Literary Geographies – Virtual Theme Issue
September 26, 2012 6 Comments
If Geography is sometimes said to be about placing things in context, how does it engage with the question of text? While there have been many debates about the texts of theory, here the emphasis is on literary texts—plays, poems, and novels. Literary theory has proved useful for geographical debates, with deconstruction, new historicism, cultural studies, feminism, Marxism and structuralism proving influential at different times. A classic example from this journal is James Duncan and Nancy Duncan’s discussion of the uses of literary theory to read landscapes (1988). Rather here we want to look at how geographers – whether within the discipline Geography or without – have read works of literature.
An early issue of this journal published a kind of theoretical manifesto by John Silk (1984) for going beyond existing approaches to Geography and Literature: a piece regularly referenced in subsequent discussions of this topic (see also Pocock 1988). It is made available again here. Silk co-wrote a later book looking at portrayals of African-Americans in American popular culture, both film and fiction (1990). A list of books or book chapters on geography and literature would be vast, but geographical perspectives have also been offered in multiple journals in the field. They range from classic established literary authors and texts such as Shakespeare (Mayhew 1998; Chamberlain 2001; Elden forthcoming); Orwell’s 1984 (Tyner 2004); Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (Sharp 1996); Beowulf (Elden 2009); Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (Barnett 1996); and Kerouac’s On the Road (Cresswell 1993), to the more recent, genre-specific, challenging or unusual (Buckley 1996; Gilbert 1996; Doel 2001; Kitchin and Kneale eds. 2002; Closs-Stephens 2011; Kneale 2006, 2011; Brown 2006; Romanillos 2008; Dittmer 2010). There have been some previous collections in journals on this theme – GeoJournal (1996) and the Cahiers de géographie du Québec (2008). Recently Sheila Hones and James Kneale have created the Literary Geographies blog – which with its extensive bibliographies has quickly become the authoritative reference point for work in this area.
Especially given the resources of that site, this is the not the place for a comprehensive overview (see Hones 2008, Lando 1996) Rather we want to highlight four areas in which papers published in Society and Space have developed some interesting perspectives on the interrelations of geography and literature.
The first are papers that use literary texts to examine questions of postcolonialism. From a rich collection of papers (see also Schech and Haggis 1998; Sugg 2003, for example), two have been chosen. Clive Barnett’s discussion of South African writer J.M. Coetzee (1997), which uses his work to analyse the postcolonial theorizations of Spivak and Parry; and Pat Noxolo, Parvati Raghurum and Clare Madge’s readings of postcolonial texts through the metaphors of pregnancy and lactation (2008). The authors discussed in the latter piece are Zee Edgell and Toni Morrison, but the purpose is wider: to reflect on Geography as a global discipline and its colonial/postcolonial tensions.
That paper could equally have served as an exemplar of the next area, feminist readings of texts. Two further examples are offered here – Mandy Morris’s discussion of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s novel The Secret Garden (1996) and Juliet Fall’s critique of the embodied geographies and uncritical geopolitics of the comic books La Frontière Invisible (2006).
The third of the areas is poetry. Two papers are chosen here. The first is Jason Groves on the poet Paul Celan (2011). This paper was originally published as part of a theme issue on Aerographies edited by Mark Jackson and Maria Fannin (2011; see also the open site companion piece here) which includes other pieces that discuss literary texts. The second is John Tomaney’s reading of the Irish poet and novelist Patrick Kavanagh (2010; see also 2007).
The fourth area, though most of the papers already noted would also fit here, is what might be called a kind of politicised literary geography, where literary texts are used to shed light on the complex interrelations between politics and space in ways other sources may not allow. Two papers are selected here: Nuala Johnson’s reading of Eoin McNamee’s novel Resurrection Man for its insights into 1970s Belfast (1998), and Joe Galbo’s discussion of the Italian Fascist Gabriele D’Annuzio (1996).
Finally, the journal has recently brought together a number of people reflecting on the importance of fiction to their own writing as geographers, whether or not they would describe their work as literary geographies (Thomas et. al. 2011). That piece rounds of this selection.
These ten papers, ranging from the 1980s to the present decade showcase just some of the papers in this journal that have contributed to discussions of literary geographies. As well as being of considerable interest in their own right, we hope they inspire future explorations in this area.
Papers in this Virtual Theme Issue - open access until end of November 2012
Barnett Clive 1997 “‘Sing Along with the Common People’: Politics, Postcolonialism, and Other Figures”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15(2) 137 – 154
Fall, Juliet J, 2006, “Embodied Geographies, Naturalised Boundaries, and Uncritical Geopolitics in La Frontière Invisible” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24(5) 653 – 669
Galbo Joe 1996, “Sex, geography, and death: metropolis and empire in a Fascist writer” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14(1) 35 – 58
Groves Jason 2011, “‘The stone in the air’: Paul Celan’s Other Terrain” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(3) 469 – 484
Johnson Nuala C, 1999, “The cartographies of violence: Belfast’s Resurrection Man” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17(6) 723 – 736
Morris, Mandy S, 1996 “‘Tha’lt be like a blush-rose when tha’ grows up, my little lass’: English Cultural and Gendered Identity in The Secret Garden”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14(1) 59 – 78.
Noxolo, Pat, Raghuram Parvati, and Madge Clare 2008 “‘Geography is Pregnant’ and ‘Geography’s Milk is Flowing’: Metaphors for a Postcolonial Discipline?”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26(1) 146 – 168.
Silk, John 1984 “Beyond Geography and Literature” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2 (2): 151 – 178.
Thomas, Mary et. al. 2011, “Fictional Worlds” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(3) 551 – 567
Tomaney John 2010, “Parish and Universe: Patrick Kavanagh’s Poetics of the Local” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28(2) 311 – 325
Other References (may require subscription)
Barnett, Clive 1996. “‘A Choice of Nightmares’: narration and desire in Heart of Darkness”. Gender, Place and Culture 3 (3): 277–292.
Bédard, Mario and Lahaie, Christiane 2008. Cahiers de géographie du Québec 52 (147).
Brown, Michael 2006 “A Geographer Reads Geography Club: Spatial Metaphor and Metonym in Textual/Sexual Space”, Cultural Geographies 13: 313–339.
Buckley, Sandra 1996. “A Guided Tour of the Kitchen: Seven Japanese Domestic Tales.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14 (4): 441 – 461.
Caviedes, César N. ed. 1996. Special issue of GeoJournal 38(1).
Chamberlain Paul G, 2001, “The Shakespearian Globe: Geometry, Optics, Spectacle” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19(3) 317 – 333.
Closs Stephens A, 2011, “Beyond Imaginative Geographies? Critique, Co-optation, and Imagination in the Aftermath of the War on Terror”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(2) 254 – 267
Cresswell, Tim 1993 “Mobility as Resistance: A Geographical Reading of Kerouac’s On the Road”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 18(2): 249–262. There was a discussion of the paper in a subsequent issue Vol 21 No 2.
Dittmer, Jason 2010 “Comic Book Visualities: A Methodological Manifesto, Montage and Narration”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (2): 222-36.
Doel Marcus A, 2001 “1a. Qualified Quantitative Geography” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19(5) 555 – 572
Duncan, James and Duncan, Nancy 1988 “(Re)reading the landscape” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 6(2) 117 – 126.
Elden, Stuart 2009 “Place Symbolism and Land Politics in Beowulf”, Cultural Geographies.16(4) 447-463.
Elden, Stuart 2013 “The Geopolitics of King Lear: Territory, Land, Earth”, Law and Literature 25 (forthcoming).
Gilbert, Emily 1996 “Situating the City: Representations of the Toronto in Three Women’s Novels”, The London Journal of Canadian Studies 12: 95-122. [open access]
Hones, Sheila 2008 “Text as it Happens: Literary Geographies”, Geography Compass 2(5) 1301-17.
Jackson, Mark and Fannin, Maria eds. (2011) “Aerographies”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29 (3) 435-550.
Kitchin, Rob and Kneale, James eds. (2002) Lost in Space: Geographies of Science Fiction, London: Continuum.
Kneale, James 2006. “From Beyond: H. P. Lovecraft and the Place of Horror”, Cultural Geographies 13(1) 106–126.
Kneale, J. 2011. “Plots: space, conspiracy, and contingency in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Spook Country.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(1) 169–186.
Lando, Fabio (1996) “Fact and Fiction: Geography and Literature”, GeoJournal 38(1) 3-18.
Mayhew, Robert J. (1998) “Was William Shakespeare an Eighteenth-Century Geographer? Constructing Histories of Geographical Knowledge”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, NS 23(1) 21-37,
Pocock, Douglas 1988 “Geography and Literature”, Progress in Human Geography 12(1) 87-102.
Romanillos José Luis, 2008, “‘Outside, it is Snowing’: Experience and Finitude in the Nonrepresentational Landscapes of Alain Robbe-Grillet” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26(5) 795 – 822
Schech, Susanne and Haggis, Jane 1998 “Postcolonialism, Identity, and Location: Being White Australian in Asia?” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16(5) 615 – 629.
Silk, John and Silk, Catherine, 1990. Racism and Anti-Racism in American Popular Culture: Portrayals of African-Americans in Fiction and Film, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Sharp, Joanne (1996) “Locating Imaginary Homelands: Literature, Geography, and Salman Rushdie”, GeoJournal 38(1) 119-27.
Sugg K, 2003, “Migratory sexualities, diasporic histories, and memory in queer Cuban-American cultural production” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 21(4) 461 – 477
Tomaney J, 2007, “Keeping a Beat in the Dark: Narratives of Regional Identity in Basil Bunting’s Briggflatts”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25(2) 355 – 375.
Tyner, James A. 2004. “Self and Space, Resistance and Discipline: A Foucauldian Reading of George Orwell’s 1984”, Social and Cultural Geography 5(1) 129-49.