Reconfigured Spheres: Feminist Explorations of Literary Space

By Margaret R. Higonnet; Joan Templeton | Go to book overview

New Cartographies, an Introduction

MARGARET R. HIGONNET

You must know many lands to be at home on earth.--Novalis

In fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country.--Virginia Woolf

Space is a challenging topic for comparative literary analyses and for feminist analyses as well. Comparatists have underscored the importance of knowing "many lands," cultures, and literatures; they have widely assumed the possibility of being "at home on earth." By contrast, feminist thinkers have called attention to physical images such as the "angel in the house" that imply the domestic confinement of women. They have asked why women have not been able to hold property, to travel freely, to define the shape of a nation, or to enter certain social arenas outside the home. In response to Woolf one may ask how many women have historically had full citizenship in any country at all?1 "A place on the map," as Adrienne Rich has written, "is also a place in history" where writers, women and men, stand in the fullness of their identities and create texts.2 It is not happenstance that this volume is the brainchild of the first feminist session of the International Comparative Literature Association, whose leitmotif was "literary space."3 That workshop drew on a comparative perspective to raise questions about the literary representation of space as a gendered phenomenon.

The implications of space, which intertwine physical, social, and political territories, offer particularly rich material for feminist analysis today. Recent years have witnessed the tearing down of many walls, both political

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