Reconfigured Spheres: Feminist Explorations of Literary Space

By Margaret R. Higonnet; Joan Templeton | Go to book overview
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Mapping the Text: Critical Metaphors


One should perhaps clean up the metaphorical situation moment by moment.--Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Since Gaston Bachelard's almost mystical revery on the Poétique de l'espace ( 1957), with his suggestive meditations on the "feminine" spaces of the round tower, the closet, and the nest, the literary representation of space has received widespread critical attention.1Studies have proliferated on such topics as travelogues, utopian fiction, the city in modernism, and the imaginative mapping of empire or nation. At the same time, growing attention has been paid to connections between spatial motifs and gender in distinctions such as those between private and public spaces, the "epistemology of the closet," and the line between battlefront and home front. Settings have been linked to gender-marked genres such as the homoerotic pastoral elegy, male and female versions of autobiography of the bildungsroman, and nineteenth-century novels of domestic realism.2As Daphne Spain writes, "throughout history and across cultures, architectural and geographic spatial arrangements have reinforced status differences between women and men."3 In the social domain, spatial distinctions weigh on access to knowledge; they both mark status (of sex, class, and race) and help reproduce it. In the domain of literature, the physical movement of narrative action and the metaphoric functioning of local description inscribe and italicize gendered relationships of power. As a consequence, the representation of space in texts reinforces the gendered inflection of genres.

Less attention has been paid to the way critics themselves use spatial metaphors to represent literary texts. The act of writing about writing


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Reconfigured Spheres: Feminist Explorations of Literary Space


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