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Mapping the Sacred

Religion, Geography and Postcolonial Literatures


Edited by Jamie S. Scott and Paul Simpson-Housley

Interweaving the interpretative methods of religious studies, literary criticism and cultural geography, the essays in this volume focus on issues associated with the representation of place and space in the writing and reading of the postcolonial. The collection charts the ways in which contemporary writers extend and deepen our awareness of the ambiguities of economic, social and political relations implicated in “sacred space” - the sense of spiritual significance associated with those concrete locations in which adherents of different religious traditions, past and present, maintain a ritual sense of the sanctity of life and its cycles. Part I, “Land, Religion and Literature after Britain,” explores how postcolonial writers dramatize the contested processes of colonization, resistance and decolonization by which lands and landscapes may be viewed as now sacred, now desacralized, now resacralized. Part II, “Sacred Landscapes and Postcoloniality across International Literatures,” draws upon postcolonial theory to inquire into how contemporary fiction, drama and poetry represent themes of divine dispensation, dispossession and reclamation in regions as diverse as Haiti, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Arctic, and the North American frontier. A critical “Afterword” considers the implications of such multi-disciplinary approaches to postcolonial literatures for present and future research in the field. Writers discussed in the essays include Russell Banks; James K. Baxter; Ursula Bethell; Erna Brodber; Marcus Clarke; Allen Curnow; Edwidge Danticat; Mak Dizdar; Sara Jeannette Duncan; Zee Edgell; “Grey Owl”; Haruki Murakami; Seamus Heaney; Peter Høeg; Hugh Hood; Janette Turner Hospital; James Houston; Dany Laferrière; B. Kojo Laing; Lee Kok Liang; K.S. Maniam; Mudrooroo; R.K. Narayan; Ngugi wa Thiong'o; Ben Okri; Chava Pinchas-Cohen; Mary Prince; Nancy Prince; Nayantara Sahgal; Ken Saro-Wiwa; Ibrahim Tahir; Amos Tutuola; W.D. Valgardson; Derek Walcott; and Rudy Wiebe. Maps accompany almost every essay.

Topodynamics of Arrival

Essays on Self and Pilgrimage


Edited by Gert Hofmann and Snježana Zorić

Travelling is the art of motion, motion results in moments of human encountering, and such moments manifest themselves in unsettling linguistic repercussions and crises of meaning. Places of arrival also function as inscriptions of such meaningful repercussions, inscriptions of the past crossing the present, of the other crossing the self. The contributions in this book explore places, rituals, texts and scriptures as religious or secular inscriptions – “topographies” – of such “arrivals.”
Each arrival happens, and its very place manifests itself only as a momentous component of the process itself. Arrival is an event of conclusion as well as of urgency for subsequent explorations of new meanings to be read from the topography of the place, mirroring thus a signifying dynamic for the metamorphosis of the traveller’s self: “ topodynamic” of arrival. In this vein this book investigates for the first time the dynamic of cultural formations of space, an aspect of spatiality which since the “spatial turn” in cultural discourse has mostly been neglected.


Barbara Montefalcone

This paper will discuss the American poet Robert Creeley’s treatment of the concept of landscape in relation to his collaborative activity. Writing after observing his collaborators’ works Creeley deals with many artistic landscapes: on the one hand we will explore the very notion of “artistic landscape”; on the other hand we will analyze Creeley’s verbal response to the visual representations produced by his collaborators.

Robert Creeley and Alex Katz’s collaboration, Edges (1999), will be closely studied. In this particular case Creeley deals with both a natural landscape and someone else’s (Katz’s) representation of this same landscape. Inclusion and exclusion, present and past, abstraction and concreteness therefore alternate in his poem. Moreover, Creeley’s role as spectator will enable us to emphasize the distinction between seeing a landscape and seeing a representation of landscape. We will show how the difference dwells in the very notion of spectatorship.


Birgit Neumann

As Britain expanded its overseas spheres of influence in the course of the seventeenth century, the complex dynamics of territorial expansion and global mobility became a central topic of cultural negotiation. Imaginatively circumnavigating the world, numerous poems, plays and travelogues evoke powerful ideological tropes to give specific historical meaning to the complex experience of global mobility and territorial expansion. Frequently, this “expansionist fantasy” (Brown 2001: 74) revolves around the figure of the sea, which becomes a paradigm of imperial capitalism and territorial desire. Yet the sea figures not merely as a symbol of imperial progress and maritime capitalism; rather it is imagined as an agent of change itself, an agent that sets up global trading networks, connects waterways and impels the English along an inevitable and predestined course. The present article traces some of the literary and rhetorical strategies by which the sea is made an agent of expansion (sans violence) and is thus translated into spatial practice. It is argued that the trope of the sea makes manifest a set of claims about political and commercial power, legitimising imperialism as an inevitable, vigorous and yet highly precarious development. By effortlessly forging transatlantic links between metropolitan Britain and territorial peripheries, the trope of the sea depicts imperialism as a natural extension of space and a progressive development in history.


Timothy Mason

I will examine the region around Alice Springs as it appears in the writings of Frank Gillen (in his letters to Baldwin Spencer), and in his joint writing with Spencer (the ethnological texts). In the texts we catch glimpses of three modes of landscape: that of the invaders, farmers and pastoralists, that of their scientific comrades, the biologists, geographers and ethnologists, and that of those whose land they have appropriated — the Arrernte. Three ways of dreaming a landscape, three ways of living one.

For the pastoralists, the landscape is seen in terms of property and profitability: the one goes with the other, and it is their capacity to make a profit from the land that gives them their right to occupy and own it. Consequently, the landscape is also a well-policed area, in which the unprofitable is tracked and hunted down. For the scientists, the landscape is a patrimony, a shaft which permits them to delve into the beginnings of our time and follow the course that takes us to the present. The ethnologists discover that their project necessarily entails a consideration of the third landscape, that of the Arrernte themselves.