Date of Award

8-7-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Audrey Goodman

Second Advisor

Christopher Kocela

Third Advisor

Gina Caison

Abstract

The geocentric study of literature has often been fixed with canonical western texts. New approaches to spatial literary interpretations, however, invite the incorporation of marginality in the study of fiction, suggesting that the margin is a necessary component of the whole, thus challenging physical and metaphorical notions of centrality. Mapping Los Angeles: Spatial Representations of the Margin in Fiction examines four Los Angeles novels that in different ways establish the social significance of concepts such as place, location, landscape, architecture, environment, home, city, region, territory, and geography. This dissertation argues that a localized understanding of the urban literary model can serve a larger frame of reference for a global interpretation of the non-conformative text. Organized chronologically, Mapping Los Angeles combines the study of geography with historical perspectives. Starting in the modernist period, my project defines some of the crucial elements in reference to the multiethnic urban dimension, such as city structure and space organization in John Fante’s Ask the Dust. In a similar fashion, the second chapter takes into consideration the place occupied by the main character of Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, reflecting on female perspectives and the balance between the agency of nature and the one of humans, between private and public spaces. The third chapter focuses on Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange and identifies how elements such as technology, change in infrastructure, and international goods transportation reshape the idea of geography and temporality, while the fourth chapter, examining Octavia Butler’s Parable of The Sower, considers how climate change and social instability affect the way the environment is inhabited. A coda examines the value of the geocentric approach in the analysis of non-conformative literature.

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