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Contemporary Writing and the Politics of Space

Borders, Networks, Escape Lines

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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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7 ‘Perfect Cities, Permanent Hells’: The Ideological Coordinates of Urban Space in Postmodern Science Fiction (Ángel Mateos-Aparicio Martín-Albo)

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ÁNGEL MATEOS-APARICIO MARTÍN-ALBO

7    ‘Perfect Cities, Permanent Hells’: The Ideological Coordinates of Urban Space in Postmodern Science Fiction

ABSTRACT

The aim of this chapter is to explore the representation of the city in several postmodern science fiction novels which display the ideological confrontation between modern and postmodern ideologies in the architectural elements (buildings, urban layouts) which appear in the fiction. Firstly, the chapter will summarize postmodern criticism of the ideological connotations of modernist architecture and urbanism. In opposition to this representation, postmodern science fiction will be seen to offer an image of the city that stands for a de-centred, and therefore unstructured, non-hierarchical, and un-cohesive urban layout, which in turn corresponds to a de-centred, fluid idea of social structure. In this sense, the description of the city in these postmodern texts is a political as well as an aesthetic question. The analysis will focus on the fictional and ideological connotations of the confrontation between solid, unitary buildings like J. G. Ballard’s tall apartment block in High-Rise and the Omphalos pyramid in Greg Bear’s Slant and the depiction of fluid, de-centred, fragmented urban spaces like The Raft in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and the bridge city in William Gibson’s Virtual Light, which may stand as icons of the postmodern vision of human societies as multiple, changing political and ideological environments.

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