‘Multiplicity embarrasses the eye’

The digital mapping of literary Edinburgh

Authored by: James Loxley , Beatrice Alex , Miranda Anderson , Uta Hinrichs , Claire Grover , David Harris-Birtill , Tara Thomson , Aaron Quigley , Jon Oberlander

The Routledge Companion to Spatial History

Print publication date:  January  2018
Online publication date:  January  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138860148
eBook ISBN: 9781315099781
Adobe ISBN:


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There has long been a deep intertwining of the concepts, experiences and memories of space and place and the practice of literature. But while it might be possible to conduct a spatially aware critical analysis of any text, not all texts manifest such self-conscious spatial awareness. Literary history, nevertheless, is rich with genres and modes that do, from classical pastoral and renaissance estate verse to metadrama, utopian writing and concrete poetry. Any critic seeking to give an analytical account of such writing will find it hard to overlook its immersive engagement with space and spatiality. And literary criticism has also enriched its vocabulary with concepts drawn from a range of modern and contemporary theoretical sources. Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the chronotope, he suggested, named ‘a formally constitutive category of literature’, marking an irreducible spatiality (intertwined, for Bakhtin, with temporality) which was yet manifest only in particular, historically and generically specific, configurations. 1 Michel de Certeau developed a very different approach, distinguishing space from place in a distinctive fashion that has had a significant influence on literary critics. 2 Yi-Fu Tuan’s own conceptualisation of this distinction has also had a literary critical resonance. 3 Henri Lefebvre’s account of the ‘production of space’, with its conceptual triad of ‘spatial practice’, ‘representation of space’ and ‘representational space’, has also exerted its pull. 4

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