category (as Kant influentially proposed), space has come to be seen in contemporary philosophy, literary, and critical theory as something produced, to cite Henri Lefebvre’s foundational term: that is, conquered, governed, traversed, mapped, and structured by such factors as class, power differentials, race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and different kinds of national and cultural identity. While dating the emergence of theoretical paradigms is always a risky affair, it is safe to state that from the early 1970s onward, disciplines such as philosophy, history, geography, sociology, cultural studies, and anthropology have managed to reformulate space from an abstract, neutral, or ‘transparent’ category to a fully socialized domain, shaped by concrete and vastly diverging cultural, political, and aesthetic interests and agendas (Lefebvre 1991: 28–34).
It is customary to describe literary studies as a latecomer to this new understanding of space. Other volumes like the present one frequently start their discussions of the spatial turn in literature with references to the influence of Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, and Henri Lefebvre ← 1 | 2 → on literary criticism, an influence that may be dated to the late 1980s and early 1990s. And some critics have pinned the tardiness of literary criticism to join the age of space studies on Gottfried Ephraim Lessing (Buchholz and Jahn 2005: 551). Lessing characterized literature as a temporal, rather than spatial art: an art of ‘actions’ evolving diachronically, reported in succession, and perceived gradually, rather than of ‘bodies’ (Lessing’s term for ‘images’) to be instantly apprehended like a painting or a sculpture (Lessing 1971). For philosophers such as Michel Foucault, the primacy of time in literary analysis was much more than an after-effect of Lessing’s theories. It was, he claimed, the product of a general denigration of space in Western culture, which regarded space as static and inert, while it favoured time as the axis of transformation, growth, and dialectics (1980: 70). However, even though space was traditionally relegated in favour of time in philosophy and literary studies, it has never been completely erased from the latter. At least some gestures of spatial awareness have always been embedded in definitions of the literary; remember, for example, Aristotle’s postulation of a ‘unity of place’ in drama and the voluminous discussions on the meaning and applicability of this precept that punctuate the history of Western literary theory and criticism.
Without going as far back as Aristotle, numerous critical milestones in the last century have predated and prepared the recent spurt of work on the spatiality of literature. A brief sample of the most influential would include Henry James’s reliance on spatial metaphors (‘scenes’, ‘the house of fiction’) in his pioneering reflections on the novel (1984 ); Walter Benjamin’s analysis of the influence of urban experience on Charles Baudelaire’s poetry (1969); Joseph Frank’s characterization of the ‘spatial form’ of modern literature (1963: 3–61); Maurice Blanchot’s dissection of ‘literature’ as a space of radical exteriority where the subject and ordinary language are undone (1982); Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenological exploration of ‘lived space’ as a repository of memory and affect (1964); or Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope – the spatio-temporal tropes of narrative form (1981: 84–257).
On the heels of these theoretical interventions, which range in time from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, a considerable amount of work developed. Jeffrey Smitten’s 1981 bibliography ← 2 | 3 → of studies on space and spatial form in literature listed nearly 300 entries (Smitten and Daghistany 1981: 245–63); many of them employ methodologies that are no longer current – Joseph Frank’s concept of ‘spatial form’, structuralist narratology. In addition, the study of space in literature was advanced in the 1960s and 1970s by German scholars Otto Friedrich Bollnow, Bruno Hillebrand, Gerard Hoffmann, and Herman Meyer, who were influenced by Bachelard’s poetics of space, and by Dutch theorist Joos Van Bank, who worked under the mantle of Yuri Lotman’s semiotics; they had scarce echo in Anglo-American criticism, in part because their work appeared largely in German (Klooster and Heirman 2013: 5). Cumulatively, these contributions demonstrate that the so-called ‘spatial turn’ in literary studies started before the late 1980s and cannot be regarded a sudden turn-about or even an abrupt swerve, but a gentle swing of the wheel resulting, at best, in a change of lanes. Hence, the ‘turn’ of literary studies’ ‘spatial turn’ resides less in the emergence of space as a new object of inquiry than in the manner in which critics have approached this already familiar topic. Politics, a prominent word in our title, flags the distinctive trait in this turn. Therefore, the paradigm shift in the explorations of space in literature, as it has developed over the last three decades, rests on two interlocking assumptions, to which the chapters in this volume repeatedly return: one, that space and politics are mutually implicated terms, since space is a political category and politics a spatialized phenomenon; and two, that literature provides a nuanced, embodied cartography of the politics of space.
We are using the term ‘politics’ here in the expanded sense given to it by Jacques Rancière in his work from the mid-1990s onward: not as the management of public life and resources and the functioning of parties and elections, but as the strategies that disrupt and reorient ‘the distribution of the sensible’ (Rancière 2004: 12–19). This is the regime – at once political, social, and aesthetic – that discriminates what is allowed to emerge into public discourse, and hence becomes available for discussion and scrutiny, from what is excluded from debate and is thus rendered invisible. Politics is the emergence into the public arena in the name of equality of precisely those excluded claims and neglected desires. The excluded contents are ‘the part of those who have no part’ to play in official public life (1999: 11). These contents – and discontents – have come in from the sidelines, using ← 3 | 4 → unofficial channels and knowledges, and, at times, trigger actions that upset the social balance. The irruption of these suppressed contents into visibility and discourse results in disagreement, which Rancière defines not as dissension over a particular topic but as an incommensurability in the terms of the discussion that turns these very terms into the main subject matter of debate.
Rancière’s discussions of disagreement, politics, and the distribution of the sensible are dotted with spatial references to real and symbolic stages, borders, enclosures, and emplacements. After all, attaining discursive articulation and public visibility or, conversely, being ejected from the regimes of the sensible are spatial manoeuvres of entry and exit, admission and expulsion. They take place simultaneously in ‘sensory space’ (1999: 25), in the symbolic ‘space of the logos’ (1999: 26), and in actual locations whose access and transit are tightly regulated. Official politics – Rancière calls it ‘police’, since it regulates the social order and enforces the status quo – situates each and everyone in his or her own (physical and symbolic) place and ensures their compliance with the dominant spatial regimentation. In turn, the break instituted by politics – the emergence of the voice of the voiceless, of the part of those with no part – reconfigures ‘the space where parties, parts, or lack of parts have been defined. … Political activity is whatever shifts a body from the place assigned to it or changes a place’s destination’ (1999: 30). And the political subject is ‘an actor that connects and disconnects different areas, regions, identities, functions, and capacities existing in the configuration of a given experience’ (1999: 40).
Rancière elegantly formulates what has been long known by protestors and insurgents of all stripes: since domination is effected by means of spatial control, revolt and protest have to aspire to the takeover and reorganization of public space. He cites ‘the activity of demonstrators and those manning the barricades that literally turned urban communications paths into “public space”’ (1999: 30). More concrete recent examples are the Civil Rights movement in the United States, feminism, sexual liberation fronts from the 1960s onwards, anti-Apartheid action in South Africa, the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, which started in late 2010 and continued during the following year, and the various ‘Occupy’ movements that emerged in Europe and the United States after the massive protests that erupted in ← 4 | 5 → Spain on 15 May 2011. All of them have consistently linked their political agendas to the liberation of public space – by eliminating racially segregated areas, making public locations safe for women, allowing the open expression of unconventional sexualities, or turning emblematic squares and open spaces into modern-day agoras where citizens vent their discontent over the corruption and greed of governments, corporations, and financial institutions. Their protests transformed the grammar of public locations by modifying, momentarily at least, styles of transit, access, and use. The sit-ins, lie-downs, and demonstrations of Civil Rights protestors in the 1960s disrupted the daily functioning of Southern American towns; ‘Take Back the Night’ marches, kiss-ins, and queer visibility actions changed (for a minute) the male heterosexual dominance over urban space; and recent ‘Occupy’ movements brought to city centres and financial headquarters eloquent evidence of the frustration and distress caused by political and financial elites.1
In many ways, literature has long been a vehicle for the sort of discursive and spatial disruption that Rancière calls politics, and it has been the task of spatial literary studies to bring this function to light. Perhaps because of the so-called autonomy of the aesthetic realm and the ‘affirmative character of culture’ (Marcuse 2009: 70–4 and ff), which segregated aesthetic ← 5 | 6 → experience from the pressures and obligations of social life, literary texts have been symbolic playgrounds where claims and desires muted in political discourse were allowed to thrive with relative freedom. In Rancière’s words: ‘The modern political animal is first a literary animal, caught in the circuit of a literariness that undoes the relationships between the order of words and the order of bodies that determine the place of each’ (1999: 37; see also Rancière 2004: 39–40). It is first in ‘the circuit of literariness’ where the claims of minorities often emerge into discourse before being translated into the register of public action. For example, critical consciousness of such issues as marginalization, exploitation, and class; the colour line; the boundaries between the domestic and the public; or the subjugation of sexual and social minorities arose in nineteenth-century literature before fuelling social movements and widespread protest. In fact, the task of feminist, African American, postcolonial, or queer critiques has been to establish bridges between public action and literary (or aesthetic) articulation. Both are equally political yet operate in different channels and media. Recent spatial critiques have contributed to these approaches ample evidence that the reimagining of social life conveyed in literature was accompanied by the reshaping and reimagining of social space. Yet such reimagining does not contain exclusively liberationist impulses; it also bears witness to the inertia of existing social and spatial arrangements. The spatial imagination in literature then reveals at once possibility and constriction, or what amounts to the same thing, political emergence and the work of the police – to invoke Rancière’s terms one last time.
We have taken ‘borders’, ‘networks’, and ‘escape lines’ as broadly applicable, multivalent spatial tropes for both strategies of insurgence and oppression. They are not separate categories but interconnected systems with numerous overlaps. And neither are they to be conceived on an evolutionary scale where each would be the embryonic, imperfect incarnation of the next. On the contrary, they are to be regarded as superimposed, coeval, and interlocking, despite their undeniable differences. Such interlacing and simultaneity reject the way in which Anthony Giddens and Manuel Castells, for example, postulate a transition from pre-modern to post-modern spatial regimes (from ‘spaces of places’ to delocalized – in Giddens’s term, ‘disembedded’ – ‘spaces of flows’). Neither networks nor flows are ← 6 | 7 → solely contemporary phenomena; no space has ever been mere localized ‘place’ and estranged from broader frames of practice (commerce, travel) or reference (the layers of meaning attached to the ‘absolute’ religious and magical spaces described by Lefebvre [1991: 48–9, 234–62]). What may have changed with time is the media through which the links are achieved, the speed at which one may travel through the connectors, and the scale and coverage of the connections, once relatively circumscribed, now global.
‘Borders’ – in the broad sense of partitions and divisions – are perhaps the primary figures in the ordering of social life, which probably starts with a spatial mark, with a boundary intended to stake out a territorial claim. Border logic is dual (here/there; inside/outside; ours/yours) and pursues separation, distinction, and containment. ‘Networks’ are figures of circulation and connection and complicate the duality of the border by means of centreless dissemination. And ‘escape lines’ are trajectories of resistance and flight that may advance along – or across – the former two. In a way, every site combines elements of the border, the network, and the escape route. Every space – a private dwelling, a public location, even an ephemeral habitus such as a seat on a train or an airplane – is at once an enclosure, a multiply connected node, and an exit path, with all three possibilities superimposed on one another and differently activated in diverse circumstances.
Literature has been privileged in witnessing these shifts and superimpositions. Numerous studies of nineteenth-century domestic fiction and women’s culture have shown that the bourgeois home was at once a place of confinement; a node in complex networks of consumption, familial and social relations, and even political rebellion; and a relatively unsupervised playground where women-centred relationships developed (Ryan 1990; Hayden 1980; Davidson 1986: 110–39; Tompkins 1980: 147–85; Rosenberg-Smith 1985: 53–75). Similarly, an important mass of literary and critical writing has shown that even the border, potentially the most oppressive spatial figure, is constantly undone by an undertow of linkages and escapes. Aztlán movement writers and Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko’s epic novel Almanac of the Dead (1991), among others, have proposed that the borders that (try to) separate the United States from Mexico and countries further south are traversed by a thick web of ← 7 | 8 → physical transits and cultural exchanges that long predate the emergence of the United States as an independent country and will probably continue despite contemporary attempts to curtail them. Much as they try to separate and divide, frontiers give rise to contact zones and hybridity, and generate their own lines of flight in the form of ‘borderline poetics’ and ‘mestiza consciousness’ (Anzaldúa 1987), transnational and diasporic dialogues in subalternity (Spivak 1990; Mohanti 1991), in-betweenness (Bhabha 1994), and intricate patterns of circulation and influence across the Black Atlantic (Gilroy 1993). Even the modern structures of surveillance and discipline influentially dissected by Michel Foucault such as the prison or the clinic (1989; 1995) – sophisticated incarnations of frontier-like demarcations and dense meshes linking locations, discourses, and practices – generate resistances and evasions that literary texts have been quick to register (Seltzer 1984; During 1992; Miller 1988; Quinby 1995).
These examples – and, we hope, the chapters that follow this introduction – evince a renewed awareness of the political import of literature and demonstrate the vitality of spatial literary studies, a sub-area of literary scholarship that has developed a close rapprochement with the social field. They are also testimonies to the vibrancy and vitality of space itself, which Doreen Massey has productively defined as relational, heterogeneous, and always in process (2005: 9–15, 42–7). Space is a plane of experience that does not pre-exist the relations that take place in it. It contains vastly differing temporalities and uses and is always under construction, permanently unfinished and therefore on the verge of formlessness. These qualities make it more representable through stories, narratives, and personal testimonies – like the ones Massey herself often inserts into her academic writing2 – or through Nigel Thrift’s conceptual experiments in ‘non-representational theory’ (2008) than through the inevitable (if necessary) simplifications offered by maps, statistics, and aerial views. As a site of radical openness, emergences, and dissolutions, space turns out to be better apprehended through the embodied medium of literature than through the detached tools of the conventional geographer and map-maker. And reciprocally, as ← 8 | 9 → we have been proposing here and this volume intends to substantiate, the political dimensions of literature arise in clearer outline from the critical scrutiny of the spaces represented in it.
In line with Massey’s ideas, in this collection we hold to a notion of space as dynamic and creative, contingent and not pre-given. Space, as Heidegger insisted, has to do with ‘spacing’, it is an ‘event’, something that actively creates (whether this be the border or the horizon, the interval, a sense of extension or a notion of near or far). Sites provide locations so spaces receive their being from locations and not from ‘space’ as such (1975: 152f.).
The possibilities for the conception of space are enormous and could never be adequately captured within the confines of a single reader, which may help to explain why this is our second collection of essays on the theme. Our first volume, Culture, Space, and Power: Blurred Lines (Walton and Suárez 2016) contained analyses of contemporary mutations of public and private space in various cultural contexts and media, but we deliberately excluded essays focused on literary texts. This volume fills that gap. Our intention from the beginning was to unite literary studies of contemporary texts written from very different theoretical and methodological approaches and organize the contents of this book according to the three terms of our subtitle: borders, networks and escape lines. These three terms help to provide a thematic backbone to the book but we are aware that the division proposed in these blocks is a structural convenience and that the chapters cannot be hermetically sealed from one another. Consequently, there is some crossover between the different contributions and parts and we hope readers will find their own paths through the chapters and be stimulated by the interconnections.
The volume seeks to be a cartography of what some authors have called the ‘spatial turn’ in literary and cultural studies – briefly outlined above – and a collection of case studies where the abstract formulations ← 9 | 10 → of spatial theory are applied in a clear fashion to the analysis of literary texts. Cumulatively, these case studies present a broad repertoire of spatial articulations in contemporary literature. While some kindred studies have focused on one or two of these articulations, this collection is conceived as a dialectical constellation. It rests on the premise that, since cultural meaning always arises from relations of opposition and difference, the signification of a particular spatial trope has to be thought out against the range of possibilities available at a particular historical moment. This is why the collection tackles centres and peripheries, real and imaginary spaces, public and private settings, psychological interiority and material locations, the spaces of power and oppression and the spaces of abjection, marginality, and resistance. One of the claims of the book is that none can be figured out in all their complexity unless placed in dialogue with the others.
Contributors tackle a broad range of themes including how prose fiction addresses spaces of intimacy, abjection, espionage, discipline, madness, post-human identities, communism, dystopia, and coercive medical practices. These themes open up analysis to key areas within contemporary literary and cultural criticism including the study of sexuality, politics, power, identity, the configuration of urban, regional, and national spaces and borders, and the delineation of outer and inner space. The contributors reflect on diverse authors from English-speaking cultures and also centre on diverse genres and periods while acknowledging recent research in space studies and making genuinely original contributions to what has become in recent years a thriving field. The main objectives of this collection are:
- To reflect the broad range of innovative approaches to the analysis of culture and space;
- To combine essays which offer theory, speculation, interpretation, and detailed case studies;
- To offer readers a multi-disciplinary approach that unites studies from a wide range of related theoretical slants, including cultural studies, psychology and psychoanalysis, film, feminism, post-colonial and race theory, and gender studies. ← 10 | 11 →
The book’s first part brings together chapters, which in one way or another, address different kinds of borders, whether they be literal, psychological, or symbolic. The chapter that opens the book is David Griffiths’s contribution on coercive hospital spaces in Pat Barker’s The Regeneration Trilogy. It draws on Foucauldian theory to analyse the disciplinary mechanisms practiced inside Craiglockhart War Hospital, the institution in which Siegfried Sassoon was interned in 1917, after he made his controversial statement that the First World War was being deliberately prolonged and was characterized by political errors and hypocrisy. Griffith’s analysis of disciplinary procedures goes beyond the psychological and physical to assess the coercive role played by the adroit organization of architectural forms, the clinical spaces themselves and the effects of the hierarchical classifications that graded hospital staff. This approach gives us valuable insights into not only the workings of power but the manner in which the deviant patient’s body is objectified, made submissive and ultimately transformed into a useful subject.
These themes of the organization of space, the breaking down of resistance, coercion and forms of social control help to set the tone for subsequent chapters. Griffiths’s work leads on to Ángel Galdón Rodríguez’s chapter on metropolitan isolation in dystopian literature which reviews some of the key texts in the tradition (Zamyatin’s We, Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four) and positions them in relation to more recent titles like Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and Hugh Howey’s Wool. Galdón Rodríguez studies how the inhabitants of dystopian spaces in the various novels are controlled within urban limits and how these relate to other (often forbidden) locations beyond the metropolitan zones. This exploration involves questions of the evolution of dystopian narrative but links this interest in literary criticism with politics, ideology, and other cultural factors.
María Luisa Pascual Garrido’s analysis of several cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest focuses on two independent films (by Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway) and two popular mid-century films (the ← 11 | 12 → Western, Yellow Sky, and the sci-fi film, Forbidden Planet). This brings the reader back to an engagement with Foucauldian theory which is used to analyse articulations of space, borders, imaginary literary spaces, authority, control, power, and resistance. Here Foucault’s notion of ‘heterotopia’ is utilized along with other concepts drawn from Border Studies to offer readings of film adaptations where the island becomes a key site for the exercise of power, space is a product of struggle, and borders are rooted in cultural, political and economic discourses and practices. Pascual Garrido augments her explorations of the operations of power by engaging with concepts like territorialization and deterritorialization, found in the work of Deleuze and Guattari, which help her to consider forms of resistance where authority is challenged by those on the margins who attempt to fight against the centre in order to seize power for themselves. The chapter engages with the politics of space and explores how this politics is articulated through common generic conventions in the case of Hollywood productions and as aesthetic challenge within the more experimental avant-garde narratives.
- X, 292
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- Publication date
- 2017 (July)
- contemporary writing politics space postmodernism science fiction borderlines heterotopia
- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. X, 292 pp.