ABSTRACT

Matters of space and spatiality are, in some senses, nothing new to literature. Setting is a key feature of almost all stories, as events take place in a given place, after all. Distinctive locales, regions, landscapes, or other pertinent geographical features are often crucial to the meaning and the effectiveness of literary works. Whole genres may be defined by such spatial or geographical characteristics, such as the pastoral poem, the travel narrative, utopia, or the urban exposé. With its discrete line breaks or presentation on the page, poetry often exhibits a markedly spatial form, a form that Joseph Frank famously identified as characteristic of certain modernist works of fiction as well as poetry. 1 Many literary works are complemented with maps, whether actually included in the text or merely projected and held in the mind of the reader, which are intended to help guide the reader through the storyworld or geography of the text; this convention is equally valid in works where the setting is a “real” place such as James Joyce’s Dublin, a mythic zone like that of Dante’s tripartite afterlife, an imaginary realm à la C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, or some combination of all of these, as in William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Moreover, even when the text itself is not directly making reference to space or place, as readers we tend to project forms of spatiality upon it, as when we recognize a given narrative’s linear structure, its point of view, its background or foreground, parallels, or framing devices. As Sharon Marcus has observed, “we seem to be describing attributes of the text” when we use such terms, but “in fact, we are inventing spatial relations that do not actually exist in it.” 2 Hence, whether we limit ourselves to the text itself, to the reader’s response to it, or to a mixture of the two, we find literature to be thoroughly bound up in a network of relations with space. Generally speaking, space and spatiality, like time and temporality, have always been part of literature and literary studies.