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Moretti, Franco Atlas of the European Novel, — Williams, Raymond The Long Revolution.

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Harmondsworth: Pelican Books. London: Fontana. The experi- ence of inhabiting a new and unfamiliar world was thus a widespread one, and extended even to those who stayed at home. But what precisely was that role? Many critics have suggested that the emphasis on traditional and rural places in the nineteenth-century novel is an expression of a nostalgic longing for a lost world in the context of demographic and social change. Approaches to the novel that see place merely as a backdrop to action tend not to grasp the complex operations of spatial representation in the literary text, and the reciprocal ways in which these seep out into the world.

On the other hand, phenomenologists of space, such as Gaston Bachelard and Georges Poulet, who were in turn inspired by the philosopher Martin Heidegger, have paid attention to the nuanced ways in which literary texts encrypt the intermingling of inner psychological or affective spaces with outer spaces of, for instance, the home Bachelard ; Poulet ; Heidegger It is the Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre whose work provides the most promising way of analyzing the kinds of social spaces that are produced by a population in motion.

His work has already been adopted by critics of modernist and postmodernist literature and culture Soja ; Thacker It is also helpful for analyzing the cultural work of classic realism.

Download PDF Thomas Eakins: Realism - Realist Paintings - Gallery Series

But the claim here is larger than that. Places in literature are thus not merely markers that connect the literary text to the world that is evoked, as a sort of index to reality. All three kinds of spatial production are at work at any one time, and in any single arena. Take for example the experience of an emigrant arriving in a new country.


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One interesting offshoot of such an approach is that it allows us to see continuities between nineteenth- century realism and the experimental aesthetics of high modernism, con- tinuities that are sometimes effaced by theories of realism that emphasize the modernist rejection of nineteenth-century realism. Sites hitherto unfamiliar to the implied reader, the tourist, overlay and usurp the familiar places of home. In this apocalyptic vision of the end of empire, all that will remain is the spectral traces of former feelings, a nostalgic long- ing for a lost world impressed in the shards of a decaying city.

The trend for literary tourism that the Dickens guides exemplify began much earlier than this.

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This complex mix fueled a belief that in the moment of contemplation of a particular spot on the landscape, the visitor transcended himself and his place so as to share the feelings, sens- ibilities, and impressions of the poet. And it shadowed the development of the realist novel. He later revised his novels to comply with the maps he had produced to illus- trate them, exemplifying the kind of reciprocation that Lefebvre had in mind Gatrell ; Miller 19— But as Juliet Barker has pointed out, tourists that did so were greeted by a very different scene from that described: not an isolated or primitive spot, but a small industrial town showing all the signs of nineteenth-century progress Barker 13— This discrepancy did not stop the trail, for tourists accommodated the difference, or turned a blind eye.

Thomas De Quincey, when asked by a tourist the shortest route to the Lake District, replied un-obligingly that the shortest route was never to have left London at all De Quincey De Quincey appeared not to understand the complex economy of tourist travel, in which the effect of leisured timelessness is its product and ultimate purpose. But he did recognize its solipsistic nature, the fact that the tourist goes to see something that he or she already knows or has already read, so that the journey is redundant or self-canceling, the destination already displaced by the literature that describes it.

If the literary tourist sets out to see what he or she has already seen through reading, so too in another way does that other traveler of the nineteenth century, the emigrant. Printed texts for travelers — tourists and emigrants — swamped the literary marketplace, schooling the geographical imagination of the general reader.

Such books were primarily conceived as a source of practical information, but as we have seen in the case of tourist guides, they had other, more profound effects. Hybrid in form, they formed compendia of other published works, containing statistical information, economic theorizing, and practical advice. Dramatic tension was gained through narrating the hazards of emigration — the trials of the journey, the intemperate climate, wild animals and extreme natural conditions, and the unscrupulous people waiting to exploit the traveler.

But in the end all dangers would be dispelled, the new land made as familiar as home. The literature of emigration aimed to reduce the strangeness of dis- tance. In practice its effects were odder than this. Moreover, the familiar markers of home are present in the colonial landscape, but in a distorted fashion. Old place names in new and unlikely relation to each other Leeds next to Oxford, London by York, Cambridge near Gloucester, and so on ; and picturesque landscapes from home relocated in the new environment.

The dimensions and distances of the colony are distended versions of the old. The new landscape assumes the affective topography of a dream: overlaid with memories of a lost world, a mem- orial to a lost homeland. These practical guides to places for tourists and emigrants have the effect of making landscapes ethereal and ghostly.

And they both inform and are informed by the novel. In diverse and complex ways, the novel assisted migrant people as they attempted to settle in new terrains.


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Sometimes, for instance, it borrowed directly from the literature of emigration. This three-volume novel doubles as a practical guide to emigration, com- plete with appendices of statistical information about Upper Canada. But Galt was also a colonial entrepreneur involved in the early settlement of Canada. He spent the period between and in Canada as Superintendent of the Canada Land Company, collecting geographical and demographic information.

Bogle Corbett narrates the colonial adventures of its eponymous central character. Thus Corbett, who in volume three leads a group of Glaswegians across the Canadian wilder- ness, curbs their individualistic and acquisitive tendencies by gathering them together and telling them a parable about the birth of a com- munity. With his message about the virtues of collective labor ringing in their ears, they pull together and build their own town.

In this conscious moment of myth-making, the act of story-telling is both pedagogic and performative. In this episode he again emphasizes the symbolic aspects of settlement. It is as though the landscape has to be not only rebuilt, but rethought, and re-remembered. Acts of settlement thus entail cultural work that bears many similarities to that of the novel. Here the landscapes of home are projected over the new terrain:. Harte ll. To this extent realism par- ticipates in a process of colonization: not mimesis, but occupation.

Realism and Abstract Space According to Lefebvre, social life in the modern era, that is from the eigh- teenth century, is dominated by a homogenizing form of space produced by capital accumulation which he names abstract space. Lefebvre 49 Lefebvre has in mind the art and architecture of the modernist period, its concrete and steel structures and its predilection for phallic forms.

But many of its formal aspects are evident in the architecture and city plan- ning of an earlier period.

Take, for instance, the town of Guelph that Galt founded in the clearing in the Canadian wilderness. Galt was heav- ily involved in the planning of this town, drawing plans and designing buildings. The plan was based on a geometrical conception: a radial and a grid plan superimposed on one another, emanating in a fan from the central point of the cut-down tree. In this way, the built environment was designed to foster community, but it also had a regulatory function, exercising moral control over the people.

All of these formants are in some way evoked in the structure of Guelph. We might also identify the characteristics of abstract space in nineteenth- century literary realism: the emphasis on the visual, the preference for metaphors of pictorial representation that dominate nineteenth-century realist texts, the grid-like uniformity that realist narrative projects over its terrain, not to mention the structural centrality of marriage and the family.

The novel concludes with a sun- drenched scene of happy family life, with Dinah coming out of the house to gaze at the horizon. His work is interspersed with pic- tures of the houses in which she lived, giving primary place to engravings of Griff, her childhood home in Warwickshire, that emphasize its rural location.

Riehl, in which she projects a vision of an organic, unchanging traditional society onto the homogenizing and empty forms of realist representation, or Lefebvrian abstract space. In one, the presupposition is that the aim of realism is to make people at home in the world; in the other, it is that its object is to explain why people are at odds with the world. Hence the Modernist interest in states of exile and homelessness, in which the condition of not being at home is the basis for the experimental realist aesthetics of writers such as Joyce and Woolf.

While both positions share assumptions about the primacy of relations between people and their environments, what is decisive in these very different visions of the realist enterprise is location: the country or the city. It is not merely that place is the auth- enticating detail of realist representation; the kinds of place described tend to determine the mode of representation and the parameters and rationale of the realist project. Rather than seeing the experimental aesthetics of Modernist works as a reaction against the consolatory form of classic realism, we may perceive classic realism as a form of resistance against the alienation of modernity.

Realism and Mobility With these points in mind, I want to return to the question of mobility. But it is an aspect of social life that is curiously under- represented in nineteenth-century realist texts. Moreover, while critics of the novel have recognized that the mobility of characters is a central com- ponent of realism, usually this is understood as a metaphor for social or economic mobility, or moral development Said 94—7; Ermarth 55 — It has a complexity that exceeds the rather two-dimensional model that Moretti derives.

How is mobility registered in the realist text? In a banal way, mobil- ity opens up space, even creates it. Through distancing readers from the represented worlds of literary texts, it produces the obsessive fascination with local places that dominated the British novel from the nineteenth century onward.


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  7. But nevertheless, in realist texts, mobility seems some- how unrepresentable, a kind of excess that cannot be incorporated within the fabric of realism. The central character, Silas, the pale-faced weaver, displaced from his community of workers in an indus- trial town, moves from city to country. Viewed as an automaton by the villagers, his mechanized labor, evoked by the hum of his loom, is a ready metaphor for his lack of human relationships, his alienated urban condi- tion, and is given further representation in his strange medical condition, through which at key moments in the plot he falls into a cataleptic trance.

    By the end of the novel, however, through the agency of a golden-haired child who by chance toddles into his house one day, Silas becomes a full member of the rural community, settled and rooted in the traditional English village. But for all this, the message of the text, confusingly, seems to work actively to suppress or erase movement.

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    Moreover, the folkloric culture that Eliot is at pains to describe in the village is an expression of indi- genous rural Englishness in the Rainbow Inn, the Harvest supper, the Christmas dance , in which the evidence of former layers of immigration is barely suppressed. Rather than a pure, autochthonous English culture, Raveloe presents a strange mixture in which the customs of everyday life are interwoven with memories of migration, haunted by a sense of exile, a coming from elsewhere. A fable of assimilation within English communities, Silas Marner tells a story in which English culture is admired for covering over the patterns of mobility with a dream of always having been there.

    Lawrence, however, ques- tions of mobility press more openly on the project of realism. The inher- itor of the organicist and rural tradition that emanates from George Eliot, Lawrence was also alert to the complications of representing places in a world dramatically changed by steam travel, modern warfare, and mass emigration.

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    Like earlier writers, he valued the way in which a text might evoke an authentic sense of place. But in the context of a world in which people move more quickly and numerously, and are unlikely to live in their place of birth, attention to place shifts away from a preoccupation with nativity. Instead it is absorbed into a primitivist vision in which natural landscapes possess an autochthonous energy which can be relayed through the work of art. The author is thus no more than a conduit of this earthy, physical force.

    Take, for instance, his Studies in Classic American Literature But the spirit of place is a great reality.