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Borges and Space

Series:

Bill Richardson

This book examines the relevance of the concepts of space and place to the work of Jorge Luis Borges. The core of the book is a series of readings of key Borges texts viewed from the perspective of human spatiality. Issues that arise include the dichotomy between ‘lived space’ and abstract mapping, the relevance of a ‘sense of place’ to Borges’s work, the impact of place on identity, the importance of context to our sense of who we are, the role played by space and place in the exercise of power, and the ways in which certain of Borges’s stories invite us to reflect on our ‘place in the universe’. In the course of this discussion, crucial questions about the interpretation of the Argentine author’s work are addressed and some important issues that have largely been overlooked are considered. The book begins by outlining cross-disciplinary discussions of space and place and their impact on the study of literature and concludes with a theoretical reflection on approaches to the issue of space in Borges, extrapolating points of relevance to the theme of literary spatiality generally.

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Introduction 1

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1 and argues that spatiality for humans cannot be a question of mere physi- cal juxtaposition of entities or establishing a set of coordinates in order to identify locations. Rather, human beings live within a network of relations that carry meanings linked to the social structures of power: [W]e do not live in a kind of void, inside of which we could place individuals and things. We do not live inside a void that could be colored by diverse shades of light, we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another. (Foucault 1986: 23) Foucault’s concern with the social dimension of space and with the spatial dimension of power in society led him to explore the many ways in which social space has been controlled at dif ferent times in history. He also dis- cusses how space has been historically divided into real space, utopias and what he called ‘heterotopias’. By the latter he means places beyond the realm of everyday locations but that are places opened out to other places, and that allow communication between dif ferent spaces, by which he means: real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of soci- ety – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of ef fectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted....

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