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‘off-the-page spaces’ ‘activated by the reader’s imagination’

February 28, 2012

I just liked this paragraph (though obviously the articles she’s introducing sound interesting too!)… there are lots of nice phrases in it:

“The articles in issue 3.1 of International Research in Children’s Literature, written by authors from six countries across the globe, invite us to enter new spaces of representation and imagination in the fields of children’s literature and popular culture. As bell hooks has suggested: ‘Spaces can be real or imagined. Spaces can tell stories and unfold histories. Spaces can be interrupted, appropriated, and transformed through artistic and literary practices’ (153). Each author has mapped out these spaces of representation in unique ways, acknowledging the fluid boundaries of spatial landscapes that are never fixed or totally controlled by the arbitrary borders of the text but rather exist in what, as Alice Curry’s article reminds us, Deleuze has termed ‘a more radical Elsewhere’ (30), an off-the-page space that is activated by the reader’s imagination. Each spatial interpretation offered by the authors is underpinned by an acknowledgement that none of these spaces is unmediated; any attempt to represent the identity and nature of other places and other people necessarily involves a form of ideological distortion which operates in the service of power. As McCarthy and Crichlow have pointed out: ‘Issues of identity and representation directly raise questions about who has the power to define whom, and when, and how’ (xvi).” (v)

“For Marek Oziewicz, whose article focuses on cultural maps of Eastern European nations drawn by Pullman (His Dark Materials), Stroud (The Bartimaeus Trilogy) and Rowling (Harry Potter series), the locus of power is centred in a sense of British superiority. In all these novels, Oziewicz contends, a British setting is privileged, and ‘whenever the plot is taken outside Britain, the foreign setting is marked by some kind of extremity: very cold, very perilous, very desolate, or very dark.’ The non-British representations that create the ‘elsewhere’ of these texts are spaces of otherness that are ‘not just strange but lacking or flawed,’ constructed through the authors’ depictions of foreign characters and authorial decisions about what is selected and what is ignored by the gaze of the narrator. Oziewicz then invites us to reflect on the dangers of such stereotyped spatial mapping in modern speculative fiction with the reminder that imaginary communities created within fictional narratives can help to shape the perceptions, understandings and actions of readers about these ‘others’ in the everyday world.” (v)

Ref: Ingrid Johnston (2010) Editorial: ‘A More Radical Elsewhere’ issue 3.1 of International Research in Children’s Literature [this issue freely available]

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