Novel geographies

By Matthew Rech

Writing in Geography Compass, Sheila Hones charts the development and evolution of literary geographies. From its origins in comparative studies of geographical description, the use of literature in the study of geography has challenged disciplinary boundaries and has influenced scholarly approaches to space and place.

In particular, Hones highlights new developments in the field of literary geography that consider fiction and poetry as explicitly spatial, with the “reading-writing nexus as a contextualised and always emerging event” (1302). The geographies of literature are always arguably twofold, Hones suggests, “the first being the geography of the initial text event, and the second being the geography of the context in which the reader’s experience of that event is later narrated” (1302).

Whilst then the possibilities (texts, events, readings, moments) are manifold in the geo-graphing of literature, it might be helpful to focus on particular examples.

Reviewing for the Guardian, Giles Foden celebrates the first English translation of JMG Le Clezio’s Desert (1980). Preoccupied with migrations and ‘separations from the natural world’ (“issues [that] have become critical globally”), Desert tells the tale of two North African Tuareg children who are variously dispossessed by war and imperialism. Told from “two viewpoints, and in a double time scheme”, Desert may provide a good starting point, replete with its “array of people, places, times, contexts, networks and communities” (Hones, 1301), from which to consider the possibilities of literary geography.

Read Hones, S (2008) Text as It Happens: Literary Geography. Geography Compass. 5. 1301-17

Read Giles Foden’s review of GMJ Le Clezio’s Desert

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About matthewrech

Matthew Rech is a doctoral student in Geography at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His current research focuses on military recruitment practices associated with the Royal Air Force. Whilst primarily rooted in the sub-discipline of Critical Geopolitics, the project draws heavily upon key conceptual debates in cultural geography, cultural studies and aesthetic theory. The methodological approach emphasises the more-than-representational qualities of military recruitment, and the particular ways of seeing that make recruitment effective. Matthew attained his BA in Geography in 2007 and his MA in Human Geography Research in 2008, both at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Previous dissertations have focused on systems theory and environmental policy, and the social effects of natural disaster.

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