"Created Space" Mapping America as poem in Gary Snyder's Mountains and Rivers Without End and Susan Howe's Secret History of the Dividing Line

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Maps, recent cultural geographers are fond of reminding us, are products of the specific ideology from which they are written. A proper reading of a map, one that attends to it as a cultural product, can discover – even deconstruct – the ideological and cultural assumptions upon which its act of mapping is grounded. For Stephen Daniels and Denis Cosgrove, the metaphor of the map provides a crucially important analytic tool for disentangling the ways in which systems of power may be seen to work within – and through – a text. They note that, under the influence of post-structuralist theory, it has become commonplace to think of a text as a “discursive ‘terrain’ across which ‘sites’ of power may be ‘mapped’.” Clearly, then, cartographic metaphors are useful in discussing literary texts in that they can accommodate an examination of both the overt and covert operations of those texts in their representations of the cultural and ideological landscape from which they are produced. Indeed, to map the world is to make that world readable, to make it familiar; but, like any text – or, in the particular case of this essay, Gary Snyder's poetic sequence Mountains and Rivers Without End (1996) – a map does more than simply describe a discursive terrain. Such descriptions also enact the conditions of their cultural production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-64
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number01
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005

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