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From the vanishing to the virtual: space envisioned in literature


The paper contends that space envisioned in literature – which is always inextricably intertwined with time – has never been real. From the bucolic settings in Theocritus’s idylls (which have a pronounced mythical component) to the town in the heart of America in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which is narrated in the past tense to be as “once a town”; from the Ptolemaic concept of heaven and hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy to the “unreal cities” in Eliot’s The Waste Land; from the thatched cottages and country churches besides the vanishing village greens in Chaucer, Blake and Austen to the goings-on in the imagined county of Wessex in Hardy’s novels or the invented islands by Swift in Gulliver’s Travels to the retreat to the Walden Pond, to, the fading away of institutional space – whether in the phenomenal world or the space within the human heart – as in Larkin’s “Church Going”, literature worth reading has always been a complex record of what we were (the vanished time-space) to what might become of us in the dystopic time-space narrated with all the horror on the screen that collapses the boundaries between the actual and the virtual. The paper attempts to contemplate on some of these points.