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Title: Making plain/s space : the literary geographies of Cather, Kroetsch, and Heat-Moon
Author: Kristensen, Allan Juhl
ISNI:       0000 0004 2669 1583
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis examines literary texts as place-making conduits in the case of the North American region commonly referred to as the Great Plains or the prairies. From a discursive and historicist perspective, it demonstrates how Willa Cather's novel 0 Pioneersl, Robert Kroetsch's poems 'Stone Hammer Poem' and 'Seed Catalogue', and William Least Heat-Moon's PrairyErth constitute key twentieth-century literary geographies that demarcate a shift in the way the land on the ground has been overlaid with spatial tropes and narrative structures. The direction of the shift, it is argued here, is from a narrow regionalism that conceives of place as enclosed, rooted, and essentialist towards a 'middle ground' in which cultural and natural forces come into contact, conflict, as well as collaboration in a complex dialogic negotiation of power, presence, survival, and belonging (Richard White). In setting out a critical framework, the first chapter identifies a culturally dominant meta-narrative of fall and recovery as a powerful ideological influence on how the Plains has been represented and understood. It is shown how, in mapping the region along linear wilderness-garden and desert-landscape trajectories, artists and critics alike have tended to represent the place in binary and essentialist terms as landscape (not wilderness), rooted (not routed), and authentic (not hybrid). Countering this discourse is an archaeological mode of inquiry that decentres linear narratives of progressive recovery/fall by unearthing local particulars. What emerges instead are palimpsest and rhizomatic deep maps that trace intercultural, transnational, and global movements operating beneath, across, and above the levels of region and nation and hence challenge narrow definitions of either. Thus, in addition to a formal dispersion of textual and geographical space, the deep maps also count the cost of empire and nation building and address socio-political issues of ethnicity, ecology, inhabitation, and economics. Through close readings of Cather, Kroetsch, and Heat-Moon's literary geographies, I proceed to situate them in relation to this matrix of prairie place-making and elaborate on how they variously contribute to, dispute, and seek to displace it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: British Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available