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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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Writing and the Politics of Space: An Introduction (Juan Antonio Suárez / David Walton)

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JUAN ANTONIO SUÁREZ AND DAVID WALTON

Writing and the Politics of Space: An Introduction

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...

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