One of the most concrete trends in the study of America's contemporary literature has been the analysis of its spaces. While the locations of literature have often been relegated to the background of textual considerations -- treated as if they are inert props for the drama of the text -- theorists in recent decades have shown the dynamic and urgent role space serves. This paper explores the reasons why analyzing literary space can bring us to a fuller awareness of infrastructures that influence our choices, material designs that shape our identities, and structures of power that exist invisibly in our daily lives but which literature can make us see more clearly. It draws upon personal anecdotes and a handful of recent American works by authors working across different genres (Katherine Boo, Sherman Alexie, Alice Walker), to demonstrate how and why reading literature through a spatial lens continues to be a productive way of understanding humanity's dual need for cultivating stable roots while pursuing mind-expanding routes.
Citation: Pilot Scholars Version (Modified MLA Style)
Larson, Lars Erik, "Routes and Roots: American Literature as a Means of Understanding Contemporary Space and Place" (2015). English Faculty Publications and Presentations. 9.