Southwestern Cartographies: The Poetics of Space in Contemporary Narratives of the U.S. Southwest
AdvisorPettey, Homer B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 14-Dec-2019
AbstractThis dissertation analyzes the interactive relationship between narrative and spatiality in contemporary novels and films set in the southwestern region of the United States. While space and place have sometimes been regarded as static backgrounds of narrative events, what supports the entire study is the view of spatiality as an essential constitutive element of every fictional narrative and as a dynamic product of intersecting relations observed at the intratextual, intertextual, and extratextual levels. In Larry McMurtry’s and Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, the circular pattern repeated in the narrative prevents it from developing into a Bildungsroman and constructs a claustrophobic space, which can be opposed to the open space of freedom often identified with the West. Max Evans, in Bobby Jack Smith, You Dirty Coward!, constructs a parodic post-Western narrative and remaps the mythic West by juxtaposing various social relations that have often been repressed in classic Westerns. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead merges historiography with cartography in its attempt to retrieve the fragmented past and construct a space in which everything converges in the present. While the narrative space of Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing emerges as a meshwork of intersecting lines of narrative that is always in the state of becoming, McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and its film adaptation by Joel and Ethan Coen create a closed space of which there is no way out by mapping the narrative space with various signs, signals, and traces that always point at what remains off the map. And the U.S.-Mexico borderlands in Tommy Lee Jones’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada are an uncanny space in which the familiar and the strange, the homely and the unhomely, and the real and the imaginary become inseparable. By juxtaposing these heterogenous fictional cartographies, this study aims to map the polyphonic narrative space of the contemporary Southwest. The reading of individual texts here is partly informed by theories of spatiality developed in various fields. This study hopes to situate itself in the growing interdisciplinary field of literary geography as well as to make a contribution to the understanding of the individual works.
Degree ProgramGraduate College