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

  • Author / Creator
    Garrett, Brenda L.
  • “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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Rak, Julie (English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Calder, Alison, (English, Film, and Theatre)
    • Carrière, Marie (Modern Language and Cultural Studies)
    • Devereux, Cecily (English and Film Studies)
    • Barbour, Douglas (English and Film Studies)