World Views: Metageographies of Modernist Fiction

World Views: Metageographies of Modernist Fiction

World Views: Metageographies of Modernist Fiction

World Views: Metageographies of Modernist Fiction


Early in the twentieth century, many novelists and geographers were attempting a similar undertaking: to connect everyday human experience to the large, unseen structures that formed the planet itself.World Viewsshows how both modernist and postcolonial writers borrowed metaphors and concepts from geography, advancing theories of space, culture, and community within the formal structures of literary narrative.

In contrast to the pervasive sense of the globe as a "jigsaw-puzzle" of nations, writers as diverse as Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, James Joyce, Jean Rhys, Jamaica Kincaid, and Amitav Ghosh imagined alternative versions of the world that were made up of other spatial building blocks-continents, regions, islands, and boundaries, to name a few. Hegglund argues that much of what scans as modernist experimentation with fictional form is simply another, more geographically based kind of realism: one that pushes the structural and stylistic resources of the novel to account for those abstract spaces beyond immediate, local human experience. Hegglund thereforeextends many accounts of modernist and postcolonial studies by showing how writers on all sides of imperial and colonial conflict were concerned not just with the particularities of local place and cultural identity, but also with the overarching structures that could potentially encompass a single, unified earth.

Through this sustained attention to both the micro-details of narrative aesthetics and the macro-scale of world geography,World Viewsadds a new and valuable perspective to both literary and cultural accounts of globalization.


Despite growing attention to multiple temporalities and the heterogeneity of time, the reigning injunction in modernist studies is probably still “Always spatialize!” But given the insistence on (and of) the spatial turn, it is surprising that no one before Jon Hegglund has thought to bring together literary criticism and what was known as the new geography. In World Views Hegglund tells the story of the simultaneous emergence of literary modernism in the late nineteenth century and the articulation of geography as a distinct discipline, and he does so from a perspective informed by the latest thinking in critical geography. Far from the mythic conception of spatial form first theorized by Joseph Frank, Hegglund understands modernist fiction’s experimental engagements with space as efforts to imagine alternatives to a new world order—call it territorial nationalism—that over the twentieth century increasingly became “naturalized as timeless, incontrovertible fact.” Novels, in this reading, operate as ironic maps, maps, that is, that chart their distance from the abstract, totalizing vision of the world as a jigsaw puzzle of nation-states even as they acknowledge the enduring material and imaginative reality of the seemingly arbitrary geopolitical divisions that fragment the globe. What modernist novelists do differently than realists is draw on the facticity of maps to anchor texts in geopolitical reality while at the same time using the resources of fiction to question the ways in which maps represent such “reality” within a naturalized order and hierarchy

World Views thus intervenes in recent conversations about global modernisms, cosmopolitanism, and transnationality as well as in longer standing discussions of the genealogy of modernist form. Irony and defamiliarization, long understood as key tropes in modernism, are here rescued from premature . . .

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