Topophrenic Reading: Literary Criticism after the Spatial Turn
In the aftermath of the spatial turn in the humanities, literary studies has witnessed an impressive yield of novel insights, critical practices, and speculative theories. Of course, attention to space and place is nothing new to literature, as distinctive settings, region, landscape, 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. Innumerable other examples across literary history, criticism, and theory could be cited, and yet, there is also a sense of moment or timeliness to the “spatial turn” in the humanities and social sciences. The advent of various geocritical or spatial approaches to literary appears to be well suited to the our particular era. Ours, it seems, is a particularly topophrenic epoch, in which space and place occupy privileged positions in the literary and cultural imagination. Geocriticism, whether considered as a distinctive research methodology or more broadly as a critical mode of engaging with texts, represents an innovative approach to literature, one that highlights the prominence of place and of spatial relations in the texts under consideration. Similarly, the approach discloses the textuality and discursive formation implicit in geography, architecture, urbanism, or other spatial disciplinary fields. In this presentation, Robert T. Tally Jr. will discuss the significance of spatial literary criticism at the present time, looking back at precursor methods and looking forward to potential directions that geocritical research might take in the future.
Robert T. Tally Jr.
Texas State University, Department of English
Robert T. Tally Jr. is a professor of English at Texas State University. His books include Topophrenia: Place, Narrative, and the Spatial Imagination (forthcoming); Fredric Jameson: The Project of Dialectical Criticism; Poe and the Subversion of American Literature; Utopia in the Age of Globalization; Spatiality (The New Critical Idiom); Kurt Vonnegut and the American Novel; Melville, Mapping, and Globalization; and, as editor, Geocritical Explorations; Kurt Vonnegut: Critical Insights; Literary Cartographies; The Geocritical Legacies of Edward W. Said; Ecocriticism and Geocriticism; and The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space. Tally is also the editor of the Palgrave Macmillan book series Geocriticism and Spatial Literary Studies.