- Handbuch Literatur & Raum ed. by Jörg Dünne and Andreas Mahler
Handbooks are big scholarly enterprises, particularly if they address topics as vast as Literatur & Raum. The editors Jörg Dünne and Andreas Mahler are to be applauded [End Page 631] for putting together an almost-600-page volume that offers an extensive overview of key theoretical approaches and paradigms as well as a substantive body of exemplary text analyses. The 47 contributions, ranging in length from five to ten pages, explore the unique link between literature and space. Written by established scholars, mostly from Germany, these articles probe—as the editors point out in their succinct introduction—whether the field of Literaturwissenschaft can, indeed, create a unique location “an dem die kulturwissenschaftliche Raumforschung stets auf die—von ihr oftmals vergessenen—sprachlichen und medialen Grundlagen ihrer eigenen Theoriebildung zurückverwiesen bleibt und sich genau darin stets auch auf ihre möglichkeitsreichen Alternativen verwiesen findet” (5). Their goal is to examine if and how literary studies can be conceptualized as spatial studies.
To this end, the handbook is divided into three main sections. A 15-page introduction (I) is followed by models and theories (II) and paradigms (III), an outline that is intended to suggest a three-dimensional geometric space (5). Additionally, the editors provide a very useful glossary (IV), an extensive bibliography (V), and an index (VI). Part II is divided into sub-chapters entitled “Achsen,” “Räume,” “Felder,” “Orte,” and “Wege,” with each section covering a broad spectrum of approaches. The topics addressed under these titles include introductions to topology and topography, spaces of writing, geopolitics and globalization, postcolonial spaces, utopias and heterotopias, ecocriticism and geopolitics, transitory spaces, and non-Euclidian spaces. Of uniformly high quality, the articles follow a similar format of explaining key theoretical approaches, historical developments, applications, and critique. They conclude with a short summary and an extensive bibliography. Overall, they provide an excellent introduction to their specific subject.
Part III, subdivided into “Plateaus” and “Texträume und Raumtexte” comprises 21 articles, each focused on a particular location and following the same overview format as the essays in Part II. The list includes places such as the Mediterranean Sea, Athens, Rome, the Atlantic and the Pacific, Venice, London, the Street, Versailles, the Coffeehouse, Paris, St. Petersburg, New York, the Camp, and Corals. These interpretations are conceptualized as paradigmatic, because they reveal how at certain times “prägnante Raumdynamiken im Zusammenhang mit bestimmten Topologien wie auch Topographien der Literatur auftreten und wie sie in der Folge mannigfaltige produktive Anschlüsse in literarischen oder auch kulturellen Praktiken hervorbringen”(8). However, Europe and the West dominate the selection, which makes for a rather Eurocentric focus and leaves out, for example, current cutting-edge research on spatializing blackness.
The authors explain that the locations are intended to denote different epochs, regions, and cultures and should cover the vast temporal spectrum from antiquity to current times. Selection was based on their “‘traditionsbildende’ Funktion […], was notgedrungen eine gewisse Nähe zum weltliterarischen Kanon im engeren Sinne erklärt—allerdings stets unter Einbeziehung bewusster Öffnungen und literarischer Infragestellungen genau dieses Kanons” (9). Within this framework, the essays, which often take canonical texts as their starting point, provide captivating analyses of factual and fictional locations, as the following few examples should demonstrate. In “Atlan-tik/Pazifik: Die imaginäre Erschließung der Ozeane im Zeitalter der Segelschifffahrt,” Margaret Cohen shows how different imaginations became attached to each ocean, namely the Atlantic as the place of commerce and work, and the Pacific as erotic and [End Page 632] dangerous temptation. She considers the role key texts such as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe played in turning vast bodies of water into a “strukturierte und differenzierte Bühne für menschliche Praktiken” (374).
Sebastian Domsch’s article “Das Kaffeehaus: Bürgerliche Öffentlichkeit” traces the influence of the moral weeklies of Addison and Steele in creating the unique space of the coffeehouse and its impact on building a public sphere. In “Die ‘Neue Welt’: Reisen und Alterit...