“Networks, Concrete Islands and Non-Places: Urban Tropes of the Contemporary Fantastic”

Irwin Hall, Faculty Lounge, Beirut campus

The lecture, which is organized by LAU’s Comparative Literature Program, will be presented by Patricia García, Ph.D. scholar in comparative literature in Dublin City University, co-supervised with Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. The project is funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

About the
Patricia García argues that the analysis of space in the fantastic genre is essential to understanding the mutations undergone by its contemporary forms (fantastic understood as a realist story in which an impossible element destabilises the logic of the storyworld).

The first section focuses on the spatial notions that configure the genre. The main one, transgression, is the subject of the second section, explored in conjunction with the contemporary notion of the “real” (always what the fantastic is opposed to).

The focus of the final section is the construction of fictional territories, and because any textual construction includes a complex series of different spatial layers like physical, semantic, cultural, sociological and symbolic, the study of spatiality becomes necessarily interdisciplinary. With the help of some key notions introduced by urban sociologists, in particular space of flows (Castells 1989), privatopias (Soja, 1989; Davis, 1990; McKenzie, 1994) and Augé’s non-places (1995), García suggests three models that are not exclusive but that are centred each upon a different spatial theme. The first model is supported by texts such as J.L. Borges’ The Aleph and The Library of Babel. It works upon integration, absorption and interconnectivity. The second operates upon the principle of exclusivity, and various short stories by J.G. Ballard illustrate this point. The third one is centred upon the anonymity and automatisation of certain places, represented in texts by R. Coover and J.M. Merino.

García’s central proposition is that the writings of contemporary authors offer numerous homologies with the thought of theorists about space. An understanding of these common grounds illuminates not only the theory of fiction but also the limits of isolated theoretical fields. Therefore, the three thematic lines developed here are backed up with examples from other arts to indicate theoretical as well as aesthetic nodes where the fantastic meets other fields beyond literary studies, in particular urban sociology and architecture.