- Space and Place in Alice Munro's Fiction: "A Book with Maps in It." ed. by Christine Lorre-Johnston and Eleonora Rao
Although Alice Munro has generally retired from writing, her fiction has continued to inspire literary scholars to produce new exegeses of her work. Every year in the past decade has witnessed the publication of new scholarly books on Alice Munro's art of fiction, and countless articles in journals in different parts of the world. The most recent book-length studies include, apart from Space and Place in Alice Munro's Fiction: "A Book with Maps in It," two other collected volumes: Alice Munro's Miraculous Art: Critical Essays, edited by Janice Fiamengo and Gerald Lynch (2017) and Alice Munro and the Anatomy of the Short Story, edited by Oriana Palusci (2017). More books and articles are certainly in the making or already in print. Alice Munro has become part of the literary heritage not only of Canada but also of Europe, as the anthology reviewed here demonstrates.
The main aims of Space and Place in Alice Munro's Fiction are to reconceptualize the notions of space and place in Munro's fiction and to read her stories in the light of spatial theories (9). The book grew out of two sessions at the conference of the European Society for the Study of English in Istanbul in September 2012 (ix). Although only roughly one-third of the contributions were first presented at that conference, the project shows that books of this kind benefit from such frameworks of academic cooperation. Participants in conferences speak to other scholars in the room, but since university venues are familiar places for students too, the most dedicated prospective scholars may also choose to participate in exchanges of ideas. Hence, books such as Space and Place in Alice Munro's Fiction may find grateful readerships not only in experienced Canadianists, and especially Munrovians, but also among the younger generation of readers and scholars.
It seems that the editors of the book have this part of the audience in mind when they seek not only to consolidate current findings and push the boundaries of studies [End Page 532] on spatiality in/of Munro's fiction, but also to present in the introduction the theoretical underpinnings of such studies. The presentation of some of the proponents of the "spatial turn" seems to be a favour to younger scholars and students, who would like to identify and locate the nuts and bolts of the interdisciplinary theory and practice of spatiality. The editors remark that "[m]apping in Munro is ultimately not cartographical but conceptual" (11), though it would perhaps be more accurate to claim that it is not only cartographical but also conceptual. There is plenty of geography in Alice Munro's fiction, and the image of Alice Munro wrapped up in maps on the book's cover is an apt metaphor, rather than a purposeless flight of imagination. In the introduction, the editors offer brief expositions of some major figures of the spatial turn: Gaston Bachelard (12-14), Mikhail Bakhtin (14-16), Henri Lefebvre (16), Michel Foucault (16-18), and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (18-20). They also signal how these theories are put to work in particular chapters of the book.
The division of the book into Part One, "Conceptualizing Space and Place: Houses, Landscapes, Territory," which includes seven chapters, and Part Two, "Close Readings of Place and Space," which consists of four essays, seems somewhat arbitrary. The chapters in the first part are meant to be more theoretical and broader in scope, whereas those in the second part are more practical and focused on individual stories. In fact, however, the highly readable and truly englightening opening piece by Robert McGill, "Where Do You Think You Are? Alice Munro's Open Houses," is not only a careful exposition of his theory of geographic metafiction, but also a...