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Reviewsin brief: Geographies of modernism: literatures, cultures and spaces. Edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker. London and New York: Routledge. 2005. 181 pp. £19.99 paperback. ISBN 0 415 33116 1

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Kneale, James

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Abstract 397Reviewsin briefGeographiesof modernism: literatures, cultures and spaces. Edited by Peter Brooker andAndrew Thacker. London and New York: Routledge. 2005. 181 pp. £19.99 paperback.ISBN 0 415 33116 1SAGE Publications, Inc.2008DOI: 10.1177/14744740080150030704JamesKnealeDepartment of Geography University College London398Thisis a book situated between the fields of literary, media, and cultural studies,geography, architecture, and history. Its focus – the emerging `spatialturn' in studies of modernist litera- ture, art, architecture and more – is a fascinating one. But despite this the book is strangely uneven and ratherdisappointing. The introduction to a collection like this needs to set a clearagenda, but it does little more than suggest that historicist criticism shouldinvolve some con- sideration of space. What this might mean is largely leftto the contributors, who seem equally uncertain. I hope this isn't just adisciplinary twitch on my part but none of the contributors are geographers,and beyond the usual suspects there isn't much discussion of the discipline(though postcolonial historians of cartography, empire and nation are betterrepresented). Does this matter? Well, Andreas Huyssen's chapter seems to bemired in the debates about the `global' and the `local' which bothered geographersin the late 1990s. Jon Hegglund's account of Graham Greene's travel writingis also weirdly familiar, like it fell out of Barnes and Duncan's Writingworlds. Hegglund concludes `Perhaps we can take one of modernism's trademarkaesthetic elements – the multiplication of perspectives – andfruitfully apply it to the way we imagine the very nature and history of geographicalspace' (p. 53). I was hoping that the contributors to this volume might havestarted from this point, not ended there. So the most interesting storiesare those that are least familiar: Rebecca Beasley on the British intelligentsia'sengagement with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, for example, or James Housefields'subtle and insightful reading of Duchamp as `traveller and geographer'. Orthose that mix the familiar and unfamiliar to produce something novel, likeJames Donald's provoca- tive discussion of modernist mediations of space andtime, or Andrew Thacker's chapter on Imagism and Orientalism. But in the endit wasn't the sense of missed opportunities that bothered me – afterall, interdisciplinary work isn't easy and geographers have been slow to catchon to developments in literary criticism – but that the casually historicistapproach of some contributors seems as uninterested in history as it is ingeography. In a few chapters history seems to be a pretty simple thing, acultural `moment' of a particular and unprob- lematic type, and space andcultural production are treated as expressions of this. This strangely uncriticalapproach compromises what might have been much more than just another eclecticset of essays.
Document language English
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 397-398
Journal Cultural Geographies, 15 (2008) 3
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)