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Texts like the world: the use of utopian discourse to represent place in works by Nicole Brossard and Dionne Brand Open Access


Other title
Utopian discourse
Dionne Brand
Cultural geography
Canadian Literature
Nicole Brossard
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Garrett, Brenda L.
Supervisor and department
Rak, Julie (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Carrière, Marie (Modern Language and Cultural Studies)
Barbour, Douglas (English and Film Studies)
Calder, Alison, (English, Film, and Theatre)
Devereux, Cecily (English and Film Studies)
Department of English and Film Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
“Texts like the World” examines Nicole Brossard’s Picture Theory and Mauve Desert and Dionne Brand’s No Language is Neutral and A Map to the Door of No Return in order to demonstrate how these authors figure place in ways that are representative of utopian discourse. To do so, I draw primarily on two disciplinary perspectives: cultural geography and utopian studies. I turn to postmodern cultural geography, in particular to the work of Doreen Massey but also to works by Canadian cultural geographers Derek Gregory and Jane Jacobs, in order to examine Brossard’s and Brand’s understanding of space, time, and place. In general, postmodern cultural geographers argue that such conceptions of a socially-constructed, multiple, non-totalizable, dynamic space-time cannot be represented, or they call for some as-yet-unknown way to represent it. I turn to utopian studies to demonstrate how these authors deploy utopian discourse in order to figure such a geographical imagination. Rather than to studies of utopia as a literary genre, I draw on theories that posit utopia as a discourse in various dialectical relationships with ideology. In particular, I draw on the work of Fredric Jameson who argues that utopian discourse arises in the transitional moments between two modes of production. Through its unintentional narrative discontinuities and continual play and production, utopia figures the experience of existing within the moment’s inevitable contradictions, including contradictory constructions of place. Expanding on Jameson, I modify his theory of utopian discourse so that it figures the contradictions arising spatially as well as temporally. In other words, the contradictions of utopian discourse can be intentionally employed to figure the experience of existing among and within multiple co-exiting constructions of space, time, and place. Jameson argues that utopian discourse figures a world that cannot be known abstractly, and in Brand’s and Brossard’s texts, such a world is postmodern cultural geography’s space-time dynamic that counters hegemonic constructions of space, time, and place.
License granted by Brenda Garrett ( on 2011-01-31T16:01:35Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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