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Borges and Space


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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Chapter 3 - Deixis 83


Chapter 3 Deixis What he wanted was connected with no particular place; therefore it must be where he was. — William Carlos Williams1 In this quotation, William Carlos Williams was referring to Edgar Allan Poe, a writer much admired by Borges. Like Borges, Poe knew how to relate the cosmic to the individual and personal, and explored the many ways in which each of us attempts to come to grips with that relationship. The inevitability of subjective identity and of our own perspective on the world is not, then, at odds with an appreciation of the universal, but is an integral part of how we know and talk about the world around us. Context is central to meaning; that connection, between context, language and meaning, is the focus of this chapter. Deixis and Space As was outlined in the Introduction, the linguistic category of deixis refers to how certain elements of language depend for their meaning, in a fun- damental way, on the contexts in which they occur. Archetypally, deixis is about location, in the sense that we need to know where a speaker is when they use a deictic term, in order to be able to know what that speaker is referring to. The mere utterance of the word ‘here’ implies a spatial context, 84 Chapter 3 as does the utterance of a demonstrative like ‘this’ in a phrase such as ‘This is a nice place’; knowledge of the context in which such utterances occur is vital if we are...

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