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Space, Form, and Cognitive Mapping in the Literature of the London Underground


Space, Form, and Cognitive Mapping in the Literature of the London Underground

Melhoff, Craig (2020) Space, Form, and Cognitive Mapping in the Literature of the London Underground. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This dissertation considers literary representations of the London Underground. It synthesizes theories of literary space and recent research in the cognitive sciences on spatial reasoning. My central claim is that by means of structural relationships of mapping between spaces and their representations—the encoding and decoding of diegetic spaces in writing, the individual’s cognitive mapping of the environment, and the spatial forms of literary texts more generally—the coordinates of spatial structures such as the London Underground serve as formal organizing principles for literary expression. In making this case, the dissertation aims to articulate what we mean by the term organizing principle in the context of literary formalism in general and spatial forms in particular. If a spatial pattern “organizes” a literary text, how does such organization work, and what textual elements are so organized? The dissertation addresses this question in connection with both fiction and poetry. Chapter 1 focuses on the diegetic spaces of Underground-related narratives, and demonstrates in the examples of three novels—Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, Julian Barnes’s Metroland and Rose Macaulay’s Told by an Idiot—how narrative sensemaking involves mapping spaces onto Underground structures with which they correspond schematically. Chapter 2 turns to the narrative “total pattern” to read the overall spatial structure of Iris Murdoch’s A Word Child, Zadie Smith’s NW, and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. Chapter 3 focuses on Tube poetry, and on the body as a means of mapping the Underground environment under the blinding and disorienting subterranean conditions that I describe as “space-confusion”; in readings of several poems, I argue that the sensations and movements of the body, organized according to the coordinates of what cognitive scientists call the spatial body framework, provide a means of cognitively mapping the environment that compensates for visual deprivations and distortions belowground. In Chapter 4, I examine the role of Harry Beck’s famous schematic Tube diagram in the overall conceptualization of the Underground environment, and demonstrate how poets have resisted the visual dominance of this iconic image and instead mapped the Tube environment and experience with reference to the body of the passenger in transit.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > English
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Melhoff, Craig
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:13 October 2020
Thesis Supervisor(s):Sachs, Jonathan
ID Code:987912
Deposited By: Craig Melhoff
Deposited On:29 Jun 2021 21:06
Last Modified:29 Jun 2021 21:06
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