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Contemporary Writing and the Politics of Space

Borders, Networks, Escape Lines


Edited By David Walton and Juan Antonio Suárez

This collective volume explores questions of space in contemporary literary texts from a range of theoretical perspectives. In addition to mapping the «spatial turn» in literary and cultural studies, this volume also brings together studies that apply spatial theory to the analysis of literary texts. Contributors tackle a broad range of themes, including how prose fiction addresses spaces of intimacy, abjection, espionage, discipline, madness, post-human identities, post-communist cities, the architecture of dystopia, and coercive medical practices. In turn, these themes open up analysis to key areas within contemporary literary and cultural criticism, including the study of sexuality, politics, power, and identity; the configuration of urban, regional, and national spaces and borders; and the delineation of private and public domains. The contributors reflect on diverse authors from English-speaking cultures and focus on a variety of genres and periods while acknowledging recent research in space studies and offering original contributions to what has now become a thriving field.

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5 Thresholds of Abjection: Identity and Space in Tennessee Williams’s Fiction (Laura Torres-Zúñiga)


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5    Thresholds of Abjection: Identity and Space in Tennessee Williams’s Fiction


By means of their rupture with mimetic realism through expressionistic techniques and devices, some of Tennessee Williams’s plays are able to convey the interdependent relationship that exists between subjectivity and space. Before this experimentation on the stage, it was present in Williams’s prose writings, in particular those of his short stories rooted in the tradition of the Southern Gothic, where his characters’ crises of identity had been allegorized through the use of spatial tropes such as gothic houses or doors, the dynamics of the inside/outside boundary, and the presence of the ambiguous, liminal abject. An analysis of these elements in Williams’s short fiction will reveal how the spatial subtext problematizes the borders of subjectivity and in what terms Williams uses it in order to advocate for their/the latter’s flexibility.

During the climactic scene in A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), prim Blanche Dubois faces her most terrible encounter with her brutish brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski, a ‘date’ that they had had ‘with each other from the beginning’ of the play (Williams 1951: 130). The growing tension between these two characters created by Tennessee Williams finally erupts when Stanley, the embodiment of the new sap in American society, grabs the opportunity of his wife not being home to settle his conflict with Blanche by forcing himself upon her. This rape precipitates Blanche’s fall into mental derangement...

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