Place and Space in Modern Fiction

Wesley A. Kort

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"Offers a comprehensive study of contemporary theoretical reflection on the nature of place and space, as well as richly nuanced readings of British modernist fiction. . . . I welcome this fine attempt to restore physicality and the sacred to our understanding of spatial existence."--Alison Milbank, University of Virginia

Wesley A. Kort mines and organizes the contribution of six modern English writers to our understanding of human relations to places and the moral and spiritual importance of these relations. Hardy, Conrad, Forster, Graham Greene, Golding, and Spark deploy fictions depicting the deficient attitudes toward place and space that are characteristic of modern culture, and they narrate more positive alternatives. Kort illuminates and develops the spatial theory implicit in their work and sets it in the context of contemporary theories of human-place relations and spatiality.

Emphasizing the force and significance of place and location in narrative discourse, Kort counters the assumption that modern writers responded to the traumatic dislocations of modernity by creating fictions that are somehow outside the history of those dislocations. He also takes account of an important shift in cultural studies from the language of time and history to the language of place and space, a shift that helps distinguish the modern period from the late-modern and postmodern periods. At the same time, he avoids the vague characteristics of spatial language in cultural studies by grounding his discussion in narrative discourse.

Kort considers the widespread theoretical assumption that modern history is mainly evil and that its yield is concentrated in the modern city. While this negative view of the city serves many theorists as a foundation for the creation of tentative, positive alternatives, Kort argues that cities can and should be more positively viewed and that the theory of place relations implicit in these six writers helps, among other things, to put the city into a more constructive relation to our spatial future.

Wesley A. Kort is chair of the Department of Religion at Duke University.

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"This important book joins the work of narratologists like Gerard gennette, Seymour Chatman, and Mieke Bal." "Highly recommended." Choice

"Provides a wonderful mini course in current 'space and place studies,' replete with a rich bibliography for anyone wishing to enter the conversation." Journal of the American Academy of Religion

…rehabilitate[s] narrative theory for use in understanding, and reacting positively to, rapid geographic change…fills a significant gap in work on both narrative theory and modernism, which have historically emphasized the importance of temporality over and against space or place. Modernism/Modernity

…a carefully structured, fully realized, and amply documented work of scholarship that gathers together a vast amount of the contemporary research on the growing field of study concerned with the narrativization of space. South Atlantic Review

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