Investigating the literary representation of urban spaces and identities the essay untangles the complex psychological and emotional relationship between the heroine and her beloved and hated cities in Sunetra Gupta’s The Glassblower’s Breath (1993). Drawing on Gernot Böhme’s (1993) theory of the atmospheric qualities of space, Steve Pile’s psychogeographical approach to reading cities, Walter Benjamin’s concept of phantasmagoria, and various interpretations of fascination, it explores the creation of atmospheres in the novel and the role of fascination in the perception of London and Gupta’s female protagonist as phantasmagorias. I argue that—as urban imaginaries—the emotional fabric and atmosphere of the cities portrayed are as much created by their spaces and places, their inhabitants and visitors, as they are manifested and formulated in emotional states of being, whether real or fictional, phantasmagoric or imaginary. (ÉP)
This essay develops an alternative notion of Black flânerie, one that foregrounds the flâneur’s auditory experiences and practices in the city, explaining how sound patterns work as indexes of historical traumas such as slavery, colonialism, and indigenous dispossession. More specifically, it investigates how sound and space are connected and what these connections may reveal about acoustical and historical conditions of urban sites. Analyses advance readings of spaces as shadowed by sonic traces, echoes, afterlives, and memories, which point to the sedimentation of sound in geographic as well as psychic structures and ruptures and hence show how different soundscapes suggest different forms of relationality: alienation, rupture, intersection, connection, and transformation. Finally, it demonstrates how sound imagery—including music, dialects, noise, voices, and silence—functions to signal fantastic spaces and places, fantastic or speculative linkages in particular, and produces a version of the non-White fantastic. (DKM)
The article examines the use of references to the topography of Dublin in mimetic and anti-mimetic sections of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds (1939). It studies the three different layers of fiction that have been defined on the basis of their ontological status within the narrative. The article argues that references to actual Dublin locations serve as a means of building and then breaking the mimetic framework of the seemingly realistic descriptions that belong to the first two layers (“reality” and “fiction” within the novel). The strikingly anti-mimetic Western novel sections (“fiction within fiction”), which lack any credibility in their depiction of Dublin, can be seen as a radical rewriting of the urban space that does in fact have the actual city’s character at its core. O’Brien thus unsettles the conventions (and the readers’ expectations) and explores the possibilities of representing elements of the real world in fiction.
Combining Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope and Sarah Dillon’s notion of the palimpsest, the essay highlights the dialogic relationship between narrative time and space in Chicana author Helena María Viramontes’s novel, Their Dogs Came with Them (2007). Set in East Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s—the heyday of urban renewal projects and the rapid spread of freeways—the novel registers the geographical displacement and constrained socio-economic mobility of Mexican Americans whose homes are demolished by the freeway building bulldozers. The spatial form of intersectionality characterizing the architectural structure of the freeways also describes the narrative form of the novel. The non-linear narrative is structured upon multiple intersecting plotlines, each of which portrays the social struggles of a young Chicana woman inhabiting the city. Focusing on the interplay of environmental theme and narrative form, the paper explores the narrative representation of East Los Angeles as a spatially and temporally multilayered landscape that palimpsestously overlays and interconnects the personal memory of the characters and the collective history of Mexican Americans’ socio-political oppression in North America. (BR)
Drawing on Michel de Certeau’s insights on spatial practices the essay analyzes two works by Canadian writer Anthony De Sa, Barnacle Love (2008) and its follow-up, Kicking the Sky (2013), and maps the spatial biography of their protagonist and narrator, Antonio Rebelo, from childhood to early adulthood. De Sa’s works are set in Toronto, presented as a city in transition. Both narratives interrelate the protagonist’s story with the spatial setting of Toronto’s Little Portugal and with the cultural issue of emigration. They also delve into the complex urban social reality formed by subalternity, hard work, sexual exploitation, spectral memory, and family affects. De Sa’s interpretation of Toronto as the background of Antonio’s spatial biography constructs a complex interaction with the cityscape and its different emotionally conflicting spaces. To greater or lesser degrees in Barnacle Love and Kicking the Sky De Sa’s storytelling questions the concept of Toronto the Good and the actual city of Toronto becomes a rhetorical space—the backdrop for a coming-of-age narration that empowers Antonio Rebelo with invention and agency and launches him toward adult life. (SCB)