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The Poetics of Place and Space: Wordsworth, Norman Nicholson and the Lake District

Cooper, D (2008) The Poetics of Place and Space: Wordsworth, Norman Nicholson and the Lake District. Literature Compass, 5. ISSN 1741-4113

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Abstract

This article draws upon the ‘spatial turn’ in critical practice to open up thinking about Romantic and post-Romantic representations of geo-specific space. The opening section maps out the philosophical foundations for spatial literary criticism by tracing two main strands of spatial theory: one which emerges out of Heideggerian phenomenology; and the other which is based on the Marxist cultural analysis of Henri Lefebvre. The article then highlights some ways in which these spatial theories have been used to offer new readings of Romantic texts. The second half of the essay roots this spatial thinking by focusing on literary representations of the Lake District. It shows how notions of boundary and boundedness are central to Wordsworth's spatial configuration of his native region; alongside this, it indicates how Wordsworth's mapping of the area has influenced later constructions of the landscape as a ‘social space’. The final section points towards further thinking by briefly examining the work of the twentieth-century Cumbrian writer, Norman Nicholson (1914–87), and highlighting the tensions in his development of a site-specific, post-Romantic poetics of place and space.

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