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Processes of Spatialization in the Americas

Configurations and Narratives

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Edited By Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez and Hannes Warnecke-Berger

Where do the Americas begin, and where do they end? What is the relationship between the spatial constructions of «area» and «continent»? How were the Americas imagined by different actors in different historical periods, and how were these imaginations – as continent, nation, region – guided by changing agendas and priorities? This interdisciplinary volume addresses competing and conflicting configurations and narratives of spatialization in the context of globalization processes from the 19th century to the present.

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Spatiality and Psyche: Surviving the Yukon in Jack London’s “Love of Life” and “To Build a Fire”

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Steffen Wöll

Spatiality and Psyche: Surviving the Yukon in Jack London’s “Love of Life” and “To Build a Fire”

[O]ur expedition, running appalling risks, performing prodigies of superhuman endurance, achieving immortal renown, commemorated in august cathedral sermons and by public statues, yet reaching the Pole only to find our terrible journey superfluous.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard1

Abstract: This chapter argues that London’s short stories “Love of Life” (1905) and “To Build a Fire” (1902) demonstrate the elusiveness of unequivocal interpretations of the Northland as a one-dimensional space of white supremacy in naturalist literature during the turn of the century. Going far beyond those ideas, London’s placement of anonymous characters into a state of primitivism maps out mental geographies and trajectories of the white American psyche, which often counterpoint the racialist hierarchies that are regularly seen as dominating the era’s discourses. Energizing alternative and more complex conceptualizations of imperialism and racism in the United States, I propose that the literary struggle of Anglo-Saxon “blond beasts” in the unforgiving sub-Arctic territory unpacks a number of psycho-spatial place-making dynamics through adaptation, transfiguration, and synthetic reconfigurations of body and mind that may best be examined through the lenses of Donna Haraway’s “xenogenesis” and the Nietzschean concept of the Übermensch. Ultimately, Jack London’s representation of the white psyche in the Northland reveals the many spatial frictions and philosophical pitfalls that are at the heart of a shifting American identity during the period of the nation’s imperial outreach,...

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